Blaire Briody, from Bust, reports on this fight against evil for Utne Reader:
In a small, plainly decorated room in Lenexa, Kansas, 26-year-old Crystal Renaud logs on to a free video-chat site. She sits at her desk and peers over her black-rimmed glasses, which reflect the dull blue glare of the computer monitor. Meanwhile, in homes scattered around the United States, five other women are staring into their webcams as well. As their faces pop up around Renaud on all their screens, they begin the 6th week of a 12-week pornography addiction recovery group for women called No Stones.
“Does anyone want to share a story where they felt they had some sort of personality disorder? Or something related?” Renaud asks, before her voice temporarily cuts out and the screen freezes. The group is having technical issues tonight. “For me, I found myself really clinging to certain personality types, those opposite of my dad,” she says when she’s back on. The assignment for this week, she tells the women, is to write down their sexual histories. “I know it’s overwhelming, but don’t be defeated by this,” she says. “There’s hope. This is truth. Even though it’s hard and painful, the truth is what sets you free.”
The No Stones recovery group is part of an organization called Dirty Girls Ministries that Renaud launched in 2009 after suffering from her own self-described pornography addiction. She says she wanted to help other women recover from their X-rated fixations by connecting with them online and holding meetings at her local church. But her use of the terms porn and addiction may be misleading. The growing group of 100-plus members who participate in the forums say that they masturbate or view porn—which they define as including erotica and romance novels—twice a week or less. For most of us, that would hardly be considered excessive. But to Renaud, it indicates an epidemic of addiction, one that can be treated by helping women stay “clean” of masturbation.
In addition to the online ministry, she speaks regularly at various evangelical churches in Kansas and has written a book called Dirty Girls Come Clean. “Whether you believe it or not, women are addicted to porn,” Renaud preached in a recent sermon. “You’d be surprised at how many women—women in your own lives—are hiding this deep, dark, and dirty secret.”
While many of the women she counsels report turning to pornography as a form of escape—from traumas like sexual abuse, infidelity, and even prostitution—Renaud compares their masturbation to alcoholism, saying that “like drugs and alcohol, so many things that feel good in a short amount of time can end up hurting you.”
Renaud’s advocacy is labeled antipornography, but it aims to treat all masturbation, whether it involves porn or not…
[continues at Utne Reader]