Praying away female sexuality

A Kansas church targets "impure" women struggling with porn addiction and extramarital fantasies

By Tracy Clark-Flory

Published May 3, 2010 9:25AM (EDT)

A church in Lenexa, Kan. is fighting sexual discrimination in Christian culture. I'm not talking about challenging traditional gender roles, advancing women's position in the church or anything along those lines. Westside Family Church is offering a workshop for women supposedly addicted to pornography.

Go equality?

In a fascinating profile, the New York Times takes a look at the evangelical church's ladies-only Victory Over Porn Addiction group. The workshop is run by Crystal Renaud, a self-identified former porn addict and the founder of the website Dirty Girls Ministries. After finding one of her brother's dirty mags at age 10, Renaud spent eight years in the throws of a porn addiction, she says. "At school I wanted to go home and look at it more," Renaud tells the Times. "Then I went online. I'd stay late at the library to look at it. Eventually I got into masturbation, phone sex, cybersex." None of this sounds unusual for someone who grew up in the Internet era, but things got progressively worse until Renaud hit rock bottom. At age 18, she found herself in a hotel room, waiting for a stranger to arrive for a casual sexual encounter, she writes on her website.

Women are hardly strangers to the business of porn and sex addiction. They may not show up in the same numbers as men, but there is enough demand that some rehab centers have developed programs specifically for women. Dr. Drew's "Sex Rehab" actually featured five female patients and only three men (although that says more about ratings than reality). However, Renaud's approach is different from mainstream sexual addiction models. Her group treats "masturbation and arousal as sins rather than elements of healthy sexuality" and encourages participants to banish all "thoughts of sex outside marriage" in order to attain "sexual purity," reports the Times. On the Dirty Girls Ministries message board, visitors swap tips for keeping on the straight and narrow -- for example, wearing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it every time an impure thought crosses your mind.

Sexually impure and seductive women aren't exactly a new Christian concept, but a graduate of Renaud's program does freshly articulate a very old reason to fear female sexuality: "You have to take into consideration what's best for the one you're going to be with," says 17-year-old Kelsie. "Say someday I'm married and my husband can't please me as much as I please myself. That'd be terrible" -- for his ego, presumably.

Tracy Clark-Flory

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