I just spent three days at a symposium on addiction and the speakers there reminded me of just how ubiquitous sexual additions are in our society.
Most of the time I tend to think of men as the ones harboring secret sexual addictions but, of course, women are just as subject to sexual addictions as men. We really are not that different, are we?
The Truth About Sexual Addiction
Strangely, most sexual addictions have little to do with sex, other than the fact that the behaviors take place in the context of sexuality. Exhibitionism is really about wanting to feel the power of having shocked someone. Pornography is about fantasy.
Most of the others, like sadomasochistic fetishes are all about regaining a sense of power and control. Strangely enough, even the avoidance of sex can be a “addictive” behavior according to Maureen Canning of the Meadows Treatment Center.
As a wife who avoided sex over the course of many years of my previous marriages, this one got my attention. I was, as many women are, quite able to enjoy a courtship and “honeymoon” phase of an active and athletic sex life during the beginning phases of my relationships.
But, as the relationship moved out of the fantasy stage and into the reality of a real, day to day set of interactions, sex disappeared. It didn’t disappear because my husband wasn’t interested. No, it disappeared because I became angry and disgusted with his continuing to be happy with sex as the lifeblood of our relationship.
Once we were married I think I expected our relationship to magically blossom into a real intimate connection. Never mind that I had no clue how to do that. But I was certain it was my husband’s fault because HE was such an angry, avoidant, workaholic.
Certainly I was the innocent victim of his deliberate withholding of time, attention and kindness. So, I withheld sexual contact from him because I was so angry with him. I never thought of it as being addictive behavior.
But if you re-frame how you think about what addiction is, you can easily see how it really is an addictive process. As Maureen Canning says, most sexual addiction is really about power and control.
I was clearly attempting to get a sense of power in the relationship by moving into the Self-Protective withdrawal position. I put up barriers to prevent myself from feeling vulnerable to his angry, avoidant behaviors. I did this in an attempt to get power and control over feeling like his Victim…