Archives for September, 2011
Until very recently, the ready capacity to find completely anonymous sexual partners, willing to hook-up for sex without any kind of relationship connection, was mainly the dubious privilege of gay men, rather than most heterosexuals. While straight men have always been able to hire prostitutes, go to strip clubs and hit on women met in bars and clubs, these were either paid anonymous experiences or ones that left the straight casual sex seeker at risk of either being rejected or of being asked for an unwanted, longer-term connection to extend beyond the sexual act itself. Outside of early adult experimentation and the occasional bachelorette party, healthy women most often want some degree of conversation and relational connection prior to sex or at least after –“buy me a drink,” “let’s go to a movie first,” “when can we meet again,” etc. This issue has been the key stumbling block for those straight men seeking anonymous sex with women. Gay men on the other hand, because their sexual partner choice was male and men in general are wired to have an easier time being sexual outside of relatedness than most women, have nearly always been able to hook-up with anonymous sex partners found in parks, bathhouses, sex-clubs and tea-rooms without having to first buy them a drink, take them to dinner, pay for the sex act or even hold a conversation. This was the essence of gay cruising.
The abuse of sex and drugs to meet simple understandable human needs for love and affection are the underpinning of many addictive behaviors for those with an early history of physical, emotional, sexual abuse, and neglect. Addiction professionals and recovering people need to often be reminded, that it is not enough to simply explore and resolve past trauma. True recovery also involves learning how to live and connect as adults. For many addicts, the drive to abuse both drugs and sex are fused with a belief that using is the only way to feel…a part of something, for those with little self-worth and little (they believe) to offer others. The lack of a learned ability to engage and trust deep attachments along with love can lead to lifelong problems of addiction and relapse.
For most adults, healthy sexuality is an integrated life experience. Being sexual with mates, with oneself or as a part of relationship exploration is for most of us enjoyed as a pleasurable act of choice. However, unlike the passion and interests that draw healthy people toward sexuality, sexual addicts misuse the sex act as well as the search for sex as a means of coping with intolerable feelings, stressors and to fill an often unacknowledged need for consistent validation. Sexual Addiction is defined as an excessive preoccupation with the idea of, pursuit and acting-out of sexual behavior (with self or others), most often accompanied over time by related negative life, relationship, career and health consequences. In truth, most sex addicts spend more time and energy on the hunt, chase and pursuit of their sexual or romantic highs then in the sexual act itself. Much as drug addicts initially abuse drugs to recreate and avoid reality-sex addicts repeatedly seek to lose themselves in the emotions generated by sexual fantasy, ultimately coming to depend on these emotions as a reliable form of comfort and distraction. As sex addiction does not involve the direct ingestion of substances to get high - but rather the use of fantasy and behavior to achieve a high, sexual addiction itself can be categorized as a process addiction, similar to binge eating, gambling, spending, workaholism and related emotional disorders.