When Porn Wrecks YOUR Sex Drive–Not Just Your Husband’s

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Pornography, Uncategorized | 23 comments

This month, as we’re talking about pornography’s effects in marriage, let’s remember that men are not the only porn users.

In fact, women make up an increasingly large portion of porn users, and women deal with a lot of the same effects of porn as men do.

Recently a woman wrote in with this question:

Reader Question

I had being struggling with a porn addiction for many years. In the past year God has given me the victory over that sin. The only problem is now I have no sex drive. I have been married almost a decade. Currently I’m expecting another child, I have purchased your Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. It’s a brilliant book and totally changed what I thought about sex. Also my husband and I are working through your 31 Days to Great Sex book as well. It has been a great eye opener, however I just can’t seem to enjoy sex.

I still have sex anyway as I know it’s important not to give up. I was having pain after the birth one of our children along with numbness, and realised I wasn’t getting aroused enough. I’ve been to a pelvic floor physio and my pelvic floor was too tight. It has started to release. But most times I still feel numb. My body has started to become more sensitive to my husbands touch but I just can’t get the past unfulfilling encounters out of my head to relax and enjoy it. I have a great faithful loving husband, who is a hands-on dad and helps with housework, etc. He also does everything well foreplay-wise and tries his best to arouse me. I’m just scared he will get bored and fed up with me not really getting into it. I’ve never experienced an orgasm with him, only on my own with porn. What can I do?? Will it just take time to retrain my brain to enjoy it again the way God intended?

First, as always, keep getting help from the pelvic floor physiotherapist

I believe, based on some of the spellings in the original letter, that this woman is not from the United States, and in Europe, Australia, and Canada, pelvic floor physiotherapists are more common than in the United States (it seems to me based on what commenters tell me and what a government’s heath system pays for) and are sought out more. So that’s wonderful. Seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist DURING pregnancy and then in the postpartum period can be so helpful.

A pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you relax those muscles, deal with scar tissue if  you have it from tearing or episiotomies while giving birth, and develop more sensation. So that can be a big help, and I want to laud her for seeking out that help.

What this letter demonstrates, though, is that so often our problems are multi-faceted. So she’s dealing with porn, but she’s also dealing with physical trauma from childbirth. I wish things were much simpler, but isn’t that the way that life goes sometimes? Sigh.

Okay, now let’s deal with how porn affects a woman’s libido and arousal level.

Women, especially, can reach orgasm almost entirely through fantasy. Porn cements that.

In fact, some studies have been done showing that women can reach orgasm without physical stimulation at all, if they fantasize explicitly enough. Others can reach orgasm through fantasy, and then with only a minute of very directed physical stimulation.

The idea of thinking yourself to orgasm is not new. In the early 1970’s, the Masters and Johnson research team documented the strong connection between sexuality and thought.

The connection is particularly strong in women, says Dr. Ian Kerner, author and sex therapist. “The brain is the most powerful sex organ,” he says. Men, he adds, have a much harder time making themselves climax without any touch whatsoever, but there are documented cases in women.

CBS News

Orgasm By Thinking: Is it Medically Possible?

​Now, I am not saying that this is what this woman is doing. But here’s the thing: When you watch porn, you’re cementing this reliance on fantasy for orgasm rather than stimulation. Even if you masturbate at the same time, the arousal is tied with the image or the fantasy.

If this woman grew up doing that, then her sexual response has relied on what her mind is doing far more than on what her body is doing.

A similar thing can happen with men, and it’s often why men experience erectile dysfunction after they use a lot of porn. Now women are experiencing lack of libido and lack of orgasm, because without the fantasy or the images, arousal doesn’t happen.

The solution? Learn to be IN YOUR BODY instead of just in your mind.

Certainly that’s important to do in the bedroom, but let’s start outside of the bedroom.

1. Pay attention to what your body is feeling–all the time.

We do this when we’re pregnant. We’re so curious about feeling our baby move that we pay attention to every movement in our abdominal region to see if it’s gas or the baby. We learn what different things feel like.

But that’s often the only time that we do this. I remember reading about how most people can’t accurately figure out when they’re bloated; constipated; have heartburn; have gas. They know something doesn’t feel right, but they don’t know what it is, because they don’t pay attention. So start paying attention. And that means paying attention to what it feels like to feel well, too. Think about all the different parts of your abdominal area, and what feels tight, uncomfortable, or what feels great.

I know that doesn’t sound sexy whatsoever (and I’m not claiming it is), but just learning to get in touch with our bodies helps so much in getting ourselves aroused. Try yoga so that you learn to connect breathing with movement. Learning how to isolate different muscles, how to slow down, how to breathe–these things help with learning how to feel physically aroused, and not just mentally aroused.

2. Practice mindfulness to help you get rid of porn’s influence–and to surrender to “kingdom” principles of sex

So if the problem with getting over porn is that sex is too much in your mind, how does “mindfulness” help?

Well, mindfulness is simply the practice of noticing what is going on in the moment and paying attention.

With food, for instance, how often do we shovel stuff down without really paying attention? Think of the difference between shoving a spoonful of something in your mouth while standing over the microwave versus sitting at a table, picking up a fork, taking a forkful, and chewing slowly. You notice what you’re eating. You notice the sensations and the taste.

We spend our lives trying to do 13 things at once. Mindfulness encourages you to try one, and to live in that moment. To silence the other voices in your head, and simply to pay attention.

As you practice mindfulness feeling the warm shower in the morning, chewing your food, brushing your hair, stretching, reading the Bible, singing a song–you learn to live not in the future or the past but the present. You learn to pay attention to all of your senses. All of these are the skills that you need to teach your body how to become aroused by what is actually happening rather than by what you are thinking.


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Part of practicing mindfulness is living out 2 Corinthians 10:5–and taking every thought captive. It’s staying in the moment with your thoughts, rather than letting your thoughts run away from you. And when we deliberately choose what to focus on, then we can reframe sex and make it align with what God wants, too. 

So when you’re with your husband, think of what you love about him. Let yourself stay present with him. And you may find that sex is even more intense than when you allowed your mind to wander to a fantasy! That’s the way that God intended it to be–about relationship. And it is intense when we focus on it like that.

3. Learn to do Kegel Exercises

As you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, you certainly help prepare for delivery and the postpartum period, but studies have found that you also often enhance sexual feeling. A good primer on how to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles by doing kegels (learning to squeeze the vaginal muscles) can be found here.

I’d also point people to the Perifit that we talked about last month!

4. Practice being sensual with each other

Move on from mindfulness to taking time to deliberately feel. When your watching a movie, stroke each other’s hair, or each other’s hands. Give foot massages. Give back massages. Be sensual.

Sensual doesn’t mean it’s necessarily sexual–it doesn’t necessarily arouse. But it does mean that you’re paying attention to arousing each other’s senses, especially, but not only, the sense of touch. This helps anchor you in what your body is feeling.

5. Move on to arousal due to touch rather than due to pornographic fantasies

And now we finally get to turn to sex!

(By the way, these things don’t have to be done in order, where you perfect one before you move on to the next. They can all be done together. It’s not like you have to get perfect at mindfulness or at Kegels before you can try this step, but they’re all important).

Sex is going to take a lot more time when you’re trying to get aroused and reach orgasm through physical sensations rather than through fantasy or through porn. Fantasizing speeds things up, but it also wrecks intimacy. You’re not really “there”;  you’re using your partner like a sex toy as you imagine something else.

But your brain can be used to help ground you in your body, too. It can help you feel aroused by helping you focus on what your body is feeling, but it’s a different route than porn. It may take longer. It may be frustrating. But it’s so much more fulfilling and intimate and personal!

So take your time. Start with something sensual, like a massage. Touch him and see the effect he has on you. Allow him to touch you in all different ways, and please speak up when it doesn’t feel like much. Move his hand (or whatever) to where you need it. Give him some direction. Even show him how you like to be touched, or hold his hand while you show him what to do. Remember that most women reach orgasm through a way other than intercourse. Let’s work at reaching orgasm that way first before you worry too much about whether or not you can reach orgasm during intercourse.

Find freedom from porn!

Your marriage, and your thought life, do not need to be held captive to pornography.

There is freedom. 

Beat porn–together!

6. And here’s the hard part: Tell your husband.

You need him on your side. If you’ve been used to having sex relatively quickly because you don’t spend the time to get aroused the way you need to, then he needs to know that you need more and that something is different. That may be a difficult conversation to have. No guy wants to know that his wife has been fantasizing about someone other than him. You’ll need to give him time to be angry and hurt; time to let this sink in and time to process it. You’ll have to show him that you’re sorry, and show that you’re trustworthy, and that you don’t want to use porn again and that you’re taking steps to stop (like using Covenant Eyes and getting an accountability partner). You need to rebuild trust.

But you also need him involved, because you both are going to have to learn how your body works and responds (and it can! It really can!). If you’re struggling, take a look at our 24 Spicy Dares, where the dares for him to do for her are focused on learning how to make her feel aroused. Show that you can find things sexy and spicy without any porn or a third party whatsoever.

I have so much more to say, and I feel like I’m only scratching the surface. Continue reading this series, because we’ll be talking about recovery from porn later in the month, and there’s a powerful sermon segment I’ll invite you to watch which will add another dimension to this. So this conversation is not over. But for now, recognize that you were created for arousal. It may not be happening now because you may have short-circuited your arousal process. But you can relearn it all. Take the time. Break the hold that porn has on you and learn real intimacy. It’s so much better.

How Porn Wrecks Women's Sex Lives

What do you think? Has porn ever hurt your ability to feel aroused? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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23 Comments

  1. Tina

    As someone who has been in active recovery from porn for almost 26 years, and married for almost 25 years, I can testify that learning how to be present in the moment after living in the fantasies of the brain is SO hard, but so worth it! Porn just creates an instant arousal that real life can’t compete with, so going into sex not being aroused, but knowing that my husband can and will get me there has been something I’ve had to learn (and learn to trust).
    I wanted to encourage your email gal. It takes time–and a lot of focus sometimes!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Tina! That’s awesome.

      Reply
  2. Just thinking

    These same symptoms (that you are discussing about porn) appear to be common with anything that has a long term distraction that can become wired into your brain. Is it possible that even a long term illness, or caretaking, or etc. etc. . . . could program your brain to be too much in your head and not enough in the present?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, definitely. I think when things are tied in with our emotions or needs, they make it very hard to move out of our brains. The problem with sex is that we pair the fantasy with sexual response (often through masturbation), and cement that response. To disentangle does take effort. But other things can cement the difficulty in being in the moment as well, especially things that cause stress or make us feel insecure/scared/lonely. When we have a difficult time being in the present because then fears, etc. bombard us, that’s also difficult. Learning to centre ourselves is really a spiritual practice. God is in the moment; God is here, with us. He is Emmanuel. When we are able to be in the moment, then we’re where God is. When we’re living in our heads, we’re running away from his presence, in some ways. So it’s a practice that does need to be cultivated and learned.

      Reply
  3. Ina

    It sounds good, but honestly I’m not sure that last step actually ever works. Now, I’ve never had any experience with porn but her description of complete numbness? That’s my body we 100%. If you’re numb then any exercise that has him touching doesn’t work. You can’t direct him to where it feels good if you don’t feel anything at all. I don’t know what the answer is, but in my experience, that exercise only ever produces more frustration.

    Reply
  4. Phil

    Here is what I find interesting about this article. Lack of comments. So what might be the reason? Is it because there is lack of men here that have had their marriages effected by their wives viewing porn? Or is it that there truly is that small of amount of women who struggle with watching porn? Or is it that women have a harder time getting honest about their porn use due to the immense shame society puts on women even more so than for men who view porn. Or does society even shame men for viewing porn such as they do women? In the realms of My recovery in the 16 years of the space I have recovered (primarily secular 12 step meetings) men out number women easily 20:1 if not even significantly more in my rough calculations. In many cases women dont even exist in some secular groups where they are most certainly welcome. I can not speak for christian based groups directly but indications from people I know who have crossed over indicate the same. I have had many discussions with my sponsor about this fact and we have come to the conclusion that the shame that is put on a woman is far greater than the shame that is put on a man for the same behaviors. Therefore it is harder for women to admit there problem and or recover etc. I am curious Sheila….What Kind of information do you have on this factor and will you be addressIng this in your book(s)? Either the great sex rescue or your ebook on porn. I think there is significance to the fact that men who admit to porn use or problems with their sexual misconceptions seems to far out weigh the women.

    Reply
    • Active Mom

      Hi Phil,
      As a woman who was raised in the church I can say I was never exposed to porn when I was younger and sexual habits were setting in. Online porn was too new, never had access to books in the house that would fit the bill etc. As I grew older fear of God looking over my shoulder kept me from sneaking a peak. When I was a young married I liked romance novels but I found that even the no-sex scenes ones usually had a half naked model on the cover. So, I just would buy the book on my kindle so I didn’t have the cover. Sex was not discussed in my home as a teen and that was a problem in a lot of ways but good in the sense that I was scared of Gods wrath for sexual immorality. I don’t know how many women are like me but most of my peers were. So, I don’t know if it’s shame that keeps them from coming forward or shame around anything sexual that kept them from looking and getting hooked. At least in the church. My guess is the numbers of women my age (early 40’s) hooked on porn (or erotica) is small but that it is much higher for the younger generations who have had the internet at their fingertips for years.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Active mom, i agree that this is more a generational problem for women. It is for men too but not to the same degree.

        Reply
      • Phil

        Interesting thanks

        Reply
        • Arwen

          Phil, there are 2 reasons for this: 1). It’s a generational thing. Millennial women, like me and the next generation after me, Gen Z, watch it by the millions and are addicted the same rate as men in their generation. That’s also why you see an increase in my generation with women posing naked or semi-naked so comfortably all over social media. 2). It’s a religious reason. Christian women have a moral reason to avoid porn while secular women don’t. Secular women are sexually inhibited/liberated compared to the Christian females as such Christian women work really hard to avoid while secular women do not. Those are the 2 reasons i can come up. Plus secular women don’t read Sheila’s blog as much that’s why you don’t see their comments on here. But on Reddit, oh, my gosh, the amount of porn watching females will shock you.

          Reply
          • Matilda

            I’m curious. How do you know the accounts are real women? I’m of the opinion that pornography companies want women to watch so they make fake accounts that seem real to give a false sense of acceptance. They want their money. It would be interesting to know real stats.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            In our survey of 22,000, we did find I think 20% of women had struggled with porn (don’t quote me on that number; I think it was around that, but I haven’t checked with Joanna). It’s not in the same numbers as men, but it is a significant minority. Women are the next big group that the porn industry wants, and they’re aiming for teenage girls. If they can get them hooked, they’ve got them for life. We do need to get real about this.

      • Matilda

        I totally agree Active Mom. No women I know watch porn or are interested. Most are turned off by its aggression and fake bodies. I’d say romance novels would be more of a thing. Most now are just exhausted mothers.

        Reply
        • Doug

          Matilda,
          Between this remark and the one about accounts, it would seem that you believe that women don’t struggle with porn, or that the numbers reported are exaggerated. You seem to base this on what your circle of friends do, but the truth is that you really don’t know what they do behind closed doors.
          Here are a few facts. Women sin. They watch porn, they have affairs, some struggle with promiscuity, and some have abortions.
          Men don’t have a monopoly on sexual sin, but I do believe that they are more open about it as a rule, especially as they begin recovery, etc. In the case of all sexual sin, there is shame attached to it, and I suspect that as a rule men can better afford to bring their sin into the light because, well, we are sort of expected to struggle. It isn’t shocking when a man admits to a porn problem. I think women as a rule, tend to hold those shameful secrets more tightly. I also know that lots of men do as well.
          The truth is that the Church pews are full of people with secrets, and you have no idea what those secrets are until they are exposed to the light. Even then, That light might be very tightly focused, involving just a few people. It is one thing to talk about your sins in a small group in a recovery meeting, with people who are equally open about their struggles. It is another thing entirely, to tell the entire world, standing in front of the entire congregation.

          Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      In our chapter on porn we do have a section on female porn users. It certainly is a growing number, especially in the younger generation. And that’s why we have to stop talking about porn as if it’s only a man’s problem, because women do feel such shame about it and don’t talk about it. I do know from the survey that a lot of women do struggle, and I don’t know why they don’t comment. But they do read the post, and so I’m glad it’s out there!

      Reply
      • Tina

        In response to Matilda, being addicted to porn (or being in recovery for it) is not something I talk about much. Alcoholism is an “acceptable” addiction as such, and can be admitted in public. But especially as a Christian woman, honestly, most of my closest friends don’t know about it. I don’t necessarily feel like they would judge me, but some would definitely have the attitude of “What? Why?” and that’s just not helpful.

        Reply
  5. Nathan

    Phil asks
    > > Is it because there is lack of men here that have had their marriages effected by their wives viewing porn?
    It may be. In my own case, I used to look at porn, but I had a rule that I would NOT look at it when in a relationship. I met my wife in early 2001 and haven’t looked since.
    Also, back then online porn was new, and I never really got addicted. I looked maybe 20 minutes per week tops. Before that, of course, were magazine, but I threw all of mine away when I felt that Mrs. Nathan and I were getting serious. So I’ve been porn free for my entire relationship/marriage and that’s been nearly 20 years. So for me, not much to say in this article.

    Reply
  6. Becky

    Here’s the biggest problem with pornography and erotica: what constitutes this material or media is totally in the eye and mind of the beholder.
    If you get 100 people in a room (which wouldn’t happen right now due to social distancing), you’ll have 100 different opinions about what it is for them. Should we all go with my definition, your definition or Sheila’s?
    Whatever you can’t universally define, you can’t successfully avoid. Think about it.

    Reply
    • Maria

      But I don’t have to avoid your definition of porn. I only have to avoid my definition. (If I feel aroused when watching it, it’s porn for me.)

      Reply
      • Becky

        Exactly my point Maria.

        Reply
  7. Bethany#2

    I had a brief experience with porn and it was when I was 8-9. I felt guilty about it and decided on my own that it was bad. I confessed to my parents and that was the end of it. I didn’t like how guilty I felt, and it really only happened because I had questions about kissing. If I had asked my parents, they likely would have answered. I just didn’t end up doing that.
    More serious was my completely separate encounter with masturbation as a young teenager. After I broke free, I just never went to the situation that made it easy to do.
    And when I met my husband, I told him about both issues. Before or after marriage, I don’t remember…. probably both in different degrees. I never had much consequences for it and feel blessed. I tried to talk about the dangers with my younger siblings. And keep an open forum about stuff like that, because I think it might help children have less regrets.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So true! We just have to talk to our kids about this stuff. It matters!

      Reply
  8. beloved

    My experience, personal and that of my friends (we’re mostly millennials), is that women are more drawn to written porn. Published erotic, but also stuff online (like fanfiction). It’s (usually) less violent and more about the dynamics of certain characters. But I know it’s still wrong. But I think the fact that I don’t “watch” porn has made it easier for me to (falsely) justify reading it. I just wanted to mention that in case anyone has any related thoughts.

    Reply

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