In my previous article, I introduced particular issues related to women’s sexual integrity. I looked especially at the causes of unhealthy female sexual behavior and social stigmas that prevent women from addressing their struggles. In this article, I would like explore different types and patterns of unhealthy sexual behaviors. It is my hope that by addressing female sexuality openly, women who struggle with sex addiction, pornography, masturbation and other sexual issues will feel empowered to seek healing and wholeness in their lives.
Women struggle with identifying themselves as a “sex addict”. Not many women want that label, especially when all she really wants is love and affection. Rather than focusing on trying to label the behavior, it is more important to find healing from the behavior. With that in mind, try to consider the following descriptions of unhealthy sexual behaviors offered in Marnie Ferree’s book No Stones. When reading this list try to use an open mind and see how one or more might reflect your experience.
Compulsion, or Unsuccessful Attempts to Control a Sexual Behavior
- Changing relationships to control sexual fantasy and/or activities
- Swearing off relationships, only to give in to the next “right” lover
- Breaking promises to self or others to stop abusive fantasy or sexual behaviors
- Seeking relationships where you are the caretaker for an addicted or troubled person
- Using work, sex, romantic fantasy (e.g., novels, online relationships, films) to take the place of a healthy intimate relationship
Continued Behavior Despite Negative Consequences
- Living a double sexual/romantic life: one hidden, one open
- Decreased productivity at work due to romantic and sexual behavior
- Relationship problems resulting from affairs or excessive time spent on sex-related activities
- Depression related to inability to change romantic and sexual patterns with the same inevitable consequences time and time again
- Using drugs, drinking to numb shame and other negative feelings related to sex and romance
- Excessive dieting and weight loss when single; excessive weight gain and poor self-care when in a relationship
- Unplanned pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted diseases, or violence
- Terror or shame resulting from sexual activities
Obsessive Thoughts in Planning or Obtaining Love, Romantic Connections, or Sex
- Neglecting family, relationship, or career because of time spent preoccupied with sex or sexual partners
Sex Addiction Can Fall Under the Following Categories
- Relationship or love addict: repeated affairs or multiple relationships (married or single)
- Romance addict: hooked to the seduction and excitement of pursuit or being pursued
- Fantasy addict: elaborate fantasies about someone she knows well, barely or not at all
- Pornography or cybersex addict: pornography, adult websites, or chat rooms
- Masturbation: habitual masturbation used to calm nerves or avoid intimacy
- Exhibitionism: prostitution, stripping or dressing to flaunt your body in a provocative way
- Addicts who sell or trade sex: Selling or trading sex for goods, services or favors
- Partnering with another addict: women who attach themselves to other sex addicts
How Can I Know if I’m Struggling With Unhealthy Sexual Behaviors?
You can begin by taking the following self-assessment. This is not a clinical, fool-proof instrument but it is a good starting point. The list of 40 key “questions” is adapted from the Sex and Love Addicts literature that might help a woman self-determine if she has this type of problem. More about SLAA can be found at: http://www.slaafws.org. If you answer yes to even a few of those questions you likely are a struggling with sexual compulsive behaviors and it would be a good idea to speak with a professional counselor.
Hope For Healing in Christian Counseling
The first step toward healing is to realize you are not alone. A woman needs to know there are people who understand and can reach out in love. What women need is to be open and honest with a healthy adult woman about their struggle. These female mentors should be able to provide support, reduce shame and create a healthy bond. This may allow her the opportunity to avoid the need to use men sexually for self-soothing and stability. The key to the healing process is to get beneath the behavior and to heal at a deeper, soul level.
I would be happy to assist you in your journey toward healthy sexuality. There is hope! You can find freedom from harmful sexual behaviors.
Ferree, Marnie C., No Stones – Women Redeemed From Sexual Addiction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010).
Images cc: freedigitalphotos.net – Teenage girls chatting and eating fruit by marin, sex by artur84