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.
Masturbating twice a week or less? That is a problem. Lots of women clearly need more free time to spend alone with themselves.
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.”
Sure, if you’re the masturbating equivalent to an alcoholic, maybe you have a problem? Like, if your masturbation schedule is getting in the way of work and socializing? Or you become a physical danger to yourself and others because of overgrown forearms, or rage at anyone who gets between you and your Hitachi? Or if you masturbate so much that you can’t walk? Or you find yourself masturbating while driving, to potentially disastrous and deadly consequences? If that is the case, definitely get help, no joke. But I suspect that for most people, masturbation is like moderate alcohol consumption, or perhaps eating a nice cheese: Feels good, can actually be good for you, is healthy in moderation, relieves stress, can be immensely pleasurable, and generally makes you a happier and more pleasant person. And masturbation is not like alcohol or cheese insofar as even doing it a whole lot probably won’t hurt anyone or clog your arteries or damage your liver. It’ll just be fun and pleasurable, and you’ll sleep better too.
But wait, I used the word “pleasure,” and that’s the problem:
Renaud’s advocacy is labeled antipornography, but it aims to treat all masturbation, whether it involves porn or not. When you peel back the layers, the core of her crusade is against sexual thought—even within marriage—unless those thoughts are about your husband while you are engaging in intercourse with him.
Sounds like a quick route to never having an orgasm. And I wonder what she would do with David Jay, an asexual man who doesn’t experience sexual attraction and doesn’t feel drawn to have sex, but still masturbates because touching himself feels good. Is he allowed to masturbate, assuming he isn’t having sexual thoughts?
Dirty Girls member Amy Christine Proctor, a self-described addict and a flight attendant from Colorado, started masturbating while she was visiting chat rooms on AOL. Unmarried and a virgin at 30, Proctor has struggled with her sexual identity since puberty, believing her same-sex thoughts are a sin. Last year, she says, she was masturbating almost daily, sometimes twice a day. To rehabilitate herself, she became an active member of Dirty Girls Ministries and started driving two hours to attend a 12-step program for sex addicts called Heart to Heart.
1. AOL chatrooms.
2. “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.
Although Proctor still struggles with relapses, she praises Renaud’s ministry. Women and girls who have gone through the rehabilitation process and have become “clean” report feeling free and blissful in their new masturbation- and porn-free lives. Many have viewed their masturbation habits as products of emotional burdens or past traumas, and they describe the rehab process as therapeutic. They say they have found support, community, and friendship in Renaud’s group and feel relieved to finally discuss the taboo subject freely.
So I know the “clean” language is part of recovery-speak — getting “clean” after addiction to drugs or alcohol. But in the context of discussing sexuality it seems… more problematic (and from the Christian perspective, intentionally loaded).
The narrative about “masturbation addiction” being about past traumas is also (obviously) factually incorrect. Most women masturbate. Tons of women who have never survived experienced trauma masturbate. Tons of women who have survived trauma, sexual or otherwise, masturbate — not because they’re broken, but because they’re human beings who feel sexual urges despite having gone through some bad shit. And because masturbation feels good. And because people like to feel good, even when someone else has made them feel really bad. Capitalizing on trauma — shaming women for natural urges and for enjoying what’s between their legs even after someone did harm to their body and their spirit — is cruel and sick and evil.
Renaud didn’t date in high school, and she has never had a boyfriend. “I would love to find ‘the one’ and get married and start a family,” she says. “When the time comes, God will bring him about, and it will happen.” But in the meantime, she hopes more women will break free from their addiction to sexual stimulation and embark, with her, on a 12-step path to salvation.