Perhaps we think of porn users as always being male. Here is Stephanie’s story to begin to redress the imbalance in users’ stories.

I started getting into porn at the oddest time in my life. My partner and I had been trying for a baby for a very long time. (Having a child seemed almost more of a deal breaker for him than me.) My own mother had found it very difficult to conceive, and I guess that I’d been resigned at some level to not being able to have children for as long as I can remember.

Josh and I went through a particularly long period of time where we were bored with having sex – all that mechanical humping, trying to conceive … I remember my first use of porn very clearly. We decided that I’d take a week’s break from my pretty demanding work life around the time I was due to ovulate. The idea was I’d go to the spa … take it really easy … be relaxed and see if that could make a difference to our chances of conceiving. It was a ‘good idea’, but the reality was that I spent my time at home on websites and social networking. On one particular forum I use a lot, I got chatting to a man – James. He was really nice; he seemed totally interested in me. It felt so different to the attention I was getting from my husband. I know it sounds horrible to say it, but in our ‘intimate’ time, Josh was starting to make me feel like his prize heifer!

During the online chat with James I was aware that I was getting aroused sexually and it was a confusing feeling – it certainly wasn’t something that had happened to me before. I decided to end the chat session. After I shut down the website I realised I’d already imagined a lot about James. You know, tall, dark, handsome – LOL. I felt frustrated. Having talked about it now a lot with my therapist I realise I was also feeling quite angry at James’s flirting, my reaction, and Josh’s behaviours. After about 15 minutes I went back to the Internet. For a moment I was going to log in to the forum and see if I could find James again for another private chat. But I was uncomfortable; it would have felt like cheating on Josh if I’d talked to this ‘real’ man when I was feeling so aroused. I typed, ‘What is the best porn site for women?’ into my browser. I got a super-strong feeling; ‘I really shouldn’t be doing this’ I thought … it felt very taboo.

I was quite lucky (perhaps I should say unlucky knowing what happened from that point onwards), but I came across some ‘nice sites’, mainly videos of people masturbating and enjoying their orgasms. I went on to find myself in much, much darker places as my porn habit increased. There were a lot of things I didn’t like seeing during my time of using Internet porn – but I put up with it as I got used to how to search for what I wanted. I was quite shocked and surprised at myself, at how quickly I became a regular user and also that I found the oddest things suddenly erotic. I’d never fantasised about women before I looked at the Internet but I did find it very erotic to watch women masturbating. I’ve always thought of myself as totally hetero – although I did mess about with a girlfriend a few times in my teens. But as my use became regular, I also found that things that had shocked me at first would filter down in my mind and then draw me back at a later session to have a look at some more of what had previously been quite disturbing to me.

It wasn’t long before I realized I had quite a negative habit. It quickly seemed that I was getting my intimacy with myself and the Internet, and I was managing my sexual drive through my use of websites. I even got into writing and posting a couple of pornographic stories on a porn forum!

By this time, I was aware of how my marriage was unhappy; we weren’t ever going to have a child together – although the test suggested that it had more to do with Josh than me. He became more depressed – I cut off from him totally. My porn habit supported me (I thought). We went for some couples’ therapy sessions and it wasn’t long before we could both see that separation was on the cards. I didn’t say anything about my use of porn during the sessions. It wouldn’t have felt safe and I didn’t want to blame Josh for my use. I looked for help on the Net but there was very little useful information out there for women. Sites seemed to suggest I should either be looking to find support from God to fight this evil or enjoy taking my sexuality in my hands and …

Nowhere did it seem that I could find anything about the alarm I was feeling as my use of porn and then cybersex grew. And feeling so lonely made me use it more. Porn wasn’t a way out of anything … I started using dating sites and as our relationship began to break down completely I started to take more and more sexual risks. We had a trial separation and during that time I slept with guys at my office – they were junior to me and I think it was dangerous for my career as well as my personal life. Thankfully, at this point, I started working with a male therapist. I chose a male therapist because I thought he would understand more about the world of pornography, but I was worried that I might try and make something sexual out of the intimate attention … Thankfully, he was able to interpret my erotic transferences and my whole story began to unfold.

It’s now been six month since I used the Internet for sexual gratification. I have been able to use it for dating though, and I now have a new relationship from using a site! I can see how the pressures of my relationship with Josh led me to using the Internet for porn and sex. I just hope my story can help other women understand something about what they might be going through.