375 women responded this week to my survey on "What Women Know About Pornography."
Thank you all so, so, so much!
I am deeply grateful to everyone who took the time to pass the link along on Facebook, allowing so many women to contribute to this conversation. I sincerely hope to do justice to all the varying opinions, ideas, and questions.
This survey quickly turned into something much bigger than I had anticipated.
First, I used the free version of Survey Monkey, which allows 100 responses to be viewed. I figured that would be more than enough, but within 24 hours, I had over 200 responses and had to pay Survey Monkey $25 to get all the extra answers out of hock.
Second, the comment fields were great, because respondents used those spaces to bring up issues I hadn't included in the survey. That's made me feel like I have opened a giant can of worms, and I'm not quite sure what to do with all of these wiggly creatures. Time will tell.
And then, I got some comments about the design of the survey itself. Some of the question choices frustrated respondents for various reasons, and I apologize for that. One person commented that this was the most biased survey they had ever seen. I'm thinking that could have been my Research Methods professor, dismayed that all her hard work in the classroom had gone so horribly awry in the real world.
There are flaws in the survey design, and I think we could attribute those to two causes:
One: It was designed by me.
I'm a bit notorious for throwing things out there and seeing what happens. I don't always think of everything up front. Mistakes happen, and I clean up the mess afterward. I know this is an attitude that would make any good research scientist weep, and is, in a nutshell, why I will never pursue a PhD.
Two: I had a specific population in mind when I wrote the questions, but then I put it out on Facebook and it went a bunch of interesting and wonderful places, and not always to the population I was thinking of initially.
I was thinking about my average blog reader, who is probably into God and church. This is a pretty Jesusy blog at times, so I assume that people who don't like that stuff will read other things.
I did formulate my questions, thinking about that girl who might find pornography a difficult topic to deal with in relationships, and I used language according to that assumption.
Then, thanks to the wonder of Facebook and the generosity of friends who shared the survey, lots of women from other populations came over and contributed, which made the results so much richer, but the survey itself more problematic for some respondents.
If the way I phrased my questions made you feel unwelcome, I apologize for that, and I appreciate the fact that you kept answering anyway. I am so grateful that you were able to speak up even when I didn't make it easy for you to do so.
Overall, my intention was to ask some questions that I've been wondering about. I'm more interested in having a conversation than in producing statistics.
"Thank goodness," say researchers everywhere, "because your statistics would suck."
To which I reply, "Yes, but my sample size is excellent, and my anecdotal evidence is super fierce."
Here's my road map for where to go from here:
- I'm giving you a snapshot of the survey results below, and a fly-over of the varying opinions and questions that came out of the comment fields.
- I'm planning to explore the many opinions and questions in more detail in later blogs.
- I'm sharing links below to resources for those who are interested.
- I hope that folks will continue to speak up, by commenting on the blog. You can be anonymous. Make up a name. Whatever. Just keep talking.
If you would like to make sure you hear the rest of the story, you might want to go ahead and subscribe to email notifications so you don't miss out.
Also, you might be interested to know that Andy and I are collaborating on another survey for the guys, with the working title: "Men, Pornography, and Relationships." If you subscribe, you'll be sure to hear about that one when it comes out.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the survey says:
And now, here are some of the broad themes that emerged from the comment fields.
1. What constitutes pornography? Any description of sexuality at all? What about romance novels? Don't they fill the same role for women that pornography has traditionally filled for men?
2. What's the difference between a normal, healthy interest in sex and obsessive, addictive behaviors?
3. Why is pornography so addictive? Why can't people stop? Isn't it just a self-control problem? (Ha! Caught you! You didn't watch the TED Talk from last time. Click here to check it out, and let me know if that answers your questions.)
4. Opinion: men won't view in a loving marriage with a healthy sex life. Good guys don't look at porn.
5. Opinion: pornography use is adultery.
6. Opinion: pornography is fine between consenting adults. It can enhance a healthy sex life. Feminist pornography is empowering to women. It is only bad when we give it too much power, and say it's bad.
7. Opinion: pornography is destructive to women, who are objectified, degraded, and are often the victims of violence. Pornography sets up false expectations for women in terms of appearance and behavior. Pornography is bad, as it is an integral part of the sex-trafficking industry.
8. Opinion: we have a crazy cultural double standard involving the stigmatization of normal bodily functions like breast feeding, and the acceptability of the hypersexuality of society, e. g., using scantily-clad women to sell things like internet domain names.
9. Several respondents reminded me that calling this a man's issue ignores the women who view pornography, and makes it harder for those women to talk about.
10. A number of people on both ends of the cultural spectrum let me know that secrecy, stigma and shame are really the problem. Conservative purity culture has exacerbated the pornography issue. A couple of people told me that men with a feminist perspective don't find pornography to be such a problem. And before any of my conservative friends start throwing things at their screens, check out this stat: "Self-identified 'fundamentalists' are 91% more likely to look at porn." That's from the Covenant Eyes stat page, and those folks are hardly liberal.
11. There were a bunch of questions about how to help others who are struggling:
- How do I bring this up with my husband, without upsetting him?
- How do I help my husband, without being his mother?
- How do we inoculate our kids against it?
- What's a reasonable age to talk to our kids about it? (Boys actively seek porn by age 10. You decide.)
- Our computers are all in public places, so isn't that safe enough? And shouldn't people just learn to have self-control? Aren't filters just a crutch?
For these kinds of questions, I suggest you start here:
Covenant Eyes is a great resource for many things.
- Their filtering software allows me to sleep at night.
- They have a ton of good information, including statistics, done by actual researchers and not me.
- There are great free ebooks to download on various topics: parenting guides, personal stories, and reasonable, reputable advice.
- They also have a blog, where I guest-posted a while back.
- Covenant Eyes is my go-to. Go there.
Once again, this TED Talk is educational magic for anybody, whatever your cultural perspective on porn.
If you are looking for a recovery support group, try checking for these groups in your area:
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (for the addict)
- Celebrate Recovery (recovery for addicts and family members from all life's bumps and bruises)
- Pure Desire Ministries (Christian pornography recovery for men, includes spouse support groups)
- S-Anon (for adult family members of someone with sex addiction)
- S-Ateen (for teenagers who have a parent or close family member with sex addiction)
Again, thank you so much to everyone who took the survey! Looking forward to the conversation ahead!