Pornography: A woman’s struggle, too

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Third in a series

She describes her addiction as a lonely, dark, cramped trap from which she has no chance of being set free. Her struggle has left her feeling hopeless, to the point of attempting suicide twice.

Sidreis Agla is an LDS woman who openly shares her personal journey through pornography addiction on her blog, By the Light of Grace. Agla’s struggle began early in life from “an unbridled curiosity” and has since dominated her life for more than 25 years.

The multi-billion dollar pornography industry does not exclusively allure men into its snare. According to the BYU Women’s Services and Resources website, 17 percent of all women struggle with pornography addiction. One in three visitors to adult websites are women. However, it seems pornography is most commonly associated with men, despite statistics suggesting many women suffer from the same addiction.

“There was a time when I would struggle with my addiction on a daily basis,” Agla said. “Whether it was through stress, anxiety, depression or at times just pure temptation.”

Joseph Parry is a bishop over a freshman Young Single Adult ward and sees women who struggle with pornography addictions. He said the number of women compared to men is a vast minority. However, this could partly be a reflection of the fact that women are more hesitant to admit their problem. According to the BYU Women’s Services and Resources website, 70 percent of women keep their cyber activities secret.

In October 2013, BYU student Morgan Reber shared an interview on her blog that she conducted with an anonymous female friend who had struggled with a pornography addiction for seven years. Her friend, also a BYU student, said that throughout her struggle with addiction, she often felt frustrated at a lack of resources or guidance for women suffering from a pornography addiction. She said it seemed everything was specific to men, with little mention that it’s a problem for women, too.

“I know that there are other people like me that exist. I know that they’re there,” the student said. “It just makes me sad that they can’t come forward. I had to claw my way out to find help; I had to force people to help me. I have the kind of personality where I can do that, but some people can’t.”

Though each case varies, some women feel incapacitating guilt associated with their sexual addiction, which ultimately magnifies the problem. The shame that Agla experienced left her feeling worthless, which completely hindered any progression in other aspects of her life.

Agla said her addiction was a coping mechanism. According to psychologist John Livingstone, the common theme for most human addictions is a craving for comfort. People seek heightened yet artificial comfort through activities like gambling, drinking, taking drugs and watching pornography.

“Guilt signals that something is wrong emotionally or spiritually,” Livingstone said. “Women are much more likely to be deep feelers emotionally.”

Parry said pornography in the form of explicit romance novels is a growing trend among women, because it appeals to their emotional desire for connection. Such literature may seem harmless, but it acts in the same way as visually explicit material by arousing the reader and imploring them to continually seek the same stimulation. Eventually, intake must increase to obtain the same high until the habit becomes an addiction.

According to Agla, breaking the addiction is difficult and takes time but is possible.

“Just as sexual addiction is a progressive disease, so is recovery a progressive solution,” Agla said. “We aren’t just learning to stop acting out, we are ultimately learning to love our Savior.”

BYU Women’s Services and Resources offers a confidential consolation at (801) 422-4877 for women struggling with pornography addictions.

Other stories in the series:

What about pornography? 

BYU student talks about his struggle with pornography

Pornography impacts relationships

Pornography addiction recovery, ‘there is hope’

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