Last week, readers were introduced to the story of a woman with sex addiction. Here is the continuation of her experiences, though of course this is only a glimpse of what her life has been like.
Jennifer, 37, last “acted out” six and a half years ago, and she said that although her sex addiction became a major problem later in her marriage, she first saw signs right after high school.
“I just was never faithful,” Jennifer said. “I couldn’t be faithful.”
She tried to get help by seeing a therapist when she first noticed signs of a problem.
“She just told me to stop,” Jennifer said. “She didn’t really understand what was going on.”
Her family members don’t know about her sex addiction, because she said she feels it’s personal, so only her husband knows.
She said when she was dating, she met men who were not OK with her past, which was upsetting.
“It was hard to know when to tell them,” Jennifer said. “At what point in an early dating relationship do you want to tell people that information — early enough that they don’t feel like they’ve been mis-led and late enough that it’s not inappropriate.”
For example, she said the first date is too soon, but four months is too late.
Surprisingly, she said some men who were OK with her past were not OK with her going to a strong recovery program, Sex Addicts Anonymous, for the rest of her life.
“Nobody gets cured from this,” Jennifer said. “If you believe that it exists, which I do, it never goes away. It’s always there. We can handle it and it definitely becomes much less of an issue, but it needs to be maintained and treated forever.”
She said most of the urges have gone away.
“They’re much less frequent, but they do come up,” Jennifer said, and she calls her sponsor, her program friends, reads and meditates in order to control the urges.
She said stressful times increase the urges.
“Addicts don’t like bad feelings, and so the root of any addiction is that we’re trying to cover a bad feeling with an accent that is destructive to us,” Jennifer said. “Any time I get a bad feeling, like stress, or fear, or pain…my first impulse is to cover it up, but then I’m able now to identify what’s going on and not act on it.”
The objectification of women in the media and other messages about sexuality have not really affected her, she said.
“I think if we went back 2,000 years, that women always knew that they could gain power and control over men with sex,” Jennifer said. “It’s always been a way that women can feel empowered over men.”
She said that everyone can decide what their morals and values are, and if multiple sex partners don’t go against those, it’s OK and they shouldn’t be judged. She said she thinks some women are fine with sleeping with more men than others, and it’s not because they are having psychological issues.
“I know that it was not OK for me to do it,” Jennifer said. “If it’s cool with their morals, it’s not for anybody to say that’s not OK. The problem only arises if we do something that’s against our morals and values. If we feel shame about what we do, that’s a problem.”
Sharon O’Hara, the clinical director of Sexual Recovery Institute, said she thinks the American Psychological Association is incorrect in saying that sex addiction isn’t real.
“Sex addicts basically came to us and said ‘I’m out of control with my sexuality and I feel like an alcoholic,” O’Hara said, and she has been working in the ‘field’ for about 19 years.
Most people with sex addiction are men, though she said more women have been calling for help. After the Tiger Woods incident, the numbers at the Institute even increased, she said.
“We do have a culture that is essentially sex-addict prone,” O’Hara said. “Typically…in our culture we see women as sex objects and we see men as…success objects.”
She said people tend to treat others as objects, and then wonder why they don’t feel loved. Sex addiction is promoted in society, but then people are told how bad it is.
“Men are kind of trained to rate women according to body parts and not see them as human with feelings,” O’Hara said, while women focus on how wealthy and successful men are.
Women are told to wear short skirts and “put silicon in your breasts and then you’ll be happy,” she said. “All these things that can turn you into more and more of an object.”
She said recovery from sex addiction means going against what culture says is right.
There are many confusing messages for women, including how harshly they’re judged on their sexuality. Men are just “sowing their wild oats,” she said, while women are called words like slut, tramp and nymphomaniacs.
“We have a lot of pejorative, negative words for women who might really truly enjoy their sexuality, but I don’t think sex addiction is about enjoying your sexuality,” O’Hara said.
Ultimately, she would categorize sex addiction under intimacy disorder. She defined addiction as “an irresistible urge to commit an irrational act.”
In sex addiction, the woman usually feels no connection and doesn't become emotionally attached with the sex partner. An emotional attachment usually comes when a woman is 'love addicted,' which is a separate problem.
The women groups at the Institute don’t tend to last that long, she said, and currently there are no groups. Most of the men are there because they don’t want to lose their marriage, while women sex addicts are generally single. She said men tend to leave women with sex addiction, while women stay for financial reasons or because they’re co-dependent, even if their husband is cheating on them.
Sexual co-dependency is when a woman focuses more on pleasing the man than pleasing herself, and not knowing or caring what she wants.
“For women to become sex addicts…it goes against the primary message of our culture, which for women is to be a sexual co-dependent more than a sex addict,” O’Hara said.
Women with sex addiction are almost rebelling against this concept, and rather than being a victim, they try to beat men “at their own game,” O’Hara said.
One woman with sex addiction would pride herself on sleeping with each man only once, having an “incredible sex experience,” and leaving them right after, instead of them leaving her.
“The trouble is, it backfires because I’m not really making any kind of true connection with other human beings, but I get to hold on to the illusion of control in my life, because most female sex addicts don’t feel much of anything,” she said. “They’re often not even present with whoever they’re with sexually.”
Although Jennifer said she was not sexually abused, O’Hara said that close to 100 percent of female sex addicts she’s encountered have been, and the age range is usually 35 to 50 years.
Sexual abuse can lead to sex addiction, and some women just want to feel loved, they need to medicate feelings, or they feel they have to live up to a certain reputation, she said.
For example, one woman with sex addiction had to have multiple people texting her all day in order to "feel alive," as well as having to be the “best ever” in bed, though she never really felt anything, O’Hara said.
For more information on sex addiction and recovery, go to www.sexualrecovery.com.