Help for Women Who Struggle with Porn

One of the questions I hear from time to time is about the lack of Christian and gospel resources for women who have become trapped in pornography. So many of the admonitions are aimed at men, and women can often feel overlooked and neglected. Hopefully this post is one small step in addressing that.

But first, it’s actually worth pointing out why the lion share of admonitions and exhortations should be aimed at the men. One of the lies that’s not too far under the surface in some discussions of women and porn, is the lie that women struggle with porn in the same way as men or for the same reasons. In other words, there’s an egalitarian/feminist demon lurking in the shadows here if we’re not careful. Just as the world is constantly tempting women to resent their femininity when it comes to the glory of marriage, childbearing, and homemaking, so too there’s not a little bit of resentful whispering in the shadows, O yeah, well we can be addicted to porn too… Yes, this is true, and the Church does need to do a better job of addressing men and women on this sexual sin, especially given the proliferation of porn on the internet. Agreed. But this means that the Church needs to actually speak to the way that women sin with porn.

At the same time, to the extent that that Church has been addressing this issue with men, the Church has also been addressing the issue for the benefit of women. One of the other lies many Christians have bought from the world is the lie that says you have to specifically refer to women or use feminine pronouns or examples in order to include women in the conversation. This is a lie. Throughout the Bible we are taught that God intends to include women in the conversation when He speaks to and about men. Of course there are sex specific topics which the Bible addresses to women (childbirth, menstruation, the role of a wife, daughter, etc.), but when God created man and woman in His image He named them together “Adam” or “man” or “mankind.” “Man” is both the name for male members of the human race and the name for the entire human race, including women. If we want to use the modern arrogant parlance, “man” is an inclusive term. We are told this explicitly in the beginning, and then the Bible proceeds to assume that inclusiveness through speaking of male examples and using male pronouns regarding many things that may apply to women as well. Paul says the same thing is going on in the gospel: by faith in Christ, all have become sons of God… there is neither male nor female… (Gal. 3:26-28). All are “sons of God” by faith in Jesus Christ. Women are included. This is why the New Testament repeatedly addresses the “brothers” in the churches. Modern translations that want to add “and sisters” are refusing to believe what Paul said.

But this point is important because Jesus Himself does this with the sin of lust. He says that a man who looks at a woman to lust after her in his heart has committed adultery, and he should pluck out his eye and cut off his hand if that’s what it takes to kill that sin. Did Jesus forget to address women? Nope. Is Jesus denying that women struggle with lust also? Nope. Jesus was doing two things: He was addressing men because they are the leaders of civilization and society and responsible for the state of culture, and for the very same reason, Jesus should be understood as addressing women too. In other words, a woman need not find a Bible verse addressed specifically to feminine lust in order to know what do about her lust. In the first instance, she should take care not to desire that kind of lustful look from a man. Men are tempted to look in that way, and women are tempted to desire that kind of look. If she is looking for that kind of look from a man and covets him in that way, desiring him either sexually or in any other way that God has not given him to her, she is committing adultery in her heart and needs to repent. This repentance will often need to include radical steps to remove temptation from her life.

As we address these problems, Christians need to realize that there are ways of addressing these sins that just spread more gunk and confusion around. Let me give you just two examples of making things worse:

First, the fact of the matter is that many men want women to “struggle” with pornography. Boyfriends and husbands often introduce it to their girlfriends and wives, and do not be so naive as to not realize that many of those same men could find some sick pleasure in thinking about women “struggling” with porn. I put scare quotes there on purpose. In other words, there can be a pornographic way of exposing this issue. And piles of foolish women can be herded out into the open in the name of honesty and repentance in a way that is actually feeding and perpetuating male lusts and (this is crucial), that in turn actually perpetuate female lusts. So, for example, if you’re a man reading this article with an unhealthy sexual curiosity, maybe you should stop now. Voyeurism on Instagram, Facebook, your neighbor’s window, and even Christian blogs or articles is all still voyeurism. And women, hear me carefully, this should be in no way understood as some kind of excuse for not addressing the real challenges that you face. This is just to warn you that there are ways of offering you help that are actually not helping you at all.

Second, in a more general way, in order to address this problem with women, it really must address the fact that women are not attracted to pornography for the same reasons men are. And, at the point at which women are attracted to pornography for similar reasons to men, the situation is already far worse. Similarly, there’s a way of addressing men and women on the issue of pornography that can play right into the gender-confusion agenda. If a woman is addressed as though her lust is identical to male lust, she may either feel even worse if that description doesn’t really fit her situation or she may seek to embrace that caricature in order to fit the description (in order to get help). The Church needs to be shrewd on this issue, recognizing that the gender-bending agenda is actually propping up porn addiction in both sexes in different ways. Our media is full of propaganda suggesting and encouraging women to look at men and lust after them in a male way. This is driven by male lust, and cotton-brained feminists (some even in the Church) lead the way.

The driving force behind feminine lust is resentment. This resentment is often aimed in a number of directions: resentment of harsh or abusive treatment by a father or another male authority, resentment of the harsh or abusive treatment of a mother or another female authority, the rejection of spouse, family, friends, community, feelings of ostracism, isolation, shame, insecurity, and often there can also be a general resentment of the opposite sex. Men can come to resent women for their God-given differences, for their sins, for their weakness, and for the challenge it is to love them well. Women can come to resent men for their God-given differences, for their sins, for their relative strength, and for the difficulty it is to respect many of them. And behind all horizontal resentment is the elephant in the room: God. The God who made you, the God who is telling your story, the God who is at work in all of the details of your life. The opposite of resentment is contentment. If you allow resentment to creep in, loneliness, despair, sorrow, self-pity, and a general aimlessness follow quickly. And it is often into this void that lust comes, with false offers of comfort.

Feminine lust is also manipulative. While a man’s lust causes him to shirk responsibility, a woman’s lust is ultimately seeking to manipulate a man into taking responsibility. While there may certainly be elements of a momentary fix, God has wired women to be mothers and homemakers. In other words, a woman is made to find her greatest glory and comfort in the fruitfulness of motherhood and making home, usually through bearing her own children but always in hospitality and generosity (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10). Feminine lust is always in some way trying to short circuit that glory and comfort, to trick it into the present, to get it apart from trusting God’s timing, God’s ways, God’s goodness. A man’s sexual appetite is God telling him to take responsibility; a woman’s sexual appetite is God telling her she was made to be taken responsibility for. A man’s sexual desires tell him that God made him to give; a woman’s sexual desires tell her that God made her to receive. Male sexual hunger teaches a man that he was made to pursue; female sexual hunger teaches a woman that she was made to be pursued. The allure of porn for men and women respectively are false offers, cheap substitutes for these design features. Rather than taking responsibility, men shirk responsibility. Rather than giving, men take. Rather then pursuing, men are lazy. On the flip side, rather than resting in God’s provision, women seize false substitutes for a real man taking responsibility for them. Rather than receiving the goodness of God in His timing, women take what they can get. Rather than treasuring the pursuit of their Savior, women manufacture fantasies. On both counts it always bears reminding that sex on the screen (or in a novel) isn’t real sex, it isn’t real love. And it’s always bad practice for loving a real man or a real woman. Far from being educational or helpful, porn is a twisted, grotesque caricature of the good gift God has given His people.

And all of this leads to the solutions for women who wrestle with these sins and temptations:

First, the gospel of Jesus is for you. It is for this sin, that Christ came into this world. He left His Father to come into this far country for all the lost sons (that includes the daughters). He endured rejection for all those who have been rejected. He endured scorn for those who have been scorned. He was mocked for all those who have been mocked. He was lied about, slandered, and falsely accused for all who have been falsely accused. One of his best friends betrayed Him and all of His friends abandoned Him, and this was so He could stand with you where it hurts the most. He was stripped and beaten; He was spat on and struck. They laughed at Him and jeered at Him. And He was their Maker, their King, their only hope. He endured all of this in order to identify with you in your hopelessness, in your despair, in your anger, in your shame. But not only did He come here to stand with you, He came here to bring you home. He stood there in your place. He hung there for you. He hung there with a crown of thorns hammered into His head and nails sunk into His hands and feet in order to set you free. He endured that shame so that you could be made clean. Do you believe that? Believe it again.

Second, recognize in this gospel the fierce and undying love of your Father in Heaven. He so loved you that He sent His Son to die for you. He loves you like that, with that kind of fierceness. Yes, you’ve sinned. Yes, you’ve sought comfort apart from Him. But He’s there for you. He stands ever-ready to receive you. And this readiness on His part is not half-hearted. He is not holding anything against you in Christ Jesus. If He did not spare His own Son, how will He not also give you all things? All things includes forgiveness, cleansing, deliverance from these habits and patterns of life, as well as friendship, community, love, a family, a home. Jesus said that all who have given up family and friends for His sake will receive them back along with tribulations and in the world to come, eternal life. Everything that you must do must be built on these first two things. You must believe the gospel, and you must believe that the gospel is powerful to save. And you must learn to rest in His goodness and grace for you. So pray and thank God for this every day.

Third, distinguish between lust and resentment and depression and loneliness and desperation and curiosity. One of the tactics of the devil is to confuse God’s people. But when we bring sin out into the Light of the gospel of Christ, we are free to make distinctions. Lust is not merely noticing nice things, good husbands, faithful fathers. Lust is coveting those nice things. Lust is giving into a desire for something that God has not given you or others and deriving a pleasure from it that is improper, unchaste, unclean. It is not a sin to want to be married, to want to be loved, cherished, or fulfilled sexually. But it is a sin to try to enjoy that comfort now before it is given, or in a way that is forbidden by God. Ask God to show you what other sins (if any) have played a part in this: Have you been discontent? Have you been resentful? Have these things fed your depression or loneliness? Finally, there is a natural curiosity that can lead women into temptation. If you went looking for something one time or three times and now you feel awful and dirty, do not believe the lies of the Accuser that you are somehow damaged goods. Confess your sinful curiosity, your impatience, but then let it go because God doesn’t hold it against you. You are free and you are clean, and you have nothing to be ashamed of in Jesus. Satan loves to accuse, and he knows that women weighed down by guilt become weak and are easy targets to be led away by sinful passions (2 Tim. 3:6). But forgiveness makes a woman strong. The cleansing blood of Jesus Christ makes a woman the right kind of bold, confident, and assertive. Whenever the doubts and accusations arise, whether you’ve failed three times or a thousand times, do not doubt the blood of Jesus. Remember that when you confess your sins to God, He removes your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. Every time you give your sin to Christ, He truly makes you clean. He doesn’t grow tired of you asking. Whenever you come honestly and boldly to throne of grace and say, “Hi, it’s me again,” Jesus looks you in the eyes, with His infinite love, and says, “What do you mean, again?”

Fourth, pluck out the eyes and cut off the hands that cause you to sin. Are you watching television shows that feed your discontent? Are you watching movies that allow you to daydream about things that really aren’t helping you rest in God’s goodness? What about the friends you spend time with? What about the books you read? Are you giving yourself to fruitfulness in every way? How are you using social media? Are you feeding curiosities and daydreams? Are subtly soliciting unhelpful attention? Are you trying to comfort yourself with “likes” and nice comments? Are you feeding any resentment with casual whining and complaining? Should you get rid of cable television, internet, your smart phone, your Audible subscription? Plucking out eyes and cutting off hands is pretty severe, so don’t go easy on your sin. And fill your mind with good and true and lovely things (Phil. 4:8). Most of all, read Scripture. Lots of it. Sing Psalms. Sing Psalms by yourself in your room, sing Psalms while you drive in your car or with your roommates or invite families over from church to sing with you. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Whatever your circumstances (unmarried, married, divorced, widowed), do you recognize that God has called you to this place on purpose? He has assigned these days to you. They are you homework, your mission, your calling, and God gives no assignments on accident. He does not give us anything that is too difficult for us to handle. And all of His assignments are for our good and His glory. He doesn’t allow temptations and challenges in our lives in order that we will fail. He is for us. He is rooting for you. He is cheering you on. And we know that He is for us because He sent His only Son for us.

Finally, do reach out for help. Find an older, godly woman to talk to, to pray with, to hold you accountable. Paul says that the older women are to teach the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, working at home, kind, etc (Tit. 2:4-5). Sometimes older women fail to teach younger women, but sometimes younger women fail to be teachable. Sometimes women who wrestle with porn have experienced deep hurts in their pasts. Sometimes they have been sexually violated. Sometimes they sinned sexually. Those past pains need not be dwelt on, but they do need to be dealt with and if they’re still needling you with guilt and shame, you need to ask an older, godly woman to help you unload them onto Christ. Sometimes an older woman wants to help a younger woman, but the younger woman isn’t really willing to be helped because she isn’t willing to cast everything onto Jesus. And don’t think that an older, godly woman cannot help you simply because she hasn’t experienced the same hurts or temptations. Do not erect barriers and requirements and demands and expectations that go beyond God’s Word. She doesn’t need to meet all of those extra-biblical demands. Just find a godly woman, a woman who loves God, her family, the Bible, and has the fruit of the Spirit in her life. And don’t be afraid to be a little awkward about it, “Hi, would you please be a Titus 2 mentor in my life?” is a perfectly good way to begin the conversation.

  1. Elizabeth June 21

    Hello. Thank you.
    I am taking you up on the mention of a mentor!
    Prayers for an interview today for a housekeeping job…aand tomorrow a deli clerk job at a supermarket hannaford…I’d prefer the deli job…it’s part time it can turn to full time.
    Thanks.

Post your Thoughts