Thursday, August 29, 2013

Seductive Role Sex

For women, seductive role sex does not have its end goal in sexual intercourse. The woman flirts and seduces puffing herself up with a sense of control, power and allure. But once she has seduced her object of attentions, she cuts him off, sublimating her anger and rage. If she knew why she was so angry, she would not feel so powerful. She would probably feel like the powerless child who is still driving her adult behavior.

The seducer who is overly looking to force herself into a sexual relationship is ultimately frightened of the consequences. She believes that, if she gives the man sex, he will leave her. She will lose control and power. The paradox is lost on her.

What lies behind the anger and rage is the fear of being abandoned. But why do these women seduce in the first place, if they are frightened that the consequence of seduction is abandonment?

Such an individual may have had a father who was emotionally unavailable or who sexually acted out with women whom he used and tossed away. The daughter tries to seduce her negligent father into intimacy, but the fails. To further her cause with him, she will examine his taste in women to see what attracts him. She sees that he's attracted to sexually seductive women, and she sees that he abandons them.

So she is caught in a bind. When she wants a man, she thinks she must be seductive. When she gets the man in her clutches, she must flee from him in order not to be abandoned.

The dysfunctionality of this emotional Catch-22 is blatant, but the seductive woman often deludes herself into believing that because "she can get anyone she wants," she is in control and is powerful and desirable. She fails to recognize that her sexual seductiveness leaves her not only sexually unsatisfied, but filled with shame and fear.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cash For Control

... According to Michael Common and Practice Miller's research at the Harvard Department of Psychiatry, the early stress separation of a primary caregiver causes changes in an infant's brain and can alter their development of an infant's mind, making him abnormally susceptible to stress in his adult life. They write: "Parents should realize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently. It changes the nervous system so they're overly sensitive to future trauma."

This was the case for Ben, whose primal core belief impaired his ability to trust or feel safe. He was often on the edge of frantic anxiety attacks, which he learned to soothe through his sexual acting-out addiction.

In a massage parlor, Ben would talk intimately with the large-breasted, dark-skinned prostitutes and ask to lie next to them so that he could rest his head on their breasts. Having had no power or control over his mother's abuse or his wife's distracted attention after the birth of twins, Ben purchased power and control with money. He paid for the assurance that he would not be rejected. But the cash bargain came with terrible shame. He would continue to feel shame until he could give it back to the person to whom it belonged: the mother who would not listen to his need for love and attention when he was a baby.

Because Ben's severe neglect, he never developed the capacity for complex intimacy in a relationship. The sexual element in his sex-for-hire escapades is not as strong as his desire for connection and intimacy.

The details of the sexual liaison are distorted re-creations of the parental intimacy he deserved, yearned for, and never got. Ben sought out sex partners who remind him of his abusers and sought to undo the lack of control he had over his caregivers, with a cash contract taking the place of unconditional parental love. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Paying For Sex

Clients who pay for sex (this includes street prostitutes, call-up escort services, massage parlors, and strip clubs, as well as Internet porn sites) often do not see their acting out as dysfunctional; rather, they see it as self-nurturing.

I believe that these clients were abandoned by their primary caregivers and never developed the capacity for complex intimacy in a relationship. The sexual element in their sex-for-hire escapades is not as strong as their desire for connection and intimacy.

The details of the sexual liaison are distorted recreations of the parental intimacy they deserved, yearned for, and never got. These johns seek out sex partners who remind them of their abusers, seeking to undo the lack of control they had over their caregivers--with a cash contract taking place of unconditional parental love.

It does not matter whether the initial wounding was perpetrated by mother, father, babysitter, nanny, or next door neighbor. The victim will look for someone with a resemblance to that person. Whatever I have a client who pays for sex, I want to know specifically the details in involved in their sexual acting-out activities: how the sex partner looks, sounds, and smells. Like a detective with forensic evidence, I trace a path back to the identity and modus operandi of the original abuser.

Let's go back to Ben, whom we got to know in Chapter 5, first abandoned by his mother and they by his Nanny. Ben is a classic example of how, through a wounding of abandonment and shame, a person becomes addicted to the world of sex for hire. Disparate for love and attention, Ben developed an "attachment disorder," which occurs when a child is unable to bone with his primary caregivers. An attachment disorder takes place when the primary caregiver cannot provide emotional and physical nurturing for her child. The causes can include:
  • Mental illness
  • Physical illness
  • Disabilities
  • Addictions
  • Depression
  • Inadequate parenting skills
  • Frequent moves
  • A temperament not matching the child's
  • Death
  • Divorce
Ben looks around the dark room in terror. From the inside of his crib, he cannot see anything but the wooden slats in his tiny world. He can hear his parents breathing, but he cannot move or twist himself around to see them sleeping in the bed next to him.

Ben is swaddled so tightly in his blanket, each breath becomes a gasp. Ben, an asthmatic baby, lies terrified and frantic for comfort and attention. His cries are unanswered as he desperately struggles to catch his next breath.

"I can remember everything," Ben says, squinting his eyes as if watching a movie in his head.
"You were very young," I say.
"Yes, I was an infant, but I remember it all."
"It must have been terrifying," I respond, imagining the impact of his abuse.
"It was."
"Do you know why she did not pick you up or care for you?"
"I have asked her, and she said the doctor told her to let me cry."

The primal struggle that Ben repeatedly endured left him with a preverbal wound so deep it arrested his normal emotional development. As we have discussed, the earlier the wounding, or the easier the brain receives messages that it needs to operate in survival mode, the more severe the impact on the child's emotional development. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cybersex (part two)

  • Approximately 20 percent of all Internet pornography involves children.
  • Child pornography has become a $3 billion annual industry.
  • According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), child pornography reports increased 39 percent in 2004. Ernie Allen, president and CEO of NCMEC, states that the statistics show a significant and steady increase in child pornography reports. 
  • More than 20, 000 images of child pornography are posted on the Internet every week.
Not only are the statistics hard to grasp, but so is the advancement of technology. It is now possible to set up virtual worlds of sexual contact using remote devices that can be stimulated from different location by different people. The receiver merely attaches a device to his genitals, and his partner uses a keypad to control the levels of stimulation. Cell phones, web, cams, and BlackBerry's all can be integrated into the addict's world to enhance the acting-out experience.

All aspects of the addiction cycle are applicable to online behaviors, as are the needs for power and control. You can be anything, say anything, request anything, and never risk exposure. By the click of a button, you are gone, in a new space, seducing and exploring -- getting high.

Cybersex is especially appealing to those who dissociate because it creates an immediate escape into a fantasy world. Cybersex is also alluring for the shame-based client because of emotional rejection.

For those who fuse sex with intensity, running multiple programs simultaneously amplifies their high. They can participate in chat rooms, download pornography, instant massage, and send sexual images of themselves via web cam, all the same time.

With the advent of cybersex, the repercussions for sex addicts have been devastating. One of the biggest issues for sexual addicts is impulse control, and the Internet allows the addict's gratification -- "I want what I want when I want it" -- to be instant.

No matter how the addict acts out, he can fit it in the world of cybersex -- a world that continues to expand at lightening speed.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cybersex (part one)

Before we get into the specifics of behaviors, let's look at the behaviors sheltered under the cybersex umbrella. When cybersex came on the scene, we dubbed it "the crack cocaine of sex addiction" because of its accessibility and affordability. The Internet allowed for a quick progression of the disease; if addicts hadn't been acting out at all, or hadn't progressed in their behaviors, the Internet instantly provided the inflammatory spark.

Addicts could now access their secret sex world by pushing buttons. They no longer had to cruise the streets, go to seedy adult bookstores, or put themselves at physical risk. They could find whatever they craved any time of the day or night, right from the comfort of their homes.

Over $1 billion is made annually by the cybersex industry as a whole (meaning any site containing sexual content). The business is expected to grow by $5 to $7 billion over the next five years.

It was not just men who were acting out; 32 million women visited at least on pornography website in one month of 2004 alone.

In addition, 41 percent of women said they held deliberately viewed or downloaded pornographic pictures and movies. However, women primarily act out in chat rooms -- a breeding ground for intrigue, seduction, and fantasy.

For me, the most shocking statistic is that the largest group of visitors of Internet porn is children ages 12 to 17. Even more devastating are the statistics related to child pornography.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Acting Out and Acting In: The Socially Forgivable Behaviors

 They are inevitable products of their childhood wounding. To unlock the mystery that hides this moment is crucial. It's a first step in reducing an individual's shame to a level low enough that they can begin to believe that are worthy of respect and capable of recovery.

The ways in which sexually dysfunctional individuals display their pathology are varied, ranging from voyeurism to cross-dressing, cybersex to sexual anorexia (i.e., aversion to sex), sadomasochism to all points between. Not only do specific behaviors vary, there is usually more than one traumatic template behind the presenting symptoms.

It is important for me, in observing my patients and listening to their histories, to recognize certain points in their family histories when their primary caregivers inflicted the original wounds that formed their trauma. The harsh judgment that society passes on many addicts behaviors, viewing them as perverse, cruel, or weird, is unfair. They are inevitable products of their childhood wounding.

Trauma creates a compulsion to repeat the traumatic moment whenever its memory is stirred by later events. Trauma freezes us in the ego-state of when we were first traumatized. This freezing in time is often called "arrested development."

To unlock the mystery that hides this moment is crucial. It's a first step in reducing an individual's shame to a level low enough that they can begin to believe that are worthy of respect and capable of recovery. For the sake of tracking these crucial moments, let's look at some sexually dysfunctional behaviors planted in the poisoned soil of childhood abuse.

Doomed Himself to Suffer

"So tell me, Andy, does your wife know that you keep a prostitute stashed in Manhattan?" I ask.
"No," he says in a tone indicating how stupid it would be to blow his cover.
"How do you think she would feel if she really knew what you were doing on your business trips?"
"You know what?" he says, somewhat annoyed. "My wife is a great lady. I need to spend more time with her and the kids. I know what, and I'm going to start doing that; I have to. But New York is mine. I work hard, and fact is, I deserve it."

Andy has spent extensive time, money, and energy on his secret life -- keeping Angel in an expensive apartment, showering her with gifts, taking her out for expensive meals, and, of course, having unlimited and unrestrained sexual encounters.

"I already started making it up to my wife," Andy says like a kid seeking approval.
"How so?" I ask.
"I took her with me to New York last week. We stayed at The Plaza, went shopping, saw a play... you know, did it up right."
"And what about Angel? Did you see her?" I ask.

The theater lobby is mobbed. Andy practically had to sell his soul to get tickets to opening night. Stopping at the bar, Andy throws back a stiff one while his wife stands mesmerized by the crowd. Grabbing his wife's elbow, he steers her through the crowd to their seats.
"So did you contact Angel?" I ask again.
"Sort of," he says.

As the lights dim, the familiar perfume wafts to Andy's nostrils. Looking past his wife, he steals a brief glance, noticing Angel's silky black hair and low-cut dress. Seated next to his wife, Angel adjusts her view as the curtain slowly rises. Andy, who had brought her a seat, feels the euphoria and a feeling of profound satisfaction.

Andy has concocted what, for him, is the most extremely dangerous and powerful sexual challenge. Lake the little boy who had no control, he has deluded himself into believing that he is in control of both his wife and his prostitute, who are the unconscious substitutes for his original abusers: his mother and his aunt. He can with the whole sexual jackpot. In fact, he has set himself up to crash, burn, and lose everything. Both women will recognize him for the out-of-control liar he has become. He has doomed himself to suffer the loss and shame that he believes subconsciously are appropriate for someone as worthless and undeserving as he is.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Little Desire to Change

As we have pointed out, anger is a way for sex addicts to feel in control and, when addicts act in both a passive-aggressive and an aggressive manner, their lives become double-edged swords. The passive side allows for a secret life of lies, betrayal, and intrigue that, fragment by precious fragment, steals trust from partners, bosses, children, friends, and family, until the addict's lies and betrayals are exposed. The aggressive side builds and builds until it heedlessly takes what it wants, with little or no regard for the consequences, either moral or physical.

Andy climbs the steps outside the church. His seven-year old legs have to stretch like a track star hurdling each gate. Holding his father's hand provides physical stability. However, his emotional state is fragile as Belleek china.

Andy's mother died three days ago. She had been the center of his world. A car crash stole her away.

Dizzy from the day's activities and shocked by the reality of life, Andy feels bewildered and lost. Lying on the window seat, he watches the black-clad mourners mingling in the living room. Closing his eyes and drifting off to sleep, he feels a gentle touch. In his groggy state, he thinks of his mother, her loving and comforting nature. He wants to say, drifting in the comfort of her memory, but he is jolted out of his haze by his father's voice.

"Son, Grandma and Aunt Kate want to talk to you, so sit up and listen up, okay?" his father says, more like a coach sending out his star quarterback than a dad comforting a son's loss.

Andy sits up to face what feels like a firing squad: His grandmother and aunt, both difficult and demanding women, are crouched over him like a double-barreled shotgun ready to explode.

"Andy, you have to be strong," they begin.
"Your dad has been through an awful shock, and you need to help by being his right-hand man. You know he travels a lot, and you will need to help your younger sister. You'll need to be the man of the house while he is gone. Do you think you can do that?" they ask with a pause that hangs in the air.

Andy's family's reaction to grief involves a no-talk, no-feel rule, which demands that Andy stuff his feelings. He will be shaped into a robotic caretaker who simmers with resentment and anger.

As Andy stumbles down the hall to the bathroom, he can hear voices from his parents' room. At first, Andy's heart leaps, as he believes he hears his mother's voice. Pushing open the half-closed door, Andy is jarred awake by seeing Aunt Kate entwined in his father's arms, laughing and giggling. Abruptly they stop, hearing the creak at the door.

"Go back to bed, son," Andy's father bellows from the bed, "GO!" he calls out in a firmer more panicked tone.

Andy suffered an earth-shattering betrayal that will haunt him and his relationship with women for the rest of his life. His mother's death, although an accident, will crush his ability to trust women. Aunt Kate's behavior will teach Andy the sordid dynamic of triangulation, a web of lies and secrets between three people, which will cement the cornerstone of Andy's sexual addiction.

Andy, unhappy in the marriage but afraid to leave his wife, has aggressively pursued what he believes is a "relationship" with a prostitute named Angel.

"She is in love with me," Andy say with conviction.
"Umm... really?" I reply.
"Yes, she IS," he says, emphasizing the "is" as if that will convince me of the validity of his delusional fantasy.

Andy is in therapy because his wife has given him an ultimatum, not because he wants to give up Angel. Either he becomes emotionally available and spends more time with her and the boys, or she files for divorce.

Andy sits slumped on the couch, his suit wrinkled, his glasses tilted off-center, looking as if he has just rolled out of bed. Andy is a boiling pot of resentments and repressed anger. He feels trapped in his marriage and pretends to love a woman for whom he feels only obligation. Andy has little desire to change his avoidant behaviors.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


As the plane begins to descent, the heights of the city break through the cloud cover. To Andy, the city looks like a magical kingdom, its twinkling lights like jewels beckoning him to come and play. The city is a place of mystery and adventure, such a contrast from Andy's life in Boston. Married to a wife whom he perceives as boring, Andy lives a life of monotonous drudgery.

Loosening his tie, he imagines what the next few days will bring. An accountant by trade, Andy has secured several accounts that afford him frequent trips into the city.

As the plane continues its decent, Andy feels his old self shedding like a snakeskin. The tension from the day begins to unwind, and his mind keenly focuses as euphoria spreads through his body.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Attempts at Mitigation

Unlike passive-aggressive sexual anger, aggressive behavior is direct and may include intimidation, threats, and physical and emotional aggression. Rape, sexual incest, and molestation are the most extreme expressions of sexual anger. These extreme violations, however, are more the exception than the rule for most sexually compulsive individuals. For most sexual addicts, aggressive sexual anger, masked by the sexual objectification of self or others, serves to divert painful awareness from the objectifier's shame.

Take, for example, Max, who pursues an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate at work. Or Jill, who becomes a dominatrix so she can role-play torture or degradation of herself or her tricks. Or Milton, who spends hours each day downloading pornography onto his computer and masturbating.  All of these are overt aggressive behaviors that attempt to mitigate shame and pain.

A more convoluted manner of mitigating shame and pain combines passive-aggressive anger with aggressive anger.


"I like it where I am. It feels safe."

"I hate sex. I can't have sex. Every time I think of sex, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel like crawling into a little ball and dying. It is not that I don't love my partner or even find him attractive. It's that I am afraid. I am afraid if I have sex, I will lose part of myself."
"How does your partner feel about your withholding?"
"Oh, I have ways to keep him at bay," she says, her tears subsiding.
"You mean you manipulate him to get what you want?"
"Well, if want to put it that way," she says, the smirk returning.

It is dawn as the light filters through Lisa's bedroom window. She has been lying awake for several hours, unable to fall back asleep. She has been running the logic over and over in her mind: "I love him. I feel safe with him. I want to be with him. He is a good person, but I can't have sex with him. Will I ever be able to have sex with him? Will I ever be normal? Ans what is normal?"

Lisa gently shifts her weight, careful not to disturb her partner's slumber. She looks at Ward's face: the slight upturn of his nose; the freckles spotting his cheeks; his plump, rosy lips, and long, dark eyelashes. He looks so peaceful. How can he be the monster poised to steal Lisa's sex?

Lisa feels an internal gash, as if her body and mind are divided like two enemies on a battlefield -- her head the logic, her body the terror.

Lisa takes a deep breath, closes her eyes, and flashes on her father and the horror she felt as his hands wandered over her small body. Holding her breath and closing her eyes tightly, she hopes she can erase the horror of her father's touch. In her confusion she wonders: "This is my father; he is supposed to love me, to keep me safe. I am supposed to feel good about this? Is this his love? If it is, how come I feel frozen, so scarred, so confused, so betrayed?"
"It is manipulation," I say, jarring Lisa back to the present.
"Look, call it what you want. I am just protecting myself. It's my body, after all."
"That's true. It is your body. The question is: What do you want to do with your body?"

Lisa is a sexual anorexic, unable to seek or find pleasure in sexual experience. Lisa's sexual template was hammered and forged the day her father violated her through incest. That horrific violation stamped Lisa with the belief that sex equals shame, terror, and powerlessness. Her survival instinct shielded her from that awful shame through passive-aggressive anger, deluding Lisa into feeling she was in control.

"I feel guilty when I turn my partner down or make excuses for not being sexual," Lisa continues. "But, at the same time, I feel a sense of gratification; it is as if now I have the power."

It is late afternoon as Lisa takes a sip of her coffee. She loves the light of this time of day. She has always felt that, right before sunset, time stands still, as if there were a pregnant pause or a long, slow inhalation.

Taking another sip of her coffee, she breathes deeply as if to sustain the magic of the moment. As she fills her lungs, she halts abruptly. Her reverie is interrupted as two lovers cross the street, blocking the fading rays of light. The woman steals her adoring glance as her partner leans over for a tender kiss. Lisa's stomach tightens. Her breathing is shallow and she feels disdain rise in her.

"Do I need to see this? Can't they get a room?" she thinks begrudgingly. "Can't they contain themselves?" Lisa feels defiled by what she classifies as a "public display of emotional weakness."

Lisa picks up her coffee and pushes back her metal chair, making a slight squeaking noise. Embarrassed that she may be calling attention to herself, she brushes past the counter of the coffee shop. The lovers, no standing in line, are locked in a loving embrace. Lisa imagines shooting daggers out of her eyes and into their hearts.

The fallout of Lisa's abuse leaves her unable to tolerate any form of sexual energy, whether it is directed at her or not. This public display of physical affection leaves Lisa feeling threatened. To counter her vulnerability, she goes "one-up" and sees the couple as weak, inappropriate, dirty, and disgusting. She thinks, "I can control my self; why can't you?" Lisa's sexual template distorts her thinking and emotions so that sex, whether real or imagined, is intolerable and terrifying.

"So, doing your homework would mean what?" I ask.
"It would mean that I might get better."
"And what's wrong with that?"
"I like it where I am. It feels safe," Lisa days.

Shortly after this session, Lisa failed to return to therapy.

Her demons, at least for now, had won. Her feelings of terror outweighed her hope for a new freedom, a freedom from the prison her father had locked her in so many years ago.