Let Her Speak: Women and Pornography

The following was sent to me by a very brave woman. I thank her immensely for her candor, courage and willingness to share her story to help other women who are struggling with an addiction to pornography. May she be greatly blessed and always know how loved she is.

I was twelve and browsing on a website my sister showed me.  A harmless website, she thought, just little quizzes, “What Superhero are you?” “What planet are you most like?” One day, I clicked on a link and my life changed.  There were stories on the website too.  Many of them were harmless stories, but several of them were hard-core erotica.  The first one I clicked was a fairly tame story, but soon I was into some very depraved stuff.  I soon found other websites, easier to navigate, more stories.  I didn’t admit to myself that I had a problem or that it was a sin for two years.  By that point, I was reading and watching porn almost every day.

My addiction to pornography led to other problems, even before I admitted it was a problem.  I had such strong feelings of self-hatred that I frequently cut myself and periodically stopped eating.  After I admitted I had a porn problem, the cutting temporarily got worse.  I thought I was disgusting  and horrible and cut to make myself feel better.  Then I would feel horrible for cutting and eventually cut again to punish myself for being horrible.  It makes no sense, but if there is one thing I’ve learned its that I, like every other human, am not always rational.

Recovery is an ongoing process.  I am both blessed and cursed with a wonderful memory and porn is designed to stick in your head.  The images and words still come back to me, generally when I least expect it.  Confession is a weekly must and I make it to daily Mass as often as possible.  Every night I make an examination of conscience paying close attention to the slightest lack of purity.  I ask St. Joseph’s intercession daily for purity and try to pray the Rosary every day.  Every night I read the Bible and a chapter or two of some spiritual book.  And most of all, I have patience with myself.  When I fall, I remember how far I’ve come and how much God loves me.  Then I rush off to Confession to try again.

26 thoughts on “Let Her Speak: Women and Pornography

  1. Wow, bravo for sharing such a difficult and personal struggle. It sounds eerily like mine in how it started and how hard it’s been to recover from it. Thank you so much for sharing! Even in Catholic circles, it’s hard to find anyone who’s willing to talk about the fact that women have problems with pornography just like men do, but it’s true, and I think the silence makes it harder for women like us to recover. We need to admit that this issue exists so that we can help each other recover.

  2. I am sure this form of sexual abuse is much more common and many may even think it is not abuse at all. However, the effects are horrendous and can lead to self-harm and difficulty relating to others.

  3. I was exposed to pornography when I was a kid…my parents were friends with this family, and the dad had his den plastered with pin-ups. While visiting them, I went in the den without my parents knowledge, and even read some of the magazines…I think I was about 7, maybe 8. When we moved away I had no further porn exposure, until I was in my teens and “cool” friends parents had a subscription to a porn magazine, and it was everywhere in their house. I could not stop reading it (it was articles – no pictures). Ugh. Thankfully, I did not become addicted to it beyond reading it at their house every time I was over, but the damage was done. While I have not sought out porn for decades, I am only now (in my 50s) starting to realize how this has affected my life. I knew it affected my thoughts, but somehow thought I could keep my thoughts separate from my life. Not possible.

    Dawn Eden has a new book out about this very thing, My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints. It helps to bring it out in the open – like this blog is doing.

    Thank you.

  4. I agree with Christine. There are lots of women in our post-s*x-in-the-city world who have problems with purity, including porn and masturbation. But the Catholic world offers no resources for women. There are plenty of resources for men and for women whose husbands have a problem. But no help for women themselves.

    What I have found helpful to stay pure is to pray three hail mary’s in honor of the immaculate conception morning and night.

  5. “I thought I was disgusting and horrible and cut to make myself feel better.”

    I often wonder if most people who use pornography feel the same way. It is obviously a violation of the Natural Order, and so, it seems logical that a person would have some natural aversion to it, at least at first. I remember reading about the steps a prostitute must take to be able to live with him/herself. It’s a slow process of justification and “socialization”. It seems logical that it would be the same with pornography…

  6. BTW:

    1) Maura is such a pretty name… (I’m partial: my first-born is named Maura, after Our Lady).
    2) Props to North Jersey ex-pats
    3) Love your work. Keep it up.

  7. I’m a guy but I can relate to a lot of these feelings and I’m going through my recovery process, as well. I can relate to the feelings of self-hatred. I started around the age of 12 too and it led to isolation, anxiety and severe depression (and then worse outlets!). It’s hard too because society at large does not view it as much of a problem. I converted to Catholicism in my recently. Daily Mass and frequent confession, like she said, help tremendously – as well as some form of the liturgy of the hours (I use Magnificat). I just started a consecration to Jesus through Mary using the free book they send you from myconsecration.org and it’s amazing! I like the way they put together the book, it’s not as fluffy as reading Montfort’s writings, but it carries the same spirituality with exercises and daily readings with prayers. Seriously, Mary is awesome at purity, bringing us to Her Son and providing an endless supply of graces so that our bodies may be a chaste temple for the Holy Spirit. :D

  8. I cannot believe how damaging to the senses this stuff is. I feel that I am growing insensitive to this because it’s all around me. I find myself looking away from it when I run into it in advertising, TV, etc. So am I growing insensitive, or am I just getting jaded, or am I learning to live with it.

  9. Fighting sins of Impurity is possibly the hardest thing anyone can do, especially after soaking in so much of it. I’m still a teen but i’ve fallen into so much temptation and had my whole life changed because of it. I’m so grateful to have been delivered from the state i was in and even more grateful for the Confession Box! But these demons are wicked, and cause great distress to us, even when we think we’re far from our sins. I try and stay in the state of grace, so as to be ready for death, cause we never know right?

    “I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell, […] I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes.” -St. Theresa of Avila

    • Sometimes the advertisements on TV are worse than the shows. Since I cannot control what ads they will force me to watch, I decided to pull the plug on the TV. That was 4 years ago. I also do not expose myself to photos of scantly clad women in magazines. This has worked wonders for my peace of mind. I recommend that everyone do this.
      For news, it’s all online so you miss nothing by not having TV.
      For entertainment, there’s netflix, and also lots of good books. And a walk in the park.

      • Amen! And for me, much of the soul-less dribble i exposed myself to originated from video games. It got to the point where my parents said enough was enough and destroyed all of it. At first i thought they were insane but in the long run I realized it helped me SO much. The priest at my parish told me to meditate on this: 1)Christ died for me! 2)What have i done for him? 3)What am I doing? 4) What will I do? …

        Also he told me to check out this sermon: http://files.audiosancto.org/20070318-Sounding-the-Trumpet-Against-Pornography.mp3

  10. There is an organization run by an evangelical called Dirty Girls ministry. It is for women who struggle with purity. This problem is very common and I think it is only getting worse. Also consider the Shades of Gray series. I think those books will get more women on the path to using porn. I wish more priests spoke out about this from the pulpit more. Even if it were in general terms. I rarely, if ever, hear about the virtue of chastity and purity. Time for the Church to get real in that sense. Peoples’ souls are are dying and we’re still hearing sermons on how to be nice to one another?

  11. I had a terrible time with temptations, porn or whatever sort of trial. I found that by going on “automatic” Hail Mary’s , just repeating them over and over even without feeling, the temptation always subsided and I was eventually able to focus on Our blessed Mother and our Lord. The temptation did go away. This helped me innumerable amount of times. That’s why I’m in the state of grace now. I’m 73, but age has nothing to do with temptations. I still have to use my “Automatic” Hail Mary’s!

  12. My daughter, I want to teach you about spiritual warfare. Never trust in yourself, but abandon yourself totally to My will. In desolation, darkness and various doubts, have recourse to Me and to your spiritual director. He will always answer you in My name. Do not bargain with any temptation; lock yourself immediately in My Heart and, at the first opportunity, reveal the temptation to the confessor. Put your self-love in the last place, so that it does not taint your deeds. Bear with yourself with great patience. Do not neglect interior mortifications. Always justify to yourself the opinions of your superiors and of your confessor. Shun murmurers like a plague. Let all act as they like; you are to act as I want you to.

    Observe the rule as faithfully as you can. If someone causes you trouble, think what good you can do for the person who caused you to suffer. Do not pour out your feelings. Be silent when you are rebuked. Do not ask everyone’s opinion, but only the opinion of your confessor; be as frank and simple as a child with him. Do not become discouraged by ingratitude. Do not examine with curiosity the roads down which I lead you. When boredom and discouragement beat against your heart, run away from yourself and hide in My heart. Do not fear struggle; courage itself often intimidates temptations, and they dare not attack us.

    Always fight with the deep conviction that I am with you. Do not be guided by feeling, because it is not always under your control; but all merit lies in the will. Always depend upon your superiors, even in the smallest things. I will not delude you with prospects of peace and consolations; on the contrary, prepare for great battles. Know that you are now on a great stage where all heaven and earth are watching you. Fight like a knight, so that I can reward you. Do not be unduly fearful, because you are not alone. Diary of St. Faustina, 1760

  13. One resource that is outstanding for both men and women is the book of meditations called “Clean of Heart” by Rosemarie Scott. It’s the best Catholic resource that I have found for helping to heal these sins.

    • I agree. This book really helped to turn my life around, and it isn’t geared toward men specifically at all. Good luck and God bless to all who struggle.

  14. Rotsa ruck re the comment from someone above who wished that more priests would talk about this problem from the pupit; if the priests WON’T talk about the epidemic of use of contraceptives by Catholic married women, what makes you think that they’re going to talk about a fairly ESOTERIC thing such as some women’s struggle with pornography? You’ve GOT TO BE KIDDING! Hope and pray hard is sometimes ALL WE HAVE in this VERY evil age. GOD BLESS ALL, MARKRITE

  15. Hi Maura: I will say a 2nd set of Rosary Decades today for our dear sister, and keep her in mind at First Friday and First Saturday Masses. I love you dear sister! Ave Maria, Michael

  16. Maura, your posts have helped me so much in my own recovery. I was in the same boat as the woman you posted about, but I am a man who battled much the same issue, except I was fortunate enough to not take to cutting myself.

  17. Hi, everybody. I recommend another wonderful and useful book: Neal Lozano “Unbound”.
    No doubt, it will change your way of thinking on this matter. Blessings!

  18. pornnomore.com is a good site for those struggling with this issue and is geared towards Catholics who want to be serious about the Faith and about recovering from porn and other sins against purity. I too used to struggle with porn and let me tell you, it was difficult to overcome and even now I feel like the way I view women is warped beyond recovery. I sometimes find pornographic images popping into my mind even years later. Anyone that says pornography is harmless needs a reality check. It does deep damage to people on almost every level. I will offer up a decade of the rosary for all who struggle with this.

  19. I am most tempted when I feel depressed or neglected. It took me a while to make the connection, but now I know I have to be on guard. I want to feel love and affection, some how that got confused and a horrible false connection made. It is tragic when something so beautiful as human sexuality is perverted and abused. But not only does God seek out and help us, God has given us tools of our own.
    “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” I used to think I was lucky because I had a “strong” conscience. I guess it was not strong enough. Now I try to nurture and listen to my consciences more actively. It is by the grace of God more powerful, or at least more persistent, than my ability to rationalize. There is a great analysis of evil in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I think it sheds light on how we can rationalize almost anything sometimes. It argues that we do not always choose evil per se, but often things perceived as good in evil.

    Since I think most of us will fall when we try to go it alone, the most important thing is to seek out help at the first sign of trouble. Someone put it so well when they described how they combat the shame that cuts them off from God. When they face the accuser, their reply is, “Yes, you are right, I am weak. But Jesus is stronger.” “yeah, you are right, my sins are horrible, But God’s forgiveness is greater.” Honesty, and faith. When we remember how faithful and merciful God is, we can confidently ask for forgiveness and accept God’s help.
    “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger for ever because he delights in mercy. He will again have compassion upon us, he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our a sins into the depths of the sea.”

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