“There are a number of fallacies associated with female sex addiction-including that females simply cannot be sex addicts-that they are more likely to be “relationship” or “love addicts.” The reality, however, is that female sex addicts do exist-and may exist in far greater numbers than we’re aware of.” -Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT, author and Founding Director of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles
Since the beginning of time, sex has given women power in relationships. They may use it as a bargaining chip with men; it may be used overtly or covertly, but many men will admit to being willing to do almost anything for sex or for a woman willing to give them sex. Women are not usually portrayed in this manner. The common stereotype is of a long-suffering, grudgingly-submitting-to-sex, manipulative wife. In truth, this changed to a more realistic picture when the sexual revolution collided with the women’s movement.
Meanwhile, a double standard involving sexuality has existed concurrently and still persists. Men are expected to be sexually active and the reverse is not true for women. Women are supposed to accept men’s use of pornography and openness towards sex, but if they are found to participate in similar behaviors, they are thought of as abominations.
Sex addiction was brought to the forefront after Tiger Woods’ troubles came to light. It has long been assumed that females are “love addicts,” as opposed to “sex addicts” (see above quote). In truth, female sex addicts do exist.
Sex addiction is defined in Wikipedia as “a psychological condition in which an individual has a severe struggle in managing his or her sexual behavior.” Other terms in current use are “sexual dependency” or “sexual compulsivity.”
Although the true origins of anyone’s sex addiction will never be known, any of these, or a combination of more than one, is thought to play a part:
- Abuse-sexual, emotional, or physical
- Some other form of early trauma
- Exposure to sexual situations (behaviors or materials) at too young an age
- Additional, family-oriented factors
As reported by SexHelp.com, surveys have shown that many sex addicts grow up in dysfunctional families. Often, a family member has another type of addiction (87%). They also claim that research has demonstrated an association between sexual addiction in adulthood and childhood abuse. Sex addicts report experiencing emotional abuse (97%), sexual abuse (83%) and physical abuse (71%).
Traditionally, addiction problems for women include food, shopping and spending money. Sex probably wouldn’t even make the top 10 list. However, women make up about 10% of people seeking help for sex addiction and that is likely just the tip of the iceberg since these are the women seeking help!
In the United States, women have historically been discouraged from being sexually aggressive. Consequently females admitting to sex addiction are rare. More frequently, women are called “nymphomaniacs” or “whores”. These are not terms that women want to be identified with and so they do not get treatment. Additionally, women don’t obtain treatment for sex addiction due to societal mores. Our puritanical American culture, despite a veneer of acceptance, believes casual sex is a sin. Today, it’s OK if women talk about sex as long as it’s within the framework of one’s (proper) relationship. To admit to just wanting sex is inappropriate and forbidden; uninhibited sexual activity outside of or even within marriage is discouraged by society at large.
Help does exist; a twelve step program for sex addicts, “Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous”, encourages women to join and may have meetings for women only. After joining a support group and seeking professional help, women who have a sex/love addiction need to set small recovery goals and celebrate each step that moves them forward into their recovery. They need to realize that treatment will be a difficult, ongoing process, but the freedom from sexual addiction will give their lives more meaning and more possibilities.
Nancy Travers, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializes in all types of relationships; dating, existing relationships, family relationships, and relationships with friends and business relationships. She also helps her clients overcome anxiety and depression through talk therapy as well as through hypnosis. What sets her apart from many other counselors is that she has counseled in the gay/lesbian community for over 10 years. She also has experience counseling families with elder care issues. Nancy has been in practice for over 15 years and can provide you with the tools you need to approach dating and relationships with confidence.
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