Women and Sex Addiction

I remember watching a TV movie with my husband called, Love Sick:  Secrets of a Sex Addict.  It was the first time I was aware of sex addiction among women.  Most people assume that sex addicts are usually male.

Some women are not comfortable with their sexuality–they prefer the men to be the initiators.  Some of them grow up with the mentality that they should be “good” girls.  I was reading an article which gives background information of what might be the contributing factor to sex addiction among women.

Most sexually addicted women have not had parental role modeling for how to have emotional intimacy in nonsexual ways. Research has shown that there often is a combination of rigidity and lack of emotional support in the sex addict’s family of origin. The majority of women sex addicts were sexually abused in childhood — 78% in one study.  It turned out that the woman in the movie Love Sick:  Secrets of a Sex Addict was sexually abused by her father.

Some time ago, one of the study lessons in my Sabbath School Quarterly dealt with the subject of sex addiction.  It made the following points:

Sex is one of the many enjoyable gifts that God has granted to men and women. God designed it not only for procreation but also to be a source of joy, closeness, and unity—but only in the context of marriage between one man and one woman (Gen. 1:27, 28; 1 Cor. 7:2). When taken away from this God-ordained framework and purpose, the gift becomes sin—sin often with devastating consequences (see 1 Cor. 6:18, 19). God alone knows the extent of havoc that sexual immorality has brought to the human family.

Sex is a very strong drive and thus readily open to abuse. It easily can become an absorbing obsession, one that’s very difficult to control. Worse, the more one indulges in it, the more and more sex one needs in order to reach the level of satisfaction attained earlier.

What are the signs of sex addiction?

  1. The inability to control a sexual behavior (such as an inability to stop in spite of promises to self or others to do so, in spite of periods of being able to stop).
  2. Continued behavior in spite of negative consequences (such as terror or shame, decreased work productivity, financial strain, loss of relationship, depression, substance or food abuse).
  3. Obsessive thoughts in planning or obtaining sex (neglecting family, relationship, or career because of time spent preoccupied with sex or sexual partners).

The signs of sexual addiction for women are usually cumulative. The woman may at first think that she’s enjoying a varied sex life with a range of men, or that it’s positively feeding her self esteem; the behavior may start as a teen. Over time it becomes extremely difficult to stop the patterns of sexual behaviors that get established. All addictions tend to be repetitive, worsen over the course of years, make the person feel out of control, and are used as a cover for something else the person is not dealing with in their life … and eventually threaten to destroy what the person cares about. Sex addiction is no exception to this.

Sometimes women can have affairs with strangers and this can be dangerous and lead to violence.  Women can also contract sexually transmitted diseases or worse.  It can lead to the end of their marriages or relationships.  These women can be exploited.  I remember a scene in the movie where one of the staff members at the clinic where the sex addict went to get help tried to tempt her into having sex with him.  She managed to resist because she was serious about getting help.

Sexual immorality is easy to start, and those who have not fallen into its trap will do well in keeping far from it. How crucial that when confronted with sexual temptations outside the sacred bonds of marriage, each person should act as Joseph did (see Gen. 39:7–12).

God is willing to grant full pardon and freedom to anyone trapped in sex addictions. Submission to Him is crucial (James 4:7). But the addiction mechanism is so intricate that professional help may be needed. Support groups that incorporate God as the ultimate source of help and include specialized skills to treat the problem can be of great benefit, if available.

There is hope for recovery.  Here are some ways:

Fellowship.Fellowship is the antidote to trauma and the key to long-term recovery. We cannot recover in isolation. God made us for fellowship. We were wounded in relationships, and we have to heal in relationships. Fellowship is also the antidote to lust. Healthy fellowship is what will help us become free from lust.

Accountability. It’s not enough to just have fellowship. We can have fellowship that does not involve accountability, and that’s not going to solve the problem. We need people who know our story and who will hold us accountable for the rituals as well as for the acting out. In my opinion, Twelve Step programs are the best place to find the right mix of fellowship and accountability. When I walk into a Twelve Step group and say, “Hi, my name is Marnie, and I’m a grateful, recovering sexaholic,” I am home. I know these people understand. They have been there themselves. And I know that we can provide for each other the fellowship and accountability we need. I won’t preach the whole sermon, but I believe that Christ intended churches to operate a whole lot more like Twelve Step groups. They need to be places where it’s okay to be real, okay to have problems. Places where you don’t have to have all your problems fixed before you feel at home.

Counseling. The Twelve Steps lead us through a methodical process that focuses on our addictive behaviors and on the defects of character that underlie our addictive behaviors. But the Twelve Steps, as wonderful and useful as they are, will not adequately address all the problems of abuse and abandonment that are at the root of sexual addiction. That’s not their goal. The goal of Twelve Step programs is sobriety. And sobriety gives us an opportunity to work on the other problems that have led to our addictions or that accompany our addictions.

Female sex addicts fear that if the people in their lives knew about their addiction, they would leave them.  If you are a woman suffering with sex addiction, seek help. 

Women who sense that they are struggling with a sexual addiction should seek a qualified counsellor. There are counsellors who deal specifically with sexual issues. These therapists usually require their clients to abstain for an initial period of six weeks, including masturbation. Sex addiction is harder to treat than addiction to alcohol or drugs, because the client will likely be having sex in the future.

The counsellor must reorient their client’s relationship to their past, their sources of stress, and their current situation. Sexual abuse or emotional neglect is often unearthed in the female client’s past as an impetus for sexual addiction. Talking through these memories and analyzing motivations is part of healing. Some regions offer 12 step sexual addiction programs. The primary aim is to enable the woman suffering from sexual addiction to begin to love herself as a whole person and redirect her sexual desires to positive ends.

If you know someone who might be a sex addict, don’t judge her.  Be a friend. Be supportive.  Encourage her to seek counselling.

Here is a link that you might find helpful:  http://www.pureintimacy.org/piArticles/A000000574.cfm 

Don’t think that you are a terrible person because you have this addiction.  You are someone in need of healing.  And you’re not alone.  And there is help out there for you.  Be encouraged.  You will have victory.  It may not be easy but getting help is the first step towards victory.

Sources:  http://www.sexualrecovery.com/articles/women.php; http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-the-wild-things-are/201011/unseen-and-unnoticed-women-and-sex-addiction; http://ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/11a/less11.html; http://www.nacronline.com/addictions/women-and-sexual-addiction; http://www.suite101.com/content/sexual-addiction-in-women-a67285

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One response to “Women and Sex Addiction

  1. Sex addiction is a debilitating curse. Anything to help reduce its impact is only going to help men and women in their relationships – no matter which one of the partnership is the sex addict. Both men and women can become addicted to abnormal sexual behaviors.

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