The Familiar Sting of Shame
It has been a long time since I felt the shame of my past. The shame of being a woman addicted to pornography. The isolation of feeling like the only one. It has been over 15 years since I said goodbye to my addiction and said hello to a life of freedom… so the shame of it has long since left. Even now when I share my story, the shame is associated with my past, not my present.
But two weeks ago, the familiar sting of shame… feeling dirty… returned. Not because I slipped back into old behaviors, but because old experiences became new again. I have been trying to shake it and avoid this post, but I simply can’t.
For six months, I spent a considerable amount of time fundraising to get DGM out to Washington, DC. for the Coalition to End Exploitation Summit put on by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) earlier this month (June 12-15). As an organization, I have been at every summit to date (five in total) and was proud of that fact. It meant a lot to me to be able to be around so many people fighting for healthy sexuality, freedom, and recovery.
The annual summit back in 2014, I was actually asked to speak on the issue of female addiction. In the years that followed, other women outside of DGM, like Jessica Harris and Lacy Bentley, have been given stage time.
At the 2016 Summit, we thought we were finally creating some real momentum within our movement when we were all together at the Summit… collaborating and networking. We thought our voices were starting to be heard amongst the roar of male addiction issues.
But unfortunately, two weeks ago at the 2019 Summit, none of our voices were heard. Not in a keynote or in a workshop.
Out of the 60 or so speakers, not a single one represented the struggle of women in addiction.
Out of all of the organizations represented, DGM was the only one there representing women.
It was the first time since I was a teenage girl struggling with pornography, that I felt so isolated, alone, and unseen. I felt the sting of shame once again.
What I heard from the stage and otherwise were attacks on men… that men were the consumers, the perpetrators, that culture has created men to be this way. Women were only ever described as the victims of male sexual deviancy. Even people who came to my table to learn about DGM wanted to me to tell them that I was a survivor, not a former addict. For some reason, it did not compute with these attendees that women struggled with porn themselves and they stared back at me like I had two heads.
The saddest part is that this should have been the place I felt the safest and most validated. I was among my peers. I was among countless individuals and organizations fighting a similar fight and yet, stories like mine and the stories of countless women were no where to be found.
I love and have great respect for NCOSE and the heroic individuals who work there. I know without a shadow of a doubt that if they knew how it felt for me this year, they would genuinely care. This post is not intended to call them out or suggest they shouldn’t be supported or that they do not support women who struggle. They even provided an exhibit table and a hotel room for us… they wanted us there. Truthfully, I hope the lack of representation from the speakers was an oversight, but one that should not ever be repeated.
My intention in writing this post is to stir the pot… as a call to arms. How are we as women expected to provide resources to other women when no one wants to support us, include us, or even acknowledge us? Why did it take six months to raise just under $3100 to get to DC (and even then we came up short of our goal—and currently have $855 in our bank account)?
This is not a pity party. Pity is not what I am after. What I am after is support and for women to finally be asked to the table … without begging to be invited.
I created Dirty Girls Ministries (now known as DGM Community) over 10 years ago because there was a growing need for resources aimed at helping women who struggled with pornography. I was a woman who had struggled, found freedom, and wanted to offer that freedom to other women. I wrote books and provided a space for women to find help, hope, and healing. Today, the need has only become greater and more women are talking about it in their respective circles. But somehow globally, the silence surrounding the issue of female addiction has grown to a deafening magnitude. After my experience at the Summit two weeks ago, my passion has rekindled and the fire in my belly roars on.
It is a MYTH that men are the only consumers of pornography. When we don’t include women, we let their own porn use off the hook and we keep those who struggle silent, isolated, and cloaked in shame.
We have got to expand the addiction conversation to include women.
We have got to support organizations helping women.
We have got to give women the chance to be heard.
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