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The Emergence Of Female Sex Addiction: Understanding Gender Differences
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The Emergence of Female Sex Addiction: Understanding Gender Differences
Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC
Clinical Care Consultants
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Unlike alcohol or drug addiction, there is still zero formal diagnosis for sex addiction. To make matters worse, feminine sex and like addiction is likewise not recognized as a real addiction disorder. Nevertheless, most addiction specialists agree that it has increased to “epidemic” proportions (R. Weiss, 2011).The word “sex addiction” was coined by Patrick Carnes. Carnes first used the word in his 1983 seminal book on the topic: “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction.” Carnes is basically accountable for popularizing the analysis and treatment of sex addiction, along with establishing a valid and frequently used diagnosis.
Because most statistics are based on sex addicts who seek treatment, statistical representation of the disorder is known as to be low. Females are less likely than a guy to seek help on her behalf problem sexual behavior for a variety of reasons – mostly related to shame. (Weiss 2011). Research and treatment areas have directed little attention to women’s struggle with this addiction. Other than an early on treatment by Charlotte Kasl (author of Ladies, Sex, and Addiction: A Seek out Love and Power) and some writings by Carol Ross and Jennifer Schneider, sex addiction in women has been generally ignored (Feree, 2001). Regarding to Carnes, 3% of the full total U.S. populace is feminine sex addicts. Basically, of all American sex addicts, 37.5% are female. Carnes’ study also indicates that approximately 20% of those seeking help are feminine. This statistic is in keeping with similar figures regarding females seeking alcohol treatment (Carnes, 1983). Regarding to Robert Weiss (2011), an international sexual addiction expert, writer, educator and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, 8 to 12% of these seeking sexual addiction treatment are ladies.
Statistical support for the prevalence of sex addiction is certainly starting to build. Regarding to Dr. Patrick Carnes, a nationally known speaker and professional on sex addiction issues and recovery, estimates that 5-8% of Us citizens are sex addicts. The National Council on Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity estimates that between 6-8% of Americans are dependent on sex. Mary Ann Miller, a psychologist who founded the Chicago chapter of Sexual Addicts Anonymous (SAA), estimates that up to 6% of Us citizens are (sex) addicts. Robert Weiss, another well-known expert and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute, guesses that 3-5% of the U.S. human population suffers from sexual addiction. The Mayo Clinic estimates that 3-6% of adults in the United States are sex addicts.
“Numerous others (Coleman, 1995; Goodman, 1993, 1998; Irons & Schneider, 1999; Kafka & Hennon, 1999; Money, 1986; Orford, 1978; Schneider, 1991; Schneider & Irons, 1996) have defined problematic hypersexuality and, as Goodman (1992) observed, there is general agreement that the design of behavior exists…” (Finlayson,Seal & Martin 2001). As a result, the estimated number of sex addicts in the U.S. is definitely between 9,200,000 (3%) and 24,500,000 (8%) individuals.
Sex addiction is not just a modern issue. “It has existed all the time in history. Sexual unwanted and debauchery have already been referred to and catalogued from antiquity. Nymphomania, a term produced from the Greek, offers been used in the past to spell it out female sexual excess. Don Juanism, after Don Juan…offers denoted male hypersexuality.” (Finlayson, Seal, & Martin 2001).
“(in 1886) Krafft-Ebbing…referred to a case of abnormally improved sexual appetite, “to this level that permeates all his thoughts and emotions, allowing no other aims in existence, tumultuously, and in a rut-like fashion demanding gratification and resolving itself into an impulsive, insatiable succession of sexual enjoyments. This pathological sexuality can be a dreadful scourge for its victim, for he`s in constant threat of violating the laws and regulations of the condition and of morality, of losing his honor, his freedom, and even his life.” (Finlayson, Seal, & Martin 2001).
Our societal gender bias significantly impacts the accurate statistical representation of woman sex addiction. A society that regards male hyper-sexuality in positive conditions has generated a shameful backdrop and societal prejudice for women. Hypersexual men are generally considered “virile” or “studs,” whereas hypersexual females are believed “sluts,” “whores” or “nymphomaniacs.” These unfair and egregiously incorrect conceptions of sex hyper-sexuality and addiction have marginalized and minimized the seriousness of female sex addiction. Gender bias can be found in addiction-related research. Generally in most addiction studies, females are underreported; underdiagnosed and overlooked (S. O’Hara). For example, the American Medical Association acknowledged male alcoholism as a disease in 1956; nonetheless it was not until the past due 1980s that significant results regarding female alcoholism was represented in clinical tests.
Sexual addiction in women rarely receives the same research and popular media attention received by men, so that it is still underreported and minimized. Moreover, media and news coverage seems to cover feminine and male sex addiction differently. Feminine sex addicts are often portrayed as manipulative, power hungry, sex crazed and shameless individuals. On the favorite VH1 truth series, “Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew (Pinsky),” woman sex addicts are mostly porn stars. However, media reports on male sex addicts include powerful celebrities whose libido provides led them astray (Tiger Woods, Michael Douglas and David Duchovny). At the end of the day, men appear to remain famous, while the “famous” woman sex addicts’ professions crumble and result in shame and disrespect.
There seems to be a mistaken assumption that sexual addiction is a “one size matches all” disorder. This may not be additional from the reality. Female addiction is often misunderstood, incorrectly diagnosed and inappropriately and ineffectively treated. Although feminine and male addiction share many similarities, feminine addiction is distinctly different.
In most cases, sex addiction tends to parallel our society’s gender stereotypes. For instance, men tend to prefer face-to-encounter anonymous contact and so are more aggressive and dominant. They typically favor sexually explicit chat, cyber-porn and interactive sexual enjoy – virtual and personally. They gravitate toward the voyeuristic forms of sexual behavior, i.electronic., chronic masturbation, Internet pornography, strip clubs and the usage of real-time videos (webcams). The goal for some male sex addicts is definitely to seek sexual stimulation – not really the sexually stimulating romantic relationship. To the male addict, the euphoric “repair” is certainly in the action, not the relationship.
Another gender difference in sex addiction is situated in the relational boundaries of the acting out behavior. Men have a tendency to maintain distinctive and clear psychological boundaries with the “object” of their compulsive and lustful desires – not as often seeking an enchanting or personal knowledge. They seek sexual opportunities which come from discreet, anonymous and disconnected “hookups.” To the typical male sex addict, the partnership is the vehicle by which his lustful obsessions and compulsions are satiated. If there is a “relationship,” it is often fantasy based – enduring just long more than enough to satisfy his out-of-control quest for sexual contact. For the typical sexually addicted male, at the conclusion of the sexual act – generally at orgasm – he turns into disconnected, disinterested and actually repelled by the thing of his lust.
It is important to notice that females can also look like stereotypical man sex addicts, as males can also look like stereotypical woman sex addicts.
Female Sex Addiction Myths
Female sex addiction has been largely underrepresented because of misunderstandings and the next advancement of myths. Such myths or commonly-kept erroneous beliefs have contributed to the ignorance, fear, shame and consequent silence regarding female sex addiction (Ferree 2011).
Myth One: Females Cannot Be Sex Addicts.
Within the addiction treatment field, it is a well-known fact that women, like men, could be addicted to sex. However, the general public believes that sexual compulsivity is mostly a male phenomenon. The belief that women do not have a problem with sexual compulsivity comes from societal prejudices, double specifications and ignorance rooted deeply in the American culture. A female “sex” addict, like her male counterpart, is addicted to uncontrollable compulsive sexual behavior. Even with the similarities, women have a tendency to use sex for power, control and attention. “They score high on measures of fantasy sex, seductive role sex, trading sex and pain exchange.” (S. O’Hara)
Before the mid 1950’s, females who had sex beyond marriage were subjected to harsh and unfair judgment. Female sexuality beyond marriage, especially masturbation, was considered the closest thing to moral personal bankruptcy. It had been with the 1953 Kinsey study, “Sexual Behavior in the Human Feminine,” that normative data regarding female sexuality was made available to the public most importantly. The Kinsey Reports played a significant role in changing the general public perception of female sexuality. Fifty-eight years later on, women with aberrant sexual behavior, such as sex addiction, are still viewed through the lens of hypocrisy and condemnation. That which was acceptable for men was considered “ugly” and “perverted” for women.
A myopic society that scorns, rejects and unfairly judges female sex addiction (while being more tolerant with guys) locations roadblocks for support, education and counseling/treatment. A fear of becoming disparaged, blamed, shunned and, ultimately, isolated by themselves prevents many women from feeling secure enough to look for help. It is no question that ladies sex addicts keep their silence and secrecy about their addiction.
Myth Two: Feminine Sex Addicts Are Only Dependent on Relationships or Like – Not Sex.
Even though most female sex addicts are “romantic relationship” or “like” addicts, many others are addicted to sex, masturbate compulsively, use pornography, engage in a variety of Internet sexual actions, possess affairs with multiple partners, engage in anonymous sex or phone sex and are exhibitionists. Regarding to Kelly McDaniel, licensed professional counselor and author of “Prepared to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction,” therapists have lately seen more ladies with (sex addiction)…regarding the Internet porn, which has become a “gender-neutral” addiction. “Before, feminine sex addicts generally tended to have affairs or become sex workers.”
Most feminine addicts avoid the term “sex addiction” since it carries unfavorable connotations of sexual perversion, nymphomania and promiscuity. When given a choice, ladies prefer the romantic and nurturing connotations of “love” or “romantic relationship” addiction. The “sex addiction” label is resisted because women tend to be not really motivated by the pursuit of sex only – but rather by a deep and insatiable desire for love, acceptance, affection and affirmation. Naturally, feminine sex addicts prefer a term that represents their femininity.
Myth Three: Women Who have Are Sex Addicts Know About Their Problem.
Seldom do women identify themselves as sex addicts. Similarly, when a sexually addicted feminine seeks mental health solutions, it is likely that the clinician will misdiagnose her. It`s quite common for untrained clinicians to just diagnose a comorbid (co-occurring) mental medical condition, while completely missing the sex addiction diagnosis. Due to a scarcity of study, training and effective screening protocols, the feminine sex addict who`s in denial of her problem is likely to interface with specialists who share her ignorance and denial systems.
If sex may be the core addiction, it could be hidden beneath a more apparent and less shameful concurrent addiction. Having several addiction, women are prone to only seek specialized help for the addiction that is more apparent and socially suitable. Shame, embarrassment and fear of consequences, i.electronic., divorce or cultural alienation, may drive the sex addiction – the principal or core addiction – to the addict’s unconscious. Just, sex addiction is simpler to deny than another addiction such as for example alcohol or drugs.
Myth Four: Consequences Are the Same for Females and Males.
Although female sex addicts experience the same consequences as men, a societal sexual double standard also creates more painful and harsher consequences. Additionally, women are more prone to suffer health issues such as undesired pregnancies or sexually-transmitted illnesses. Because of the energy and strength differential of men and women, women face an increased probability of physical damage such as rape or aggravated electric battery. Women suffer unique and agonizing consequences because they often feel in charge of the shame, embarrassment and punishing sociable judgment that their male partner and children endure.
A Sexual Double Standard
Our culture/media encourages women to be sexually provocative and offered, while keeping them in contempt if they cross the boundary of society-determined rules concerning sexual decency. Male sex addicts are afforded greater tolerance and freedom than females. “The fact that women and men are held to different standards of sexual carry out is pervasive in contemporary American society. According to the sexual double standard, men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual contacts, whereas women are derogated and stigmatized for comparable behaviors.” (Kreager & Personnel, 2009)
Sexual dual standards date back again to earliest documented history. Biblical archeologists and faith historians point to regular sexist and misogynist references in spiritual documents and art. These scholars think that references to sexism in religious texts had been at least partially influenced by patriarchal, tribal, violent and intolerant societies. The sexual dual standard also can be traced back again to the 13th century during the crusades whenever a knight needed his lady to use a chastity belt to ensure her sexual fidelity. As hard as it might be to believe, this punishing and humiliating gadget is still used today; in 2004, the USA Today reported a 40-year aged British woman tripped a security alarm due to her metal chastity belt. This girl said her husband had forced her to wear the device to avoid an extramarital affair while on holiday in Greece.
Just one more historical reference of sexual double standard is illustrated in Nathanial Hawthorne’s common novel, “The Scarlet Letter,” which was written in 1850. The primary character, Hester Prynne, was placed in prison with her infant girl for conceiving a kid via an adulterous affair. Hester struggled to redeem herself in a culture that was harshly judgmental and punishing to females who defied the sexual mores of her period. Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” has become a symbol of modern culture’s harmful, harsh and punishing sexual double standard.
Fifty-eight years after the publishing of the “The Scarlet Letter,” Sigmund Freud further perpetuated the myth of sexual inequality in his 1908 article “On the Sexual Theories of Children,” where he introduced the concept of “male organ envy.” Regarding to Freud, the defining second of gender and sexual identity for a woman occurs when she realizes that she doesn’t have a penis. Freud believed that ladies wished they were born with penises rather than vaginas. Critics of Freud’s function argue that this individual was a patriarch, anti-feminist and misogynistic. You can argue that Freud was only a product of the sexually repressed Victorian society where he lived.
Right now, the double standard is still inexorably entwined in our culture – therefore much so now that females themselves are guilty of discriminating against their very own gender. A significant percentage of ladies judge highly sexually experienced women even more negatively than men (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). It really is still commonplace for ladies’s sexual histories to be used against them in workplace harassment instances or in cases of sexual assault (Valenti, 2009). The double regular creates a harmful backdrop for ladies who are thinking about getting help because of their sexual addiction.
Concurrent Addictions
Specifically with sex addiction, addictive disorders tend to coexist or fit collectively (Carnes, 1983). Concurrent addictions, which are multiple addictions that are simultaneous expressed and/or ritually linked, are very common for feminine addicts. For example smoking marijuana before going online, alcohol consumption before an Internet date to lower inhibitions and taking stimulants in order to browse the net forever. Concurrent addictions, like alcoholism, may have been started to hide or numb the discomfort or shame caused by out-of-control sexual compulsions. Alcoholic beverages, especially, lowers inhibitions and alleviates anxiousness – producing the sexual acting out even more “pleasurable” and “easier.” Hardly ever does a sex addict have just one addiction (Carnes, 1983). Carnes’ study on sexual addictions revealed that 83% of sex addicts reported multiple addictions:
• Chemical dependencies – 42%
• Consuming disorders – 38%
• Compulsive overworking – 28%
• Compulsive spending – 26%
• Compulsive gambling – 5%
Four Categories of Female Sex Addiction (Feree, 2001)
Female sex addicts may be categorized (in order of prevalence) into four groups: Relationship Addict, Pornography or Cybersex Addict, Stereotypical Sex Addict and Sexual Anorexic.
Category One: The Female Love or Relationship Addict
Feminine love addicts compulsively seek total immersion in a relationship – real or imagined. The “lust” for an intoxicating romantic relationship turns into a dramatic obsession which may be stronger and more compelling compared to the overwhelming desire for sex. Like addiction creates an illusion of power, control and actually dominance. Like addicts compulsively seek exciting, exhilarating and mood-altering interactions, which by definition are unstable. They practice serial monogamy: searching for multiple relationships, which begin with intense interest but end fairly quickly. These unhealthy relationships become the organizing basic principle of the like addict’s existence. According to a renowned expert on love addiction, Pia Mellody, it is dependent on, enmeshed with and compulsively centered on taking treatment of another person (1992). Like any addiction, the drug or process, in this instance the relationship, persists despite the addict having no control over it and suffering obvious negative effects.
Female love addicts are habitually preoccupied with romance, intrigue or fantasy. They are driven by an insatiable desire for a romantic “repair,” which requires a steady stream of brand-new and exciting short-term romantic monogamous relationships. They rely on their exhibitionistic and seductive “powers” to “feed” their addiction. They are entranced by the intoxicating “high” initiated at the idea if they meet their like object. You start with hope, enjoyment and a huge desire, these relationships usually devolve into disinterest; disillusionment and conflict. The euphoric “fix” escalates and then maintains until the relationship does not deliver the drug-like euphoria any more. Like with other addicts, female love addicts try, but never succeed in satisfying their insatiable and compulsive need of intimate euphoria – their drug of choice.
Signs of Like or Romance Addiction:
• Considering you are in love despite simply meeting (“love initially sight”)
• Valuing enough time spent with like object over time and attention needed for self
• Relationships create feelings of safety, pleasure and optimism
• Mistaking sexual or romantic intensity for healthful love
• Constantly “on the prowl” for an enchanting partner
• Short, intense and conflict-based relationships
• Design of failed relationships
• Using sex, seduction and intrigue to “hook” or store a partner
• Using romantic intensity to cover up, cover or “medicate” emotional pain, conflict or problems
• Design of “dating” abusers, narcissists and addicts (emotionally unavailable, distant and harmful)
• Flirting and/or having an affair while in a relationship
• Pattern of broken claims to stop the behavior/addiction
• Sacrificing period with friends or family members to act out
• Avoiding relationships to regulate the addiction
Unlike sex addicts, love addicts tend to act away within a relationship. Frequently, they cannot avoid or forget about toxic relationships, actually if they`re unhappy, depressed, lonely, neglected or in danger. Typically, love addicts are disinterested in the sexual aspect of the romance, which includes orgasm. The “draw” and the power of the “love” in like addiction more often than not exceeds the addict’s sexual desires. It isn`t unusual for the feminine addict to statement apathy or even dislike of sexual activity, including orgasm. Like addicts tend to use sex to control their feelings or to control their partner – the co-addict. To the love addict, the sexual experience is a way to the end. Based on the Love Addiction Anonymous (LAA) site, “unlike sex addicts, love addicts crave an psychological connection and can avoid, at any cost, separation, anxiety and loneliness.”
Many feminine love and relationship addicts report that they are addicted to the intoxicating, extreme and all-consuming feelings experienced in the attraction phase of a relationship. This “hurry” is referred to in Dorothy Tennov’s 1979 book, “Like and Limerence: the Experience of Being in Love.” Tennov coined the term “limerence,” which she described as an involuntary state of mind that results from a romantic attraction to another person, coupled with an overwhelming, obsessive have to have one’s emotions reciprocated.
Symptoms of Limerence (Tennov, 1979):
• Intrusive thinking about the limerent object (‘LO’)
• Acute desiring reciprocation
• Mood fluctuations predicated on LO’s actions
• Can only experience it with one person at a time
• All-consuming obsession that the LO will relieve the pain
• Preoccupation (dread) with rejection
• Incapacitating and unpleasant shyness in the beginning
• Intensification through adversity
• An aching `heart’ (in the chest) whenever there are doubts
• Buoyancy (“walking on air flow”) with reciprocation
• Intense obsessions demotivate the individual from other responsibilities (close friends, family, work)
• Emphasis is placed on positive characteristics of the LO, while ignoring the negative
Category Two: The Female Cybersex Addict
Cybersex is virtual sex where sexually explicit materials is viewed or exchanged to evoke a sexual response. The cybersex addicts action out their sexual compulsions by using and involvement with the Internet. Cybersex needs vivid, visceral and sexually evocative sexual stimuli. Feminine cybersex addicts typically do not satisfy in person, but in “virtual” places, i.e., email, chat rooms, with video cams, prolonged email interactions and role-playing activities. While creating a safer encounter, anonymity often enhances the sexual enjoyment for the feminine cybersex addict. Cybersex addicts generally act out together in “virtual” places through masturbatory activities. Feminine cybersex addicts are more prone to have phone contact or seek romantic relationships through their actions (Schneider, 2011).
Cybersex Addiction Activities
• Looking at and masturbating to Internet pornography (photos or videos)
• Live webcam sexual interaction
• Sexual membership sites (Swingers, BDSM, etc.)
• Membership in cyber affair sites (AshleyMadison.com)
• Looking for sex through personal sex advertisements (Craigslist or Backpages)
• Participating on sex-related chat sites
• Adult dating sites (Adult Friend Finder)
• Cell phone hook-up applications
• GPS hook-up applications (Grindr)
Category Three: The Female Sex Addict
Female sex addicts can fit in the stereotypical “male” design of sexual addiction. That is an addiction driven by a lustful and compulsive preoccupation with a sex. Sex addicts typically take part in chronic masturbation, with or without pornography, and have anonymous sex with people who they either met on the web or “picked up” in a bar or various other open public place. To the female sex addict, the relationship is less important than the excitement of the sexual encounter. While feminine sex addicts are less voyeuristic, they are more exhibitionistic. Typically, they are exotic dancers or strippers, prostitutes or ladies who sell sex or trade it for something preferred.
Feminine sex addiction occurs with the same 11 behavioral types of sexual addiction that Patrick Carnes outlined in his breakthrough book in sex addiction, “Out from the Shadows.” It should be noted that regardless of the commonalities, there are clear gender differences and gender behavior preferences.
1. Fantasy Sex – Sexually charged fantasies, associations and situations
2. Seductive Part Sex- Seduction of partners
3. Anonymous Sex — High-risk sex with unidentified persons
4. Paying for Sex – Purchasing of sexual services
5. Trading for Sex – Offering or bartering sex for power
6. Voyeuristic Sex – Visual arousal
7. Exhibitionistic Sex – Attracting attention to the body or sexual parts of the body
8. Intrusive Sex – Boundary violations without discovery
9. Pain Exchange – Getting humiliated or harm as a part of the sexual arousal
10. Object Sex – Masturbating with objects
11. Exploitive Sex — Exploitation of the vulnerable
Category Four: Sexual Anorexia
The term “sexual anorexia” has been utilized to describe sexual aversion disorder (DSM code 302.79), a state in which the patient has a profound disgust and horror at anything sexual in themselves and others (P. Carnes, 1998). The title of Carnes’ 1997 book, “Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred,” describes the sex or like addict’s psychological inspiration because of this disorder – contempt and self-hatred – frequently because of their sex or like addiction.
Sexual anorexia is the inverse of sexual addiction. Sexually anorexic females are as compulsive with their aversion to sex as sex addicts want to have sexual experiences. Sexual anorexics suppress or repress their sexually addictive compulsions by denying their very own sexuality, avoiding all sexual encounters, rebuking others for any and all sexual interest and/or vehemently condemning others for their sexual proclivities or desires. Sexual anorexia includes a binge/purge cycle, where a female may uncontrollably sexually take action out for a protracted period of time, and which may be followed by a sexual shutdown – avoiding all types of sexual expression and activity.
Symptoms of Sexual Anorexia (Carnes, 1993):
Persistent fear of intimacy, sexual contact, sexual joy, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
Preoccupation, to the point of obsession, with sexual matters, including the sexuality, sexual intentions and
sexual behaviors of others, and their own sexual inadequacy.
Unfavorable, rigid or judgmental attitudes about sex, body appearance and sexual activity.
Shame and self-loathing over sexual encounters.
Self-destructive behavior to avoid, limit or prevent sex.
The treating sex addiction as a gender neutral problem has created unnecessary roadblocks to females seeking services for sex and love addiction. Although there are distinct gender variations with sex and like addiction, the problem is clearly universal. Before popular media represents woman sexual addiction in a more socially acceptable and less derogatory manner, ladies will be “shamed” away of seeking the essential help, support and providers. The mental health and addiction fields also need to overcome its own restrictions concerning unsubstantiated and unsupported beliefs regarding females and sex and love addiction. Until our society’s gender blindness, sexist beliefs and double criteria are corrected, scores of feminine sex and love addicts will be deprived of timely, effective and compassionate addiction solutions. It is time that all mental health insurance and addiction practitioners open up their hearts, minds and offices to female sex and like addicts.
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