I wonder if I’m a girl you’d think struggles with sex.
Isn’t that what we all wonder? Maybe it’s not sex, pornography, or even masturbation, but you struggle secretly with a dark sin and wonder if others would ever guess. For me though?
It’s sex. Or at least it has been for several years. Sometimes I feel like I’ve finally overcome it, but then I fall short again and my heart sinks and the insecurities come crashing in just to remind me of how disgusting I am.
The first time I watched pornography, I was in 4th grade. I was nine years old. And it wasn’t even on purpose, it was a total accident that I couldn’t turn away from. I hadn’t even had a period yet, or even known what the heck it was. And there I was, learning all about what I needed to look like to get boys to like me. I was learning about breasts, the male anatomy, what they liked and how to please them. I was developing the sexual mind I cannot seem to shake, even as an adult.
I grew up with a false sense of purpose, a list of inadequacies I’d gathered all because of the videos I’d become addicted to and the images I would dwell on daily. As a little girl, I was thinking about sex at all times and I felt so much shame for it. I didn’t know how to NOT think about sex and all the sounds just kept playing in my head. During class, at lunch, and when I would get home I’d just sit in my room trying to figure out how to watch it again.
Time went by and the tendencies only grew stronger, I had so much sexual tension as a young girl that I didn’t know what to even do with or what it even was. I just knew I couldn’t get those images out of my head and masturbation was something I discovered because of it. I remember not even realizing it was a thing, as a 10-year-old girl I thought my body must’ve been created wrong. I thought there was something defective within me, that I was some freak for needing this to comfort my body. I was so confused, but I was so addicted to the feeling I couldn’t stop.
As time went on and the images and videos became easier to access, I only learned more about sex and as my body was physically developing, I was beginning to realize I wasn’t like those girl I kept seeing on the screen. As a married woman, I still struggle with my physical appearance—the fear of not pleasing him because I don’t look like them. The number of times I’ve said to myself “If only I had bigger boobs, he would love me more.” I have Googled how much boob jobs are, asked him about getting the surgery done, and have begged him to let me after we have kids. Because of my history in watching pornography, I wholeheartedly believed (and still sometimes struggle with this) that this would fix what was broken within me. If only my body was different, I would be sexier.
In the church, you always hear about pornography and masturbation being a man’s struggle. You rarely hear women confessing to or seeking accountability for sexual temptations, whether they’re masturbation or struggling mentally with sexual images. As a married woman, you hear things like “Your husband needs sex more than you do, it helps him with temptations,” “Never forget about his needs,” and many other things along those lines. And the worst one, possibly when you’re in the muddy ditch and the pits of your struggle with pornography, you hear other women say things like, “Girls don’t struggle with that stuff.” And that’s a big fat freaking lie.
It’s lies like these that prevent confession, cheating women of the freedom they could experience in overcoming this sin. Because when we experience the freedom to confess even the darkest of our darkness, we can fight together. We don’t want to struggle well, we want to quit the struggle, putting the sin to death and chasing after the redemption story Jesus writes for us daily. And God has designed us to do that together.
When I became a Christian, I was able to find freedom and redemption from physically watching pornography, but that didn’t mean the images and sounds weren’t still in my head. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have moments where the urge to meet that need would still sneak up, tempting me to open that door just one more time.
It’s been awhile, God will forgive you and no one will even know. Just do it.
Those are the thoughts that would haunt me, pulling me away from the purity I so wanted to claim in Christ. You would think that if I was going to struggle with pornography as a Christian, it would be while I was single and having no sex. But that’s a lie so many believe, that when you get married and get to have sex, porn isn’t a temptation anymore.
Each time I’ve had to confess to my husband of the actions my thoughts led me to or the images I just kept pulling up on my phone in secret, I’ve carried this heavy bucket of sin and shame and so much confusion as to why I would still struggle with such darkness. As a woman who fights to love Jesus with her all, I’ve struggled more with sexual sin in marriage than I ever did in my years of singleness. I’ve experienced more physical insecurities as a married woman than I ever did single.
Growing up addicted to pornography and masturbation doesn’t only corrupt your mind and create a dependency in you, it also created in me this desperation to please men sexually and fulfill the fantasies they had. I wanted to be their very own real-life porno. I was no longer a human with feelings that mattered, I became a toy that was only there for the sole purpose of his pleasure. And I was content with that. Of course on the outside, I would never admit this. This wasn’t something I strived to show; it was a persona I hid on the inside. This corruption grew in me in college as I was experiencing new relationships, and trying to gain a man’s approval with my physical appearance. My outfit choices revolved around seduction, my motives were to be a woman a man would be proud of and want to show off. I had developed this idea in my head that if I was good enough in these areas of the relationship, he would keep me.
And I just wanted to be kept. But the only way I truly knew how to make sure that happened was rooted in my addiction to pornography.
As a woman who has been married for two-and-a-half years, I’ve gone through seasons of hopelessness in not feeling enough for him. Some nights I laid in bed sobbing because I felt I didn’t perform well, that I was inadequate. And all of those insecurities came from my past because I saw sex as a performance rather than something beautiful. When we were dating and engaged, I remember feeling like I couldn’t truly show my appreciation for him until we were married, I felt so limited. But mostly I felt worthless, pathetic, and I struggled with more spiritual warfare than I ever have before. Sex was the only way I really knew how to please a man, my worth and every ounce of my purpose was built on meeting his physical needs. Waiting until you’re married to have sex made that impossible.
I struggled. I was depressed. I fought waiting and could not physically bear the burden my heart and body carried. I would sit and think to myself, “Once we get married, he’ll know how much I care about him,” because I had been fed this lie that my purpose was built on pleasing him physically. Pornography had shoved its beliefs down my throat and I couldn’t handle it. I remember crying into my Bible night after night, writing over and over again “I am not worthless, I am not worthless, I am NOT worthless!”
A few weeks before the wedding, I finally told him how I felt. I just broke down in tears right in front of him. I apologized for not being able to show my love for him this entire time and explained how I felt worthless, telling him everything. He looked at me with confusion, grabbed my hand and said, “Catie, I’m not marrying you for your body. I’m marrying you for your heart.”
And those words held more power than you could even imagine.
The conversation went on, the crying went on, and the Holy Spirit moved in me like never before, revealing to me this heavy weight I’d been carrying my entire adult life. This was not from God, this was not truth, and I had the hardest time trying to move forward. The baggage was so embedded into me that it took Ryan repeating these lines to me each day up until we were married, and even hundreds of times in our marriage. I have to run to Jesus when these tendencies begin to rise up and consume me, telling me to perform and prove myself worthy of love. I have to let Him be my strength when temptations arise and those images begin to play in my head like a pornography highlight reel.
“You have been redeemed, you’re a daughter of Christ. You have been made new.”
These are truths I have to live in to prevent those lies from sneaking back up.
I’ve got a long way to go in overcoming this sin and the baggage that comes with it, and sometimes the guilt is too much. But here’s the truth: Jesus did not die on that cross to be put back up there every time I fall short. His death and resurrection means that I can have life in Him, and His grace is sufficient for me. His mercy is my power to fight back the temptation, and He has already won the battle. He is a gracious father who does not turn away from our sin, He redeems it.
If you struggle with sexual sin, or have in the past and still experience shame, here is what I have to say to you: God is not disappointed in you.
You are not alone; you are a daughter of the King. You are not disgusting; you are loved. You are not rejected; you are wanted. You are not a freak; you are redeemed. You are not worthless; you are made new. You have not been thrown away; you have been forgiven.
When we confess, we find freedom. It’s the only way we can overcome this stronghold in our lives. I encourage you to find someone you can confide in, asking them to hold you accountable, pray for you and to walk with you through this. The shame that comes with pornography and masturbation is heavy, this is why we need community to step in and carry this burden with us.
We must be a church that fights back sin with the sword of truth, and claims victory in repentance. We must quit struggling, and start fighting. When you fall, you better believe His mercies are new every morning. We can do this together. We can crush this sin, but we have to do it hand in hand cheering each other on.
He is worth it, and so are you.