A group called Dirty Girl Ministries claims to treat women for porn addiction — but their definition of addiction appears to include what most people would deem completely normal. And they seem to be convincing women that nearly all forms of sexual thought are "dirty."
Blaire Briody of Bust (via Utne Reader) writes that 26-year-old Crystal Renaud started Dirty Girls "in 2009 after suffering from her own self-described pornography addiction." But the ministry isn't just for women who spend all day surfing tube sites. Briody writes, "the growing group of 100-plus members who participate in the forums say that they masturbate or view porn — which they define as including erotica and romance novels — twice a week or less." She continues,
Renaud's advocacy is labeled antipornography, but it aims to treat all masturbation, whether it involves porn or not. When you peel back the layers, the core of her crusade is against sexual thought — even within marriage — unless those thoughts are about your husband while you are engaging in intercourse with him.
Some of the women who come to Dirty Girls, which holds meetings and maintains online message boards, may have desires that aren't accepted by their religion. Briody tells one member's story thus:
Dirty Girls member Amy Christine Proctor, a self-described addict and a flight attendant from Colorado, started masturbating while she was visiting chat rooms on AOL. Unmarried and a virgin at 30, Proctor has struggled with her sexual identity since puberty, believing her same-sex thoughts are a sin. Last year, she says, she was masturbating almost daily, sometimes twice a day. To rehabilitate herself, she became an active member of Dirty Girls Ministries and started driving two hours to attend a 12-step program for sex addicts called Heart to Heart. But when she realized the masturbation was stemming from underlying sexual-identity issues, she switched to a program called Where Grace Bounds that deals with "sexual brokenness and homosexuality," while remaining an active member of the Dirty Girls forums.
Twice a day might be on the frequent side of normal, but still, it doesn't sound like Proctor's an addict — it sounds like she's a gay woman in a culture that equates lesbianism with "brokenness." The "treatment" she's found for this essentially asks her to deny her desires, which may not be particularly helpful. On another forum, a woman who calls herself Laurie explains what happened when she came across some porn after seeking "sobriety from ‘sex with self'":
Just a couple of years ago, I was surfing the TV channels in a hotel room on vacation; a mild porn movie was on a TV. I lingered just a little and went into a full-blown panic attack. It was like I was physically drowning. I belonged to God and I did not want it, but in two seconds I was there and being pulled by the enemy and it was warfare! I thought I'd have a heart attack. I could hardly breath, I got physically ill.
Laurie identifies this experience as a reminder from God, but "warfare" and panic attacks seem like very likely side effects to a treatment that teaches women that their sexuality — and in some cases their very identity — is "dirty." Writes Sarah Markley on the Dirty Girls website:
I will always be dirty. In reality. My cleanliness has NOTHING to do with what I watch or don't watch. It has everything to do with the condition of my heart. My heart, when left on its own, will drift back to dirty.
Briody writes of another Dirty Girl member with similar worries:
One forum commenter married at 19 in the hope that pious matrimonial intercourse would rid her of her sinful thoughts — only to find that during sex with her husband, she would have the same fantasies. "I cannot cleanse my mind of these images," she says. "I try so hard to focus on my husband only, but my thoughts are so warped."
Briody notes that many porn addiction programs focus on men. But Dirty Girls appears to draw on a particularly female stereotype — that any sexual thoughts that aren't about penile-vaginal intercourse with a male partner are somehow dirty or warped. Some of Renaud's clients may be gay, some may be bisexual, some may fantasize about BDSM or kink, and some may be quite vanilla but nonetheless feel guilty about the strength or frequency of their desires. In all of these cases, acceptance might allow them to lead satisfied sexual lives. Instead, they're being forced to pit their sexual desires against stigma, shame, and external notions of what it means to be unclean. It's no wonder this sometimes leads to "warfare" — and unfortunately, the women are often the losers.
Look God, No Hands [Utne Reader, Excerpted From Bust]
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