In fact, sex between people who know almost nothing about each other is a generally accepted and has even become a cliché scene in the movies. Two people who just met are so overcome with attraction that they go somewhere and proceed to rip each other’s clothes off and have sex. Often an explosive attraction to someone is the stuff of romantic legend– love at first sight.
As with any other particular sexual behavior, sex with a stranger may not be part of an addiction. It may be a normal part of life experience at some point or it may be a compulsive, destructive pattern.
Addictive sexual behaviors differ a great deal: going to prostitutes, frequenting strip clubs, exposing oneself, sex chat rooms, serial seduction, sexual massage, secretly videotaping others and so on. But I would argue that they are all in some way anonymous. First let’s look at the “anonymous sex” addict.
“You are only as sick as your secrets” is a common saying among recovering sex addicts and other kinds of addicts as well. What this implies is that you are keeping something about yourself a secret, like your sexual acting out behavior, because on some level you feel shame and guilt about it.
You believe that what you are doing is reprehensible and that you are unworthy.
In other words, it is accepted that your secrets are a symptom of your psychological sickness, your low self concept. The more secrets, the more sickness. The implication is that once you quit keeping things secret from others, you will become healthier.
Turns out there is a scientific basis to this idea.
The topic of secrets and brain chemistry was recently discussed on NPR’s Fresh Air via an interview with neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman.
When you first discover sexually compulsive behavior in a partner, it may be hard to think straight. Nevertheless, you are in a position of being a “first responder” in a crisis situation that seems to require action of some sort.
You are the “interventionist” for the moment
Very often a spouse or partner of a sex addict is alone in confronting the situation. An alcoholic or drug addict may have half a dozen friends or family members who are fed up enough that they will band together for a professionally led group intervention to try to get the person to accept help. Sex addiction is a less public problem and the partner who discovers the secret life of the addict might not have anyone to open up to.
But as a partner of a sex addict, you may be a crucial person in determining whether the addict gets treatment. What you do or don’t do will have significant effects. How and in what way should you try to have an impact? What will you need to know to act effectively? Here are some of the major things to consider.
To their partners and spouses, many sex addicts will, at some point in their addiction, seem to lack a conscience. They may lie, cheat, exploit others, think only of themselves and disregard the harm to others. And they will often be able to do all this while keeping up a façade of social acceptability.
When you’re around a sex addict, it’s easy to see them as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde kind of person; liable to slip into a primitive and depraved state when your back is turned. Sometimes even the addicts themselves feel that they are two people, one of whom is decidedly anti-social.
The majority of sex addicts (at least those we know about) are not “sociopaths.” They do not qualify under the diagnostic term of “antisocial personality disorder.” Their behavior takes on this appearance for some very understandable reasons.
Why do most spouses and partners react to the discovery of sexual addiction with such a sense of total devastation? Sexual betrayal is an emotional blow that can be harder to deal with than anything, even death.
Most therapists who deal with partners of sex addicts now see the partner as experiencing severe trauma and PTSD symptoms, at least in the initial period post-discovery. This suggests a theoretical framework that can help us understand the partner’s recovery process as it proceeds.
The usual tools for dealing with hardship seem to fail us
Our usual arsenal of tools for transcending heartbreak and loss seems to break down in the face of the discovery of sexually addictive behavior in a loved one. For example:
The mere idea of “sex addiction” gets a lot of people angry. I’m talking here about the writers who rail about the “myth” of sexual addiction and who argue that the whole idea of sex addiction is just a cop-out for the addict and a money making scam for the professionals.
The anatomy of a sex addiction denier
I prefer to see these “deniers,” as I call them, as a part of a larger societal pattern and one that is worthy of study in its own right.
Currently the opposition to the concept of sex addiction comes in two main flavors.
That can be the feeling you get when you’ve encountered a seduction addict. These are the “nice guys” of sex addiction. But anyone who has ever dated a compulsive seducer can tell you that they are as intimacy disabled as any other sex addict, maybe more so. They tend to leave a nasty trail of non-relationships behind them and their future looks pretty much like their past.
We’ll look at what to expect in a typical scenario of a person dating a seduction addict, but first let’s look at the essential features of this kind of sex addict.
Characteristics of seduction sex addicts
Even after a sex addict has admitted the problem and has gone into treatment for sexually addictive behaviors like serial affairs, excessive porn use, or compulsive cybersex (to name just a few), it is normal for spouses and partners to feel hurt, angry and suspicious. Even after the addict has been sexually “sober” for a period of months, the spouse will usually be justifiably mistrustful.
They see the sex addict going to therapy and support groups; they hear the addict saying all the right things and yet they feel that there is not enough evidence of real change; they are afraid it’s all a sham.
After working with many recovering sex addicts and their partners, I feel that there are four key elements to regaining trust:
1. It’s not about being sexually “sober” — it’s about being different
Telling your spouse “I’ll never do it again,” even if you mean it, is beside the point. Even if the addict took a polygraph every week and passed, the spouse would not really be in any better position. The spouse doesn’t just want to know you are faithful; he or she wants to know that you are changing in some basic ways.
Men are tackling some tough sexual issues. Issues like male sexuality and sex addiction. For decades there have been men who were for gender equality, against violence and against sex role injustice. But now men’s liberation seems to be showing strength in the sexual arena. There are currently a number of male-run websites exploring the myths around “male supremacist sexuality,” and taking a hard look at porn addiction as well.
In what follows I’ll give a few examples of what I’ve recently come across where male-run websites are challenging what they see as an outdated idea of male sexuality based on objectification and domination.
“Porn makes sexism sexy: it makes domination, hierarchy, violence and hate feel like sex. Sexism is eroticized. Pornography is also one of the main enforcers of homophobia.”