- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 11, 2010

Researchers have long known that the Internet has contributed to pornography addiction by making it so easily accessible — no need to go out in a raincoat, pull a hat down over the face, and sneak furtively into the red-light district.

But that ease of access also has leveled the playing field between the sexes — men are known as the sexual risk-takers, after all — and psychologists and researchers have seen an increasing number of women becoming addicted to pornography on the Internet over the past 10 years.

In 2003, Today’s Christian Woman found in a survey that one out of every six women, including Christians, acknowledged struggling with the same addiction.

A 2006 survey released by Internet Filter Review showed that 17 percent of women said they struggled with pornography addiction and that one in three visitors to pornography sites were women. About 30 percent of Internet pornography consumers are women, according to the 2008 Internet Pornography Statistics.

Psychologists and researchers attribute the increase to the Internet’s anonymity and safety. Now a woman needn’t sneak into the places good girls avoid.

“Women can still become addicted to pornography in the same way that men do,” said Douglas Weiss, a licensed psychologist and executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs. “I do think that the partial reason for this is women becoming more intelligent about usage of the Internet — going online and chatting, developing relationships and acting out sexually.”

Studies have shown that women find it easier to click a few buttons on the Internet to search for sexually alluring material. In the absence of a social context, pornography is more appealing to women because there are no social repercussions for using it.

A 2006 Internet Filter Review poll found that 9.4 million women access adult websites each month, and 13 percent of women admit to accessing pornography at work.

“The more pornography women use, the more likely they are to be victims of non-consensual sex,” said Mary Anne Layden, professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. “The earlier the male starts using pornography, the more likely they are to be the perpetrators of non-consensual sex.”

Men in general have always been considered the more visually stimulated of the two sexes. Before the advancements in technology, young women who wanted a sense of emotional gratification would live vicariously through romance novels. Young men would get some of their sexual gratification from photographs of scantily clad or nude women, or go to strip clubs.

Pornography is nothing new. However, with the introduction of the Internet, it has become much more accessible to people of all ages.

Sex is the No. 1 topic for Internet searches, according to the Sexual Recovery Institute, and more than 1.3 million porn sites are available. The pornography revenue in the U.S., in 2006 alone, was approximately $13 billion. The pornography industry is also larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc., eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc., Apple Inc., Netflix Inc. and EarthLink.

“Pornography is the drug of the millennium and more addictive than crack cocaine,” said Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough, a Virginia-based nonprofit that works to make the Internet safer for children and families. “[EIE‘s] goal is that there be as much protection online as there is offline.”

Ninety percent of pornography addiction begins at home, Ms. Hughes said, adding that organizations like EIE can give families safeguards to help avoid addictions.

With children becoming more technologically savvy, she said, “It is no longer a question of if they will come across porn, but when.”

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