Caught in the Shadows of a Man’s Secret World: Women and the Consumption of Internet Pornography & Cybersex -- By: Erin M. Haligowski

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 43:0 (NA 2011)
Article: Caught in the Shadows of a Man’s Secret World: Women and the Consumption of Internet Pornography & Cybersex
Author: Erin M. Haligowski


Caught in the Shadows of a Man’s Secret World: Women and the Consumption of Internet Pornography & Cybersex

Erin M. Haligowski*

Introduction: Caught in a Man’s World

In a November 2009 episode of her show, Oprah Winfrey openly discussed with reporter Lisa Ling and famous pornography superstar Jenna Jameson some overwhelming statistics about women as consumers of pornography.1 The show shared a statistic that “1/3 of all online consumers of porn are women … [and yet] 70% of women who watch porn keep it a secret.”2 It seems that while Oprah and her guests were overwhelmingly supportive of women being pornography consumers, the fact that 70% of women hide their consumption seems to indicate some negative consequences or perceptions of pornography usage among woman.

For far too long it has been assumed that sexual addiction, and its manifestation in the use of internet pornography and cybersex is a problem isolated to the male population. The reality, however, is that according to a 2003 study, one in six women, Christians included, have acknowledged a problem at some level or another with pornography.3 “Women account for 21% of cybersex addicts … [and] although women are online significantly less than men, women are over-represented among those who progress beyond recreational use to the realm of addiction.”4 An additional statistic suggests that among “the most extreme cybersex users, 40 percent are women.”5 There is an overwhelming hidden problem among women who are caught in the cycle of addiction to pornography and cybersex, and that hidden problem must be brought out of the shadows if the church is to have an effective ministry to broken and hurting women in the pews.

The online sexual activity of women generally falls into one of two behavior classifications: solitary activity or interactive pursuits.6 Solitary activity is identified with viewing or reading pornographic or erotic material online, and interactive activity involves the exchange of sexual content with others through e-mail, chat rooms, or cybersex (“communicating online while masturbating”).7 While these two behavior classifications are both present among women, it has been suggested that women by nature tend to prefer interactive pursuits.8 There is so...

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