This article was originally written and edited for The Gospel Coalition on May 18, 2017. 

There’s no more frightening place to sit than alone in the shadows with your sin. The permeating decay of sin’s destruction is the stuff of true nightmares.

But what if pastors and friends from church were inadvertantly helping you stay in the shadows? We can easily chat about total depravity, but the moment a pastor addresses only men on a Sunday morning to confront “their” porn problem, he’s unintentionally left women in the dark . . . with their sin.

I’ve counseled women with varying degrees of damage from sexual sin—from those willingly involved in BDSM all the way to sex-trafficking victims. No matter how much I see it, I never grow unphased by the shrewd precision with which sexual sin wounds women. And now, thanks to the cultural normalization of pornography and the availability of WiFi and smart phones, statistics of porn users have not only soared—they’ve left no age group, demographic, or gender unharmed.

That said, we must stop assuming pornography is a men’s problem, because it’s not. It’s a human problem.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to mankind. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)

In context, Paul is addressing two specific temptations: sexual immorality (1 Cor. 10:8) and grumbling (1 Cor. 10:10). Paul calls these sins “common” because they are regular temptations everyone faces. To assume sexual sin is only a male problem is to deny the help God promises to send all Christians.

Slaying Taboos

We’re often uncomfortable talking about female use of pornography. It’s a delicate topic for pastors to address with women because sexuality, by nature, is intimate. Since confessing sexual sin to a male pastor or elder is difficult, many may be less aware of the problem.

Yet when we treat porn as a men’s issue, we withhold grace and help from women in their time of need (Heb. 4:16). Our great high priest doesn’t sympathize with just some of our weaknesses, but with all of them. And because of the Spirit’s power at work in us, we can boldly confront any kind of sin. 

But when we make a particular sin taboo—from the pulpit or anywhere else in the church—it creates pockets of darkness where sin can fester and flourish. Sheltered by silence and fed by shame, the unaddressed sin has unrestricted reign to destroy lives.

Humility Unchains

On the other hand, no Christian regardless of gender can remain both silent about sin and free from shame. Proverbs 28:13 says, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” 

The more we conceal our sin, the harder our hearts become. And sin always harms, even when it seems private—this includes masturbation and pornography; this includes sexting; this includes lustful thoughts. As explicit as it is to write those words, we must be clear that true freedom and holy restoration are available to women who struggle in these ways.

Believers silent about their sin waste away in grief (Ps. 32:3). When we isolate ourselves, we prize the pride our shame protects over the holiness our humility allows (Prov. 18:1).  

But God “opposes the proud” and “gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Sisters, humble yourselves and don’t submit again to the yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1). Confess. Repent. Your Father is faithful and just to forgive your sins and purify your heart (1 John 1:9).

Jesus answers your cry of loneliness with his perfect comfort.

Jesus answers your feeling of shame with his perfect record.

Jesus answers your desire for companionship with his perfect communion.

Jesus answers your desire for ultimate pleasure with his perfect promises.

Sister, confess your sin and embrace Christ instead.

Team Effort

People don’t change because of the power of statistics or hearing about the devastating effects of porn. People change through the transforming power of the gospel. People change by submitting to the truth of God’s Word rather than the ravenous appetite of the flesh.

And people change with help from one another (1 Thess. 5:14).

Pornography is a spiritual problem rooted in the deceitfulness of idolatry—and like all idolatry, we need one another in the fight. A Christian struggling with porn needs other believers to help her slay sin by the power of God’s Word (Eph. 5:18–21Col. 3:16). 

Following the text on temptation in 1 Corinthians 10:12–13, Paul writes: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” We all need help. None of us is above the temptation pornography provides.

Pastors, pornography is a human problem.

Women who struggle, come out of the shadows to Jesus. 

Church, rise up and help your sisters.

Rebekah Hannah is a biblical counselor at The Grace Center for Biblical Counseling in Jacksonville, Florida. She is married to Andrew and has three daughters.