Up Front by Emma Hart


I'll Be in My Bunk

Today, I'd like to introduce you to one of the most disappointing sites on the internet. Right up there with penisland. It's Dirty Girl Ministries, and its slogan is "Dirty girls come clean."

 And it's a Christian anti-pornography site.

 That's possibly a little harsh. They're really only trying to help women (and only women) who suffer from porn addiction. Some of these women are watching pornography, or reading romance novels, as many as two whole times a week. And masturbating while they do it, which is adultery.

 They're just trying to help women who are really struggling with their sexual feelings. An attraction to pornography, unclean thoughts while masturbating, same-sex attraction, that kind of thing. They can sell you a web filter. They can sell you a on-line course to help you break your addiction, for just US$99. And right now, you can join in the book tour for Dirty Girls Come Clean.

 I first heard about DGM last year through the Ms Naughty website, in a post which contains some related crazy that pretty much wiped it from my brain. But for some reason, the interview the founder, Crystal Renaud, gave last year has been bouncing around the blogs again. Right now, it's sitting in the corner crying while all the big mean Feminists point at it and laugh. You can always rely on Jill from Feministe, for instance:

 “She was masturbating almost daily, sometimes twice a day.” If that’s horrific and debilitating masturbation addiction — ALMOST DAILY! — I’ve got some Charlie Sheen Tiger Clit going.

 Crystal Renaud is pretty upset about it.

 Instead of writing an article about the issue of female porn addiction, the reporter’s agenda was to write a piece that pegged me as a woman on a crusade against masturbation—who was only parading around as a ministry about porn...

 Our fight is against the powers of this dark world.

 Reading the comments on that blog post, I can't help but feel a deep need for some proof this woman isn't my ex-boss, because she sounds just like her. Note the performative love-in. Still, maybe she has a point about being misrepresented.

 DGM is part of the same organisation as XXXChurch, whose leader has said, "Our view of sex is that God designed sex for a man and a woman, not a man and himself." To which I can only say, who do you think made your arms that length? So, these people are opposed to masturbation, not just "out of control sexual behaviour".

 Renaud herself is quoted as saying, "“It’s a very dangerous society that we live in,” she says, “when we’re telling women that it’s OK to look at porn.” Not "too much", or "in an out of control fashion", but at all.

 Still, to be fair, I went through the blog on the site and read the case studies there. This one is typical. (Though I should note that Laurie thinks using porn is like "using lighter fluid on your intimacy" which, even to me, sounds insanely painful.) And I don't want for a moment to suggest that the pain these women express is false, or that their problems are trivial. My issue is that, at base, the problem is that they've been taught to feel guilty about their natural sexual feelings, which Renaud frequently describes as "perverse".

 A while back, I was reading a study on adapting the Sexual Addiction Screening Test to better accommodate differences of gender and sexual orientation (Carnes Green and Carnes, 2010). This test uses four criteria – preoccupation, loss of control, relationship disturbance and affect disturbance – to diagnose sexual addiction. "Affect disturbance" is how you feel about your behaviour, whether you feel guilt or depression or anxiety about it. Apart from a couple of minor niggles – the presence of a question about childhood sexual abuse, the repeated use of the phrase "men, women, and homosexual men" – one thing really stood out, something the study regarded as an anomaly. In the test groups, Clergy Women scored significantly higher for sexual addiction than College Women.

 An unexpected finding was that the sample of clergy women produced higher mean scores than women being treated for sex addiction as outpatients... In fact, clergy women produced mean scores that exceeded those of outpatient men on several scales. In contrast, student women produced very low scores on all scales...

 The explanation for this seems awfully obvious, and possibly undermines the entire idea of sex addiction. It's not what you do, it's how you feel about it. Therapy will consist of changing what you do.

 Still, Dirty Girl Ministries are well-intentioned, right, and just trying to help, so I've really just got one thing to say to Crystal Renaud. Stop cynically using sex as a marketing tool. Given your attitude to sex, it's kind of gross. It's like a homophobic youth group reaching out to the kids by using the Music of the Gays. I guess it could all be accidental, in which case you might want to look at your "therapy" of getting a bunch of women to describe their sexual experiences to you using web-cams, and wonder if you're quite as over your porn addiction as you think.

     Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'.
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