There’s a lot that goes on behind closed doors which we don’t acknowledge. One of these things is pornography consumption and addiction, especially when it comes to women.
Many people automatically relate porn to men, but they are definitely not the only consumers of pornographic material. At least 1 in 3 Internet porn viewers are female— that means at least 13.3 million women in the U.S. regularly watch pornography. More than 60% of adolescent girls are exposed to pornography, and the average age of this exposure is just 11. And these are only the numbers that were reported. Many girls and women may not even want to admit that they watch pornography, out of fear of shame or embarrassment.
These statistics may shock some people, but that’s only because we don’t talk about them. We tend to think that men have uncontrollable sex drives, and women are only interested in romance and affection. But it takes two to tango, people! Clearly, women have sex drives, too. This is also evident from the fact that in the Qur’an, both men and women are told to guard their gaze.
It’s Not Just a Western Issue
According to Google Trends, all of the top 25 countries with searches related to “sex” in the last 5 years are Eastern countries, and many of these are majority-Muslim countries as well.
The statistics shared above, regarding the extremely high number of sex-related searches in majority-Muslim countries, clearly show that not talking about sex and pornography only exacerbates the issue.
Many of these countries even have Internet restrictions to minimize porn-related searches, but clearly, it’s still happening.
So, What’s the Problem?
Religious restrictions aside, pornography addiction itself may seem innocuous. Many people see it as a harmless thing that’s viewed in private, so they don’t understand why anyone would care to fight it. But real, consensual sex in a healthy relationship is very different than a pornography addiction.
Some researchers have compared pornography to addictive and mood-altering narcotics. It often causes sexual dysfunction and unrealistic expectations in relationships. It generally leads to less marital satisfaction, and in many cases, even divorce. Pornography also contributes to sexual abuse and assault, including that which is done to children.
My dear Muslim parents and elders: Please, do not think that keeping quiet about this issue will prevent or solve it. The statistics shared above, regarding the extremely high number of sex-related searches in majority-Muslim countries, clearly show that not talking about sex and pornography only exacerbates the issue. Sweeping it under the rug simply doesn’t help.
Also, for those who aren’t Muslim, you should know that according to Google Trends, 8/10 of the states with the highest sex-related searches in the past 5 years were Southern, “red” states. These areas are usually considered to be more conservative, with abstinence-only sex education programs. Yet they still have such high numbers of people searching for pornography.
Addressing the problem head-on through open, frank, and friendly communication with children and adolescents is very important. (Shaming them will only make them do it behind your back.) Yes, it may be awkward in the beginning, but that’s not an excuse to ignore the facts. And it is equally important to talk to the girls about this, as it is with the boys. Please, do not keep your heads buried in the sand. Almost 80% of first-time exposure to pornography is in the home. This is really happening.
If you would like to fight your own porn addiction or help someone else do so, here are some practical tips from an American Muslim scholar:
- The brain can be “re-wired” after porn addiction: Don’t lose hope. You can come back from this.
- Consider the victims of pornography and the porn industry: These are real people.
- Take can objective look at yourself: Imagine seeing yourself watching porn the way an outsider would, if they walked in on you. It will make you uncomfortable.
- Control your gaze, even outside of porn: Make a conscious effort to recognize which things turn you on, and avoid looking at them.
- Identify the emptiness that you are trying to fill with porn: It may help to speak with a therapist to figure this one out.
- Identify patterns in your life: Which things trigger you, and/or lead to you watching pornography?
- Spend less time alone: You can’t watch porn if you’re around your mom or roommate!
- Fast: Try fasting often to build your God-consciousness. It works.
- Attack the problem head-on: Cold turkey works when it comes to porn addiction. Just do it.
- Porn is not an option: Don’t think that you will definitely fall back into it. You can do this! Pornography is just not an option, unless you allow it to be.
- Seek Allah’s help: We all need it.
Clearly, women do watch pornography, but this doesn’t make them worse than the men who do so (or more worthy of being shamed).
I hope this article will lead to more open discussions, especially among family members, and that some of the tips above are useful to the people who hope to fight this problem.