The truth is that girls are just as susceptible to sexual addiction as boys are, and it’s time to start talking about it to help end their silent struggle.

Four factors add to the pull of porn for girls. The good news is that parents can use the following four strategies to help girls decide to reject pornography:

  1. Regularly affirm your daughter’s worth
  2. Combat isolation and fear
  3. Recognize that girls may use different porn than boys
  4. Change how you give “the talk”

Believe me, I’m an expert on this topic. Hopefully my hard won wisdom can help you help your daughter.

My addiction started at age 11

I was 21 years old when I told my parents that I had been fighting a lonely battle with pornography addiction for 10 years—since I was 11 years old. Even though at that point I felt like the addiction was finally behind me, I felt like I had shattered their world. I was a straight-A student, college graduate, and active member of our church congregation; things like this didn’t happen to children like theirs.

Our conversation was short and scarring. After that night, it was never mentioned again, which was unfortunate, since my silent struggle with addiction wasn’t over like I thought it was. But even if it was brought up again, I’m not sure my parents would have known how to help me. My parents, just like many others in their generation, were woefully unprepared to combat pornography at the level we’re now facing. It’s time to change that and start giving parents the tools they need to be prepared.

Since opening up about my addiction, I’ve had the opportunity to hear from hundreds of women and teenage girls who have silently struggled with pornography and/or masturbation addiction.

In an effort to prepare parents to protect and guide their children, I offer 4 important strategies that I wish my own parents had known. I want you to be able to counter the dangers girls can face when dealing with pornography (these principles can generally be applied to helping boys as well).

Four strategies to end the silent struggle and help girls reject porn

#1. Regularly affirm that your daughter’s worth is more than skin deep

Although my parents never intentionally made me feel bad about how I looked, that was the message that I was receiving on a regular basis. Here’s why:

All day, everyday, girls are being reminded of what is “good” about their body or appearance and what’s “bad” about it. The pressure to be thin, have a hot body, look sexy, etc. starts as early as elementary school. It’s these social pressures that often drive girls to find both interest and temporary refuge in the world of pornography, only to have the social pressures enhanced a hundredfold by the images they see.

For me, that pressure was often too much to handle. Whether I was watching pornography to escape to a world where I could put myself in the “hot girl’s” shoes or watching to see what I was “supposed” to look like, using pornography reinforced an unhealthy expectation of how I should see my body and how I should see the bodies of those around me.

It’s important for your daughter to have a strong self-image, and in the beginning a lot of that influence lies with you, in both how you treat her and how you treat yourself. Tell your daughter, frequently, how beautiful she is (for example: Daughter: “Dad, do you like my dress?” Dad: “That is a lovely dress you’re wearing, but you look beautiful all the time!”).

According to Timothy Rarick, PhD, fathers play a huge role in contributing to their daughter’s self-esteem. Daughters will often seek the same kind of love in future relationships that they received from their father. By being emotionally available (like frequently complimenting their daughters), and showing physical affection, fathers can often fill an emotional void that their daughters might end up trying to fill with harmful things like pornography later in life.

It’s also important to focus on compliments that are not centered on appearance. Notice her talents and strengths and point them out to her on a regular basis. Help her to see that she has more to offer to the world than what her body looks like.

Finally, be a good role model–treat yourself like you would want her to treat herself. If you are constantly putting yourself down for how you look (“I’m so overweight,” “I look horrible in a swimsuit”), then you can expect your child to develop that same attitude toward themselves. Self-love is a necessary trait. If you don’t have self-love, it’s very likely your daughter doesn’t either, and it’s very hard to receive and give love to others if you’re struggling to feel love for yourself. One place to start is to be vocal about strengths, not insecurities or weaknesses.

#2. Combat isolation and fear by making it easy for your daughter to open up about her struggles or concerns

If your daughter knows that viewing pornography is harmful, but is caught in a bad habit of regularly viewing it, there are two main things she’s probably feeling: isolation and fear. I once thought that I was the only girl in the entire world who had a problem with pornography. I felt completely and utterly alone, and would often refer to myself as a freak. After talking with other girls, I soon realized that that has also been the case with every single one of them.

Although there is no data for children viewing pornography, statistics show that millennial women are now starting to view pornography more frequently than men are. Generally speaking, women are not vocal about viewing pornography, so not only does your daughter feel shame for doing something she knows she shouldn’t, but she feels like a freak or thinks that there’s something wrong with her just because she’s a girl with what she thinks is a guy’s problem.

Her fear stems from shame. She’s afraid that if you, her parents, find out about her habit, that your view of her as a good daughter will shatter to the ground. She’s afraid you’ll never look at her the same way again. She’s afraid you won’t love her or be proud of her.

Growing up, I felt like two different people. There was the Cassy who was a good big sister, who went to church every Sunday, who got straight A’s, and who tried to be a good daughter and a good friend. Then there was the Cassy that had a problem, who was secretive and deceitful, and who hated herself for who she was and what she couldn’t stop doing. This desire to not disappoint my parents and to hide what I was going through only caused more secrecy, more shame, and I became even more lost in isolation.
Your daughter thinks that if she tells you any struggles she’s having with pornography, it’s going to break your heart. She doesn’t know how to be honest with you and, at the same time, protect you. She doesn’t know how you’ll be able to still see the “good” her if she opens up to you about the “bad” her.

The best thing you can do for her is to open up a dialogue so she can start talking when she’s ready. Take advantage of intimate moments to assure her that your love for her could never change no matter what she has done or what has happened to her. Take opportunities to talk to her one on one about things you’ve read (like this blog post!), letting her know that you are aware that girls can struggle too.

When the time comes that she does open up to you, prove what you said to her in previous conversations by responding with love. You don’t need to express punishment or disappointment because she’s already expecting it and has most likely been feeling major disappointment and shame on her own. Opening up to you is one of the scariest things she’s probably ever done, and the best thing you can do to help her is to:

  • praise her for her bravery and trust,
  • empathize with her plight, and
  • express your unconditional love for her.

No matter how much it feels like your world might be shattering when she tells you, I assure you that that moment will pass, but she will remember your reaction forever, and that’s something you can’t take back.

If you would like a little help starting a conversation with your kids about pornography, we have the solution! A FREE cheat sheet: 10 EASY Ways to Start Conversations About Pornography. CLICK HERE to get your copy.

 

#3. Recognize that the many types of pornography girls use may not be the same as what boys use

It’s common knowledge that males are more visually stimulated than females are. Among other things, this has been a major contributor to the current cultural isolation that women and girls who are trapped in addiction to pornography may experience. For years, pornography has been seen as a guy problem, but as we now know, it’s a human problem. Take apples and oranges, for example—they look different, taste different, have different nutritional value, but in the end, they’re both fruit. It’s the same for pornography. Pornography can take various forms.

It’s likely that your daughters have heard the same message that you’ve taught to your boys, but girls can still fall into the trap of pornography simply because they’ve been avoiding only one medium of it. You’ve taught them to stay away from “bad pictures” but it’s very possible that your girls are struggling with “bad words” (although “bad videos,” and “bad sounds” are becoming the main medium of pornography use).

Previously, the definition of pornography only applied to visual depictions of erotic acts. Today, the definition includes all mediums of expressing erotic sexual behavior (Webster defines it here). In the beginning,”bad words” played a huge part in creating my addiction. As I’ve spoken with countless other women about their struggles with pornography, every single one of them confirmed that this was a shared experience. Whether it’s erotica found online, a romance novel picked up in the public library, or a text message (sexting), girls can be exposed and drawn to this form of verbal or textual pornography at an early age, and the best way to combat it is to make it a part of your conversation about pornography. Written pornography can be just as addictive and emotionally damaging as visual pornography, and is generally far more appealing to women. Eventually, as dopamine levels decrease with repeated exposure to the same “drug” (erotic literature) that type of pornography can lead to a “harder drug” (read about the science here).

As a young girl, I often rationalized that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing because I wasn’t actually watching “bad” things. Don’t let your daughters fall into that same trap. Awareness and communication are key in this battle. If you’re aware of this danger, then you can make your daughter aware, and she’ll be able to make wiser decisions based on recognition from the open communication and discussions you have with her.

silent struggle

As my addiction worsened and I started seeking out stronger stimulants, I came across videos on YouTube of women kissing, which eventually led to harder pornography. I am not lesbian, and I never experienced same-sex attraction before my addiction, but lesbian pornography became very appealing to me. This too is a common trend among women who view pornography (click here

It’s important for you to know what type of images your daughter is likely viewing. If her viewing habits have escalated to the point of watching lesbian pornography, then just imagine the fear and shame she has in feeling “weird” because she has a “boy problem” along with questioning her sexuality. She will probably never feel more isolated, and that’s why your open communication and frequent expressions of love are so important.

#4. Change how you give “the talk”

There are really great resources available on how to talk about sex with your children — check out this article on healthychildren.orgby the American Academy of Pediatricians. It’s a personal favorite.

As most of you know, this is often referred to as having “the talk.” Now, I’d like you to reach into your mind, and pull that phrase out, and then throw it out the window. Using the phrase “the talk” suggests two things:

  1. the subject and words associated with it are taboo and are inappropriate or awkward to talk about outside of the conversation, and
  2. it’s a one time event that will not continue once “the talk” is over.

This attitude towards talking about sex with your children is a recipe for isolation and misinformation.

Get rid of the taboo on the topic and vocabulary by talking about it confidently and conversationally. As the article I mentioned earlier says, “You have two ears and one mouth, listen more.” This is all about switching modes from lecture gear to conversation gear. Use simple and clear language that they’ll understand. Make sure they make the correct associations with the actions of love and sex. If you want to use the politically correct or scientific terms, then great! Just make sure they also understand the terms that they’re hearing on TV and at school.

silent struggle

Your kids are being bombarded with sexual topics on a daily basis, so talking about it one time just won’t do it. Keep a vigilant eye out for teaching moments and take advantage of them when they come. If you are always waiting for the right moment to talk to your kids, then your kids will also feel like they have to wait for the right moment to open up to you about their concerns.  If you have a constant and open dialog, then your kids will be free to voice their concerns whenever they need to do so.

With these four basic strategies, you now have a leg up on the fight against pornography that the majority of parents are missing out on. Don’t let your daughter silently slip through the cracks and fall into isolation and addiction. Be empathetic and convey your love for your daughter, and you will empower her in a way that nothing and no one else can.

Talk Today, Safer Tomorrow: 10 Easy Conversation Starters

Do you want to start talking with your kids, but just don’t know how to get this conversation going?  Don’t worry! With some help from our allies, we’ve compiled a FREE cheat sheet for you. Click on the box below:

Cassy Hulse
Cassy Hulse is an activist for women in recovery from sexual addiction, specifically pornography addiction. She is involved with multiple organizations dedicated to fighting the plague of pornography and human trafficking, including Reach 10 and Operation Underground Railroad. She shares her personal journey of pornography addiction on her blog www.battletogether.com in an effort to give hope to those battling addiction and to educate those whose loved ones are battling addiction. Her mission is to give a voice to women who feel that they cannot speak openly about their addiction and to dispel the taboo surrounding the plague of pornography addiction. She is from Hermiston, Oregon and is currently attending BYU as a Linguistic (English Language major). She enjoys hiking, singing, and playing the guitar.
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