Why more and more women are using pornographyIt was an ordinary weekday morning when Caroline first noticed how much pornography was taking over her life. With 15 minutes to go before she was due to leave for a job interview, she opened up her laptop to print off an extra copy of her CV and there, onscreen, was a grab she'd saved from pornhub.com.
"I remember the feeling of being sucked in, really wanting that two-minute fix, that numbness I got when I used porn," says Caroline. "I was stressed out, and I risked being late for my interview, but I pressed play anyway and fast-forwarded it to the bit I wanted. It took two minutes." But the relief was to be short-lived. "Afterwards I just hated myself for giving in and getting off on images that treated women like pieces of meat. But I kept going back."
Although there is much debate about whether "porn addiction" even exists, Caroline, a 21-year-old English graduate, has just finished seeing a sex addiction therapist to help get her porn habit under control. Having started watching porn out of curiosity when it became available over the internet in her mid-teens, she and her mates used it as a graphic form of sex education. She saw nothing wrong with it, particularly as she was raised in a generation of girls for whom it was seen as hip and liberated to enjoy watching sex.
Then, as she entered a depressed job market after university, it became a form of escape, a default she turned to whenever she felt anxious or bored. "I'd be stuck at home in front of my laptop on my own all day. I'd wake up with all these ideas for the day – and end up surfing for porn, trying to distract myself, eating and then going back for more porn. No one would ever have known. But I didn't get much done. It was like a constant battle between my sexual urges and my self-control. I'd think to myself: 'It's not doing any harm.' But then I started to loathe myself for giving in and wasting so much time on it."
Caroline is not alone. While it's accepted that women are watching – and enjoying – porn more and more, it's less recognised that some are also finding it hard to stop. At Quit Porn Addiction, the UK's main porn counselling service, almost one in three clients are women struggling with their own porn use, says founder and counsellor Jason Dean. Two years ago, there were none.While more than six out of 10 women say they view web porn, one study in 2006 by the Internet Filter Review found that 17% of women describe themselves as "addicted".
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