Women & Pornography

Questions Girls Ask: How do I Tell Someone About My Porn Problem?

How do I tell Someone About my Porn Problem

Whenever a woman who struggles with porn writes in asking me what her first step should be, I tell her she needs to tell somebody.  The next question is almost always, “How?”

How do I tell my parents I watch porn?

How do I tell my husband I have to slip into the bathroom with my smart phone in order to pretend to enjoy having sex with him?

How do I find any kind of support and help while I’m away at college?

How do I approach friend, pastor, or counselor and open up about this?

The stigma is real.

I receive e-mails from women every week, and there is a common theme throughout them.  I would say 99% of the women who e-mail me to tell me they are struggling with pornography (or lust, or masturbation) feel they are the only woman in the world who does.

Statistically, that’s not anywhere close to being true, but I remember that feeling very well.  Since I felt alone, I felt like there was no way anyone could even know how to help me.  It didn’t feel like there was even a point to telling someone.

Why would I tell somebody?  Just so they could judge me?

Confession felt like code for “shame yourself into stopping this.”

So, if I can get out of this on my own, then I won’t have to tell anybody, right?

The culture around us is overwhelming slanted male when it comes to anything sexual.  So, for women, especially conservative Christian women, it can be uncomfortable talking about it.  I’m not talking about “sinful” sexuality, but sexuality in general.  There is such an unfortunate stigma and inherent shame associated with it for women.

Women are expected to be pure, chaste, and have a major problem with romance novels and no more.  Stepping forward to ask for help with something like pornography or masturbation can feel like a death sentence, like you’ll be forever branded as perverse, unable to be married, damaged goods, a freak.  You can’t imagine telling your parents, husband, boyfriend, pastor, youth leader, because you’re afraid you will feel like you’ve let them down.

Tell some-one, not every-one.

There is no case anywhere for the idea of  a public confession.  If you want to go that route, you’re welcome to, but understand that when you tell “everyone” either in a church meeting or in a camp setting or something similar, you run the risk of actually becoming even more isolated.

It’s a strange twist in the plot, but if everyone knows, then you’re likely to witness a sort of “bystander phenomenon.”  Everyone will think that everyone else is doing something about it and no one will be comfortable talking about it.  While they’re all squirming in their discomfort, you’ll be sitting with your untrusting self saying, “See?!  I knew nobody would help me.”  Then you’ll write off the whole group as unable to help you.

I’ll tell you what they taught me in my first responder class:  Don’t just yell out “Call 9-1-1!”  Look at a specific person, point to them, and give them an order to call 9-1-1.  “You there, in the red shirt.  Call 9-1-1.”

You need to be intentional and purposefully choose specific people to tell.

Set aside a time to talk

Don’t just grab this person on your way by one day.  Instead, be intentional (this is going to be a theme) and ask them to set aside time for you- a half hour to an hour because you need to allot for the minutes of stalling that are bound to happen.

This is important, even if it’s your parents or husband.  Don’t bring up things like this when you’re frantically scrambling around trying to get ready for the next event.  Don’t bring it up when things can interrupt and distract.

I think it’s the nature of women who are living in shame to constantly find a way to get out of getting help.  So carving out time is useful for you and for the person you are talking to.

Express a purpose

“Hey!  Do you want to get together for coffee?” is not a fair way to make your request.  By all means, meet for coffee, but be sure to set the groundwork for the conversation.  Let them know that the content matter might be serious, and that you need them.  This isn’t just a “how’s life” chat.  You might say things like:

“Hey, can we set up a time to meet next week?  I have something I’m dealing with and I could really use your help.”

“Honey, can we set aside some time later tonight?  I have something really personal that I’m struggling with and need to talk to you about it.”

“Pastor, do you have any appointments later this week?  I really need to tell somebody about some things going on in my life.”

What are you doing?  You’re setting the stage so that they aren’t blindsided.  You’re letting them know that this is going to be a more serious get together and you’re already starting the accountability process.  If you preface the meeting by saying you need to talk to them about something, then they will be constantly curious as to what that is, and it will be harder for you to wiggle your way out.

Don’t just write it out

If you’re more comfortable writing it out than saying it, that’s fine.  When I first told someone about my struggle it was because I wrote it down and handed it to them.  Some of us struggle to speak the words.  I see it all the time, and I completely understand.

However, even written ‘confessions’ should be followed by in person conversations.

I wholeheartedly believe this, and this is why I won’t counsel or be an accountability partner for women who write me asking me to help them through the entire process.  It’s too easy for us to hide behind our computer screens.  That’s where our problem is.  We know how to be fake there.

Instead of just confessing your sin, share your struggle.

When the time finally comes to have this meeting, to sit down and take off the mask and shatter the image you’ve been keeping up so long, don’t feel you have to stay confined to, “Hi.  So, I struggle with porn.”

First, that’s not a lot for them to go on, and they might feel uncomfortable asking questions.  Then you’ll both just sit there in awkward silence, wondering what to say next.

Second, it’s not enough for you, either.  If that were the only problem, this wouldn’t be a problem.  You may struggle with porn, but you might also be struggling with things like shame, and fear, and feeling like God’s abandoned you.  They’re all interlaced.

If you walk in saying, “I struggle with porn.”  The response is essentially going to be, “Well, stop” and that will be the end of the conversation.

Share your story.  Go back to wherever you feel it started for you.  You’re not making excuses; you’re explaining your life.  Yes, you might think you’re on a therapist’s couch for a moment (and maybe you are), and they might be looking at you thinking, “Where is this going?” but the story is important because healing and freedom speak into that story.

I encourage parents and youth leaders to do this all the time- to sit down with their daughters or girls in their care and to say, “Tell me your story.”  

Confessing a struggle with porn doesn’t have to be a simple and ‘shocking’ as “Help. I struggle with porn.”  Put it in the context of your life.  Explain the struggle.  Share ways you’ve tried to stop.  Share any ways that you might be trying to cope- self-harm, acting out, etc.  Give this person as much of the story as you can.  That’s why you’re setting aside time and setting the expectation that this is something a little more serious.

I’m going to follow this up with some “next steps” but, for now, remember:

You’re not just “getting it off your chest,” you’re asking someone to join you in the fight.

Tell them with that motivation in mind.  You need their help.  The more you tell them, the more they can help.

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