updated 30 Apr 2012, 15:45
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The New Paper
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Ignored by hubby, she escapes online
by Chai Hung Yin

FOR hours daily, she was transfixed by the computer screen, watching steamy love scenes play out in front of her.

The 32-year-old Singaporean engineer was aware that she was hooked on pornography and tried to stop.

But she was unsuccessful and became compulsive towards porn when her marriage hit the rocks.

She is one of a handful of women suffering from porn addiction, whom senior consultant psychiatrist Associate Professor Munidasa Winslow has seen in the last three years. (See report below.)

On why women turn to porn, Prof Winslow said: "Porn is easier - you don't need to pay attention to being nice to each other. And you can do it anytime, anywhere.

"Also, it gives them a thrill and acts as a stress reliever."

Prof Winslow, who is now in private practice, previously headed the Addiction Medicine Department at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

He was also director of the Community Addictions Management Programme at IMH, providing professional case management in the treatment of addictions.


While not many women here are coming clean about their porn addiction, it is a different story elsewhere. (See report below.)

Last week, The Guardian newspaper reported that more women in the UK are admitting that they are hooked on Internet pornography.

The report quoted Mr Jason Dean, the founder of the main porn counselling service in the UK, Quit Porn Addiction, as saying that about one in three clients are women struggling with watching porn. In the case of the Singaporean woman, her interest in porn "started even before the Internet", she told The New Paper in an e-mail interview.

Her friend in Australia had sent her a porn magazine seven or eight years ago.

By the time she was done flipping through it, her interest was piqued.

Soon, she began desiring more porn and went onto the Internet for more of such fixes. And as Internet usage became more prevalent, it became much easier and faster for her to get porn online, she added.

When she later went through a rough patch in her relationship with her husband, porn became an easy escape.

She felt that her husband was not paying enough attention to her, and she was angry.

The more her husband ignored her, the more she wanted to watch porn.

She soon got hooked.

For the next two to three years, she spent hours daily watching porn.

She kept going back for more porn "because it's fun, and I see it as harmless".

"Also, in porn, there are things you don't do in real life, so it's useful for fantasy," she added. She admitted that for a few years, she needed porn daily, and she was spending more and more time on it.

Ironically, after viewing porn, she said it enhanced her marriage and her relationship with her husband as "it gave me ideas".

She said she gained tips, ideas and inspiration for a better sexual relationship with her husband. When her relationship improved with the help of marital counselling, the hours she spent on porn have also reduced.

Now she is still not totally off porn, but she uses it less often and is no longer compulsive towards it, she said.


Prof Winslow said a person is considered addicted to porn when he or she becomes compulsive; the person tries to stop but is unsuccessful and suffers from withdrawal symptoms such as not being able to think properly.

The person also spends more and more time looking for sources of porn and ways to avoid being detected, he added.

He said: "They don't go dating. Their only sexual context is online... They tend to hide away and are afraid of real relationships - they are afraid of getting hurt.

Furthermore, there are many ways how addiction to porn could manifest itself. Some could turn to acting out the porn in other types of sex such as phone sex and cybersex, Prof Winslow added.

Those who need help with porn addiction could call the helpline at 6-RECOVER (6732 6837) for all addictions.

The helpline is administered by the National Addictions Management Service located at IMH.

Alternatively, you could call Prof Winslow's clinic, Promises, at 6397 7309 during working hours.

UK woman turns to porn when feeling anxious

IT WAS an ordinary weekday morning when Caroline first noticed how much pornography was taking over her life.

With 15 minutes to go before she was due to leave for a job interview, she opened up her laptop to print an extra copy of her CV and there, on screen, was a grab she'd saved from a pornographic website.

"I remember the feeling of being sucked in, really wanting that two-minute fix, that numbness I got when I used porn," Caroline was quoted as saying by The Guardian, a UK newspaper.

The paper reported on how more women there admit to being addicted to Internet porn.

Said Caroline: "I was stressed out and I risked being late for my interview, but I pressed play anyway and fast-forwarded it to the bit I wanted. It took two minutes."


But the relief was to be short-lived.

She said: "Afterwards, I just hated myself for giving in and getting off on images that treated women like pieces of meat. But I kept going back."

Caroline, a 21-year-old English graduate, has just finished seeing a sex addiction therapist to help get her porn habit under control.

She started watching porn out of curiosity in her mid-teens, when it became available over the Internet, then she and her mates used it as a graphic form of sexeducation.

She saw nothing wrong with it, particularly as she was raised in a generation of girls for whom it was seen as hip and liberated to enjoy watching sex.

Then, as she entered a depressed job market after university, it became a form of escape, a default she turned to whenever she felt anxious or bored.

She said: "I'd be stuck at home in front of my laptop on my own all day. I'd wake up with all these ideas for the day - and end up surfing for porn, trying to distract myself, eating and then going back for more porn.

"No one would ever have known. But I didn't get much done. It was like a constant battle between my sexual urges and my self-control.

"I'd think to myself, 'It's not doing any harm.' But then I started to loathe myself for giving in and wasting so much time on it."

Caroline is not alone.

A 19-year-old college student reportedly wrote: "It started seriously when I was about 14. I stumbled across some pictures while doing homework.

"I learnt all the ways round the parental controls, meticulously deleted my activities on the history and deleted the search engine entries every time."

'Women tend to feel more guilty'

CASES of women here being addicted to porn are rare.

The New Paper contacted 12 psychiatrists and counsellors, and only Associate Professor Munidasa Winslow has come across such cases.

But these women are not just addicted to porn.

Some have underlying issues with alcohol or their love life, such as the Singaporean engineer. Prof Winslow said she had gone for marital counselling, during which her porn addiction came out.

Mr John Tan, 50, the executive director of Children-At-Risk Empowerment Association (CARE Singapore), said porn addiction tends to be more common among men because they are more visually stimulated.

Dr Simon Siew, a psychiatrist, said he has seen about 10 to 20 male porn addicts in the last two years.

For women, it's the fantasy that fascinates, like how "women love to read romance novels like Mills and Boon", said Mr Tan.

Prof Winslow said: "Women porn addicts tend to feel a lot more guilty than men, but they do better as women tend to open up more to psychotherapy than men.

"And they do realise that they are acting out because of other factors and not purely because of sex."

Psychotherapist Phillip Hodson of TheBritish Association for Counselling &Psychotherapy was reported in TheGuardian newspaper as saying that women who become regular users can suffer depression and low self-esteem.

Conflicting emotions

It is because it can be hard to reconcile their enjoyment of porn with their intellectual dislike of seeing women used as sex objects, said Mr Hodson.

"Porn has an instant effect on the human body and mind and the psyche, even if you disapprove of what you are seeing...

"So women may find their body is saying yes, even though their mind may be saying no - and that can be upsetting."

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This article was first published in The New Paper.

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