Are Women Susceptible to Sex and Porn Addiction?

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Journalist Erica Garza initially started writing about her experience with sex and porn addiction as part of her recovery and healing process. In 2014, she published her first essay on the topic. She says the response that she got from other women who were struggling with the same or similar behaviors was immensely gratifying and enlightening. Based on that, she decided to tell her story in book form, publishing her excellent memoir, Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction, in early 2018.

The importance of this book to women who are battling sex and porn addiction cannot be understated. After all, sexually addictive behaviors are primarily triggered, as all addictive behaviors are primarily triggered, by emotional discomfort—depression, anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and, most of all, shame. For sex addicts, especially female sex addicts, shame about sexual behaviors can be incredibly powerful. And research has proven that the best way to get past that shame is to talk about what’s causing it, to read about what’s causing it, and to feel less alone with it. For female sex and porn addicts, the “read about it” part of the healing equation is generally lacking, as very few women have ever spoken up and publicly stated, “Yes, I’m a sex and porn addict.” So, kudos to Garza for breaking through this barrier.

Garza says she was raised in a Catholic Latino household where sex was a taboo topic. Nobody ever talked about it. When she discovered masturbation at the age of 12 and pornography soon thereafter, she could not ask questions or receive answers. Instead, she did what felt good, and then she felt great shame because she thought she was doing something wrong. Over time, as happens with many sex and porn addicts, feelings of shame and sexual arousal became intertwined, and she struggled to feel one without the other. Eventually, as an adult, she found herself partnering with emotionally unavailable men, and this caused her to feel even more shame about her behavior.

Garza also says that as her addiction escalated she began to experience more and deeper consequences, the most profound of which (for her) was an inability to relax into emotional intimacy and bonding. At times, she confused “no strings attached” sex with intimate connection, thinking that if she shared a bed and a sexual encounter with someone, that would lead to the longer-term intimacy she craved. But it never did. And on the rare occasions when there was a chance for that type of connection, she would sabotage the relationship because it felt too risky and scary.

When the isolation and loneliness were finally too much to bear, Garza made her way into sexual recovery and healing, and today she is a happier person with a loving partner with whom she feels a true sense of emotional intimacy and bonding. But her path to healing was not without a few bumps. Like many women seeking help with sex and porn addiction, she struggled to find a community of support. There just weren’t enough women in 12-step sexual recovery meetings for her to feel entirely comfortable. Eventually, she learned that there are women’s meetings, online meetings frequented by women, and other healing venues geared toward women. And she expanded her process to include things like yoga, kickboxing, meditation, journaling, and more. All of which contributed to her longer-term recovery.

Nevertheless, the real takeaway from Garza’s story and book is that it’s helpful for female sex and porn addicts to know they’re not alone. There are plenty of other women dealing with the same or very similar issues—including the deep feelings of shame. Happily, her book is helping to shift the sense of isolation that so many of these struggling women feel. And, in time, as more women come forward with their stories of addiction and healing, we will have more resources and reference points. Until then, Garza’s courage can light the way for those in need.

For those interested in female sex and porn addiction Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction is highly recommended, as is Staci Sprout’s book, Naked in Public: A Memoir of Recovery from Sex Addiction and Other Temporary Insanities.