A Stereotype Smashed: Women Struggle With Sex Addiction Too.
by Priscilla Dean, LPC
When someone says the words, “sexual addiction,” most people automatically think of men who seek out prostitutes or men who have continuous affairs—certainly not women and particularly not Christian women.
However, this stereotypical assumption is completely false.
According to Crystal Renaud, author of the book “Dirty Girls Come Clean,” more than 30% of pornography site visitors are Christian women.
If a Pastor or Christian ministry leader is mentioning the topic of lust or pornography, it’s not uncommon to hear the words, “Men, now listen up. Ladies, we know you don’t struggle with this.”
While this type of addiction creates much secret shame among its sufferers regardless of gender, it is even much more so for women who struggle with a sexual addiction because of this very accepted assumption that it is a merely a man’s struggle. This addiction among women creates silent sufferers that feel great shame and fear of judgment from others. There are few if any resources for women who would seek help for this addiction. New attitudes and perspectives need to be created that allow for the inclusion of women that deserve help in churches and professional settings.
Looking for a men’s sexual addiction support group? Thankfully, these are becoming much more commonplace in churches and therapy settings–there certainly is help available for these men. If you’re female and seeking help for this addiction, the available help is limited if not non-existent in the same places where men are being helped. Stereotypical attitudes about sexual addiction need to be checked with the reality of these hurting women.
Sexual addiction commonly has little to do with addiction to the sex act itself, particularly with women. It is, for both men and women, an intimacy disorder. True intimacy is nearly impossible to attain for those living in a sexually-addicted lifestyle. However, because women are more relationally oriented then men, a sexual addiction in a woman will look much different than in a man’s struggle with sex addiction. Women oftentimes struggle with a “love” addiction alongside a sexual addiction, which is a type of intimacy disorder in which the addicted person is obsessed with the “falling in love” feeling at the beginning of relationships, often leading the sufferer to move from relationship to relationship seeking this feeling, never maintaining a mature intimate relationship.
All the while loneliness and emptiness sets in, with the concurrent beliefs that only they can comfort themselves, others can’t be trusted to meet their needs and oftentimes the belief that intimacy with another person is found only in sex act. Extensive online pornography use, compulsive masturbation, seeking out anonymous sex, erotic literature, the use of sex-related online chat rooms and sexual use of webcams can all be symptoms that happen to women as well as men in a sexual addiction or a love addiction.
Sexual addiction treatment needs to be formatted specifically for women, with an emphasis on treating the intimacy disordered behaviors and thought patterns. Healthy intimacy behaviors can be taught and modeled. Groups can be especially healing for women, because they are more willing to verbally express their feelings in a group setting and they can receive the support they need from one another.
This needs to be talked about in churches, therapy settings, professional settings, and in everyday conversation for the secret and painful shame to decrease and freedom to be made available for this neglected population of women.