Sexual addiction is characterized by compulsive participation or engagement in sexual activity, particularly sexual intercourse, despite negative consequences. When considering clinical diagnostics, the term sexual addiction may also refer to people who report feeling powerless to control their sexual thoughts, urges, or behaviors. Both women and men can suffer from sexual addiction, however, just as there are significant differences in what motivates men and women to have sex, there are also notable gender differences in the matter in which sexual addiction presents itself in both males and females. Many of the differences between behaviors, urges, and motives in men and women stem from their personal view on intimacy, relationships, and sex. No one factor is thought to cause sexual addiction, but there are thought to be biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to the development of these disorders. Sex addicts have been described as suffering from a negative pattern of sexual behavior that leads to significant problems or distress.
Previous research conducted on males and sexual addiction suggests males are more likely than women to have bonding challenges in a relationship that limits their ability to enhance intimacy. Dysfunctional past relationships can also play a significant role in failure to develop an emotional connection with one’s partner. Failure to achieve an emotional connection can lead to objectification of sexual partner or partners. Men are also more likely to receive encouragement or even praise for engaging in or maintaining a relationship with more than one partner. Men are also more likely than women to be encouraged to first find autonomy, and then intimacy. Male sex addicts tend to prefer sexual behavior involving relatively little emotional involvement. This leads male sex addicts to engage primarily in such activities as voyeuristic sex, paying for sex, having random sex with women or partners that are unknown to them, and engaging in exploitative sex.
Unlike men, women are more likely to receive criticism, harsh judgment, or viewed negatively for having multiple relationships and sexual partners. Traditionally, woman are expected to be monogamous, loyal, and attentive to the needs of their boyfriends or husbands. Historically, women in our culture are trained to be sexual codependents. For the purpose of this article codependency is being defined as letting one’s body be used as a sexual object with the intent to hold a relationship, regardless of personal desire. In general, sex addicts tend to use relationships to have sex, while sexual codependents use sex to maintain relationships.
Sexual Addiction and Motivating Factors- Males
· Enjoy variations in partners
· Seen anonymous sex
· Seeking out voyeuristic sex such as Internet pornography
· Objectifies or exploits women during sex
· Random sex with strangers
· May pay for sex, i.e., prostitution
· Enjoys excessive voyeuristic sex
Sexual Addiction and Motivating Factors- Females
· Previous history of sexual abuse
· Sex in exchange for other things, i.e., sex in exchange for money or drugs
· Intense desire to participate in fantasy or role play
· Engaging in sadomasochism and exchanging pain with their partner
· Achieve power, control and attention from partner
· Maintain a relationship
· Low self-esteem, i.e., intense desire to feel needed, wanted, or sexually desired
In an effort to properly treat sexual addiction identification, education, and intervention is necessary to prevent continued maladaptive behavior from occurring. Prevention of sexual addiction may involve interventions that enhance self-esteem and self-image, addressing emotional problems, educating children about the dangers of excessive internet use, monitoring and limiting computer use, and screening out pornographic sites. Sexual addiction is associated with a number of potential medical, occupational, legal, social, and emotional complications, leading to negative consequences in multiple areas of one’s life. Research on sexual addiction includes exploring potential risk factors and developing accurate screening and assessment tools for the disorder.