ARP Fails Women Support Groups

Anonymous Question Series:

Q: "Why does The Church's ARP program assume that men are addicts and women are "related to addicts"? It is SO difficult to find a women's support group."


The quick answer: as an Church culture, we have done a poor job at identifying and providing women resources.

(This is a great question and will be a little difficult to answer concisely, for me. This has been a topic of GREAT interest and equal concern for me, so much so that I have taken up the opportunity to write about it. I am over 100 pages into a book I hope to complete by the end of this year that addresses this issue and other related topics and their solutions. Additionally, Kathryn Kirk and I have attempted to fill this gap with "LDS Women Struggle Too" Blog and Group. But because of our Church culture, it is very hard to get the word out.)

However, I can't "blame" The Church nor the "culture" for not meeting the needs of women adequately in this regard. Many do, and I value the frustration around the topic. But this issue is NOT limited to The Church. "Addiction," especially sexual related issues, have historically been a "man's issue”. With the exception of AA (or "Friends of Bill"), which had its beginnings in 1935, support groups for non-substance abuse only started in the mid 1970s and were predominately male focused. Additionally, medically and psychologically there is NO standard definition or diagnosis for sexual-related "addiction." Sex (porn and sexual related issues) addiction was a “self-diagnosis” of subtenancy abuse individuals who felt they wanted a separate AA meeting to address their "problems with love." It was also a "sign" to their spouses that they were doing "something" to address their cheating behavior. It is interesting to note that because there was NO medical definition of sex addiction it was entirely — and still is today — self-diagnosed. Here's the kicker; because there was/is no medical definition, the criteria for sex addiction was entirely driven by white male middle class individuals:

"Sex addiction is overwhelmingly focused on male sexuality, given that 90-95% of alleged sex addicts are male. In the paraprofessional side of sex addiction, the online bloggers and activists who promote the ideas of porn addiction are also consistently white males, typically of middle class or above." —David J. Ley, Ph.D, Sex Addiction's Diversity Problem

As a result of white Christian middle class males defining sex addiction, the majority of addicts are in that demographic ... the epitome of confirmed bias! As such, the “solutions” have been entirely developed around solving it for the white Christian middle class male — not only making a perceived issue worse than it really is, but entirely neglecting the needs of other demographics.

The Church has been modeling what the professionals have been doing; therefore, they have mirrored support groups for males of our faith and have lectured repeatably to men in priesthood meetings, while entirely ignoring or being unaware that about 50% of those who struggle with porn and sexual issues are female. This is while NOT one word is spoken about it in Relief Society or the General Women's Conferences. Fortunately, the Brethren are recognizing that the old approach isn't working, and they haven't lectured the men in priesthood for the last few conferences.

Back to your specific question. There are support groups, but they are hard to find. Kathryn and I have tried really hard to promote our free online group, but it is very hard to spread the word. I also wonder if The Church should be involved with support groups. The success rate is ridiculously poor ... at best 10% for support groups or 12-step programs in general. I believe the success rate in our church support groups and 12-step programs also mirror the secular groups. Unfortunately, our view that something is better than nothing is keeping the status quo.

This isn't a solution, but hopefully it helped you understand the complicated dynamics of the issue. You are always welcome to reach out to Kathryn or myself for further support. If you would like a support group, we are eager to support an effective, solution-based approach. Spread the word and we will provide.

An Unspoken Struggle: LDS Women Addicted To Pornography

"So. I am an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and have been my entire life. My struggles with pornography began in 2003 out of a mix of boredom and curiosity. For years now, I have felt like one day I would share my experiences, and that from the things that I've learned, that I would be able to perhaps help just one other person in their struggles. My intent is not to talk about the details of anything, but just how the gospel of Jesus Christ has and is changing me, and helping me through this painful addiction. If you are a woman who is struggling, or know of a woman who is struggling with pornography, let me know. I know that it is difficult, and I know that having someone to talk to can make all the difference in the world. So this is my attempt to reach out to you. If you are a single woman, you are in good company cause so am I. I don't know what it is like to have this struggle in marriage, but if you are married, hopefully there will be something here that can help you too." LDS Women Struggle Too Blog

This "LDS Woman" is a brave single adult woman and active member who contacted me about her addiction to pornography. She had been battling this persistent Goliath for many years, had seen her bishop many times, fasted, prayed and did everything right. But the desire and addiction wouldn't go away, and she would find herself back at square one again and again. Discouraged, frustrated and at times hopeless, this dear sister didn't know what else to do. No matter how hard she prayed, read her scriptures or how sincere her desire to rid her life of porn, it wouldn't go away. As a result, at times she would even question if her faith was sufficient. After all, if faith can move mountains why not rid her of her desire for porn? Additionally, as a woman addicted to porn in The Church, this provided its own difficulties.

If you are an Latter-day Saint woman struggling with porn in any form, you are not alone. I get it, we don't talk about Latter-day Saint woman addicted to porn in The Church. But I assure you, I have seen as many women as men who are struggling, and you are not alone. There is hope! The story of my client "LDS Woman" is a beautiful one. I encourage you to follow the link to her blog and follow her personal journey. I encourage you to seek her out and ask her questions. If you feel unworthy, unclean and ashamed, I would ask you, are those feelings bringing you closer to Father or further away? It is a common misconception that we must feel shame and guilt. Sorrow, yes, but not shame or guilt. Where shame and guilt are, hope can not prevail. Where there is no hope, despair and depression grow. You can be happy now, even in the mist of battling an addiction or an occasional viewing. Yes, you most definitely can be happy during the battle of your Goliath.

"An Unspoken Struggle" will be a series of blog posts that guide you in your battle, how to turn from shame toward hope, from despair toward courage and how to retain the beauty of intimacy and sexuality while untangling yourself from porn. Unlike most addictions and misuse, we don't want to destroy, avoid or suppress our heavenly gift of sexuality. Too many have "defeated" their Goliaths only to find a new problem when they get married. Intimacy is difficult, avoided or triggers past addictions.

If you have any specific thoughts, questions or curiosities that you'd like me to address, please contact me directly or in the comments section.

“I never thought a pornography addiction could be a girl’s problem. I was proved wrong when I was about 16 years old. I came across a video of pornography, and since I was alone and curious, I watched it. After that first time, I felt like I had to watch something every day. I became addicted to pornography.

Viewing pornography made me feel bad. I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t do anything to change. I was never happy, and I felt dirty and infected with Satan’s tempting filth. But I still found ways to watch it just so I could satisfy my appetite. My addiction led to more and more wrongdoings. I lied to everyone: my brother, my mother, and worst of all, the Lord and myself. I would tell myself that one more movie wasn’t going to hurt me, one more dirty story wouldn’t be that bad.” —"No Longer Addicted: My Journey to Overcome Pornography"