Helping Women Who Struggle with Pornography
“Men, what do you view on your screens when no one is watching?”
Undoubtedly, this is an important question to ask on a Sunday morning. But for some women in the congregation, hearing it will further bury them in shame. After all, they also know what it feels like—week after week, day after day, possibly even that morning—to give into, to indulge, and to lose yet another battle to pornography.
Perhaps they stumbled upon pornography during an inappropriate relationship, perhaps they initially investigated due to curiosity, perhaps they struggled with an illness and used pornography to compensate for their physical weakness.
Or maybe they’re just like me. I was exposed to pornography at a young age, and I returned to it again and again—secretly—as a guide for how women ought to be treated, how we ought to act in order to receive validation. For nine years, I was entangled and addicted, in the throes of obsession, looking at picture after picture to find my identity while objectifying others.
Thankfully, the Lord saved me at the age of 18, and though my desire to view pornography had largely diminished, the implications of my sin remained. But I didn’t know how to communicate this need to my pastors and fellow church members.
During my time in vocational ministry—both at a Christian college and now as full-time staff at a church—I’ve come to find my experience is common among women.
So pastors, below are three suggestions and applications to consider as you seek to pastor women who have struggled or are struggling with pornography. Of course, these aren’t exhaustive, but they can serve as a starting point to be incorporated into your discussions and discipleship opportunities with women in your congregation.
1. Don’t make pornography simply a man’s problem.
If a woman in your congregation confesses to struggling with lust, don’t minimize or assume it’s a small affair. The ramifications of sin are costly for both women and men. Women also need to be reminded of the call to holiness (1 Thess. 4). We need to be reminded of the Holy Spirit’s power to grant us self-control in this fight for purity.
Sadly, pornography is often ignored as a woman’s struggle. But pastor, you have the opportunity to facilitate helpful conversations by not isolating sins into categories based on gender. Remember us in your Sunday applications, refer to us directly, and show us the costly weight of sin.
2. Do point us to the Cross and remind us of redemption.
Women who struggle with pornography experience a great amount of guilt and shame, and so we often often feel hopeless. At times, some may feel more comfortable to confess more “understandable” sins.
Do the women in your church know that they can confess their struggle with pornography, lust, and loneliness with other women? Will they be met with the truth of God’s faithfulness and forgiveness (1 Jn. 1:9)? After confession, women may fear that they will be labeled by their struggle instead of seen for who they are in Christ. To avoid this, pastors must work to cultivate a culture of wise women that not only ask specific and pointed questions but are equipped to remind fellow sisters of their position as redeemed in Christ.
Women need to hear both from the pulpit and in discipleship groups that pornography is among the many sins Christ died for. This is especially the case for those who are weary amid the fight. Many women believe they’ve struggled for far too long. So show them Christ and remind them of his propitiation for their sins (1 Jn. 2:2).
3. Don’t neglect to show us our value in God’s plan of creation.
Women who struggle with pornography have to daily reconcile the evil objectification they pursue. What happened in the Garden distorted everyone’s view of sex and true beauty. Because of this, some women wonder if their worth is only found in what they offer sexually.
Teach us from God’s Word about God’s purpose in making both man and woman in his image (Gen. 1:26–28). Remind us of our inherent worth and dignity—regardless of our body type or facial features. And encourage the men in your congregation to do the same—to regard women as sisters and mothers.
The reasons behind anyone’s addiction to pornography are layered and complex. But the truth of redemption through Christ remains the same. So pastors, as you seek to build a culture that wages war against pornography, remember us women and remind us of these glorious truths.