by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac
Sexual addiction is rapidly becoming recognized as a major social problem with similarities more well-known to alcohol and drug addiction or compulsive gambling. We are becoming accustomed to hearing about sexual scandals in our communities, in the workplace, in churches and schools, even in the White House, involving those in which we place our trust. And sometimes we experience shocking sexual discoveries in our own families, involving people we know personally. Many of these situations are better understood if we have some knowledge about sexual addiction.
Based on a 10-year research study of 1500 sexual addicts, Carnes has estimated that about 8% of the total population of men in the US are sexually addicted, and about 3% of women. That translates into over 15 million women and men who suffer from this problem.
Some Characteristics of Sex Addiction
The sex is shameful. The addict feels shame about what he or she is doing, or more accurately, about what he or she has done, usually immediately after engaging in sex acts that violate some of the person’s standards. Or the shame may be denied by calling it normal for “a real man,” or by focusing on others: “She wanted it,” or by engaging in it again right away so the shame is exchanged for pleasure. Thus a married man may feel remorse after having sex with his best friend’s wife, rationalize that his friend wasn’t sexually satisfying her, and avoid going to bed with his own wife afterward by staying up and masturbating while watching a movie on the sex channel.
The sex is secret. The sex addict more and more comes to live a double life–perhaps well-known, respected and admired in his visible life but secretly engaging regularly in sexual acts that would be shocking to those who know and love him. So a sexually addicted minister could be revered on Sunday morning for preaching on the sinfulness of adultery and fornication and then engage in those behaviors himself at a modeling studio or adult bookstore on Monday afternoon, having told the church staff or his family a lie about his whereabouts. Or a gay man might tell his relationship partner that he is going to visit a friend but goes to a park to cruise for anonymous sex instead.
The sexual behavior is abusive. It violates someone else’s choice or exceeds their understanding. There is the man who manipulates or coerces his date into being sexual with him; the woman in a partially unbuttoned blouse who bends down toward an unsuspecting male coworker and “accidentally” exposes her whole breast; or the man who seeks out crowded shopping malls so he can meander among the throng to “cop a feel.” Or adult men and women who manipulate the trust of children and abuse their power over them by tricking them into performing sexual acts with them. This is exemplified by the teacher who becomes sexual with a student, a scandal we’ve seen recently in the news, or the neighbor who hires a boy to mow the lawn and then invites the child inside and lures him into sex. The sex may also be abusive to the sex addict him or herself, such as masturbating to the point of physical injury or cutting or pinching oneself for sexual arousal.
“Sexuality needs to be a balanced desire with someone we admire.”