Top 10 Sex Myths – Where’s Your Head At?

Very few things that happen during sex are a disaster unless you choose to see them that way. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change.

The Journal of Marital and Sexual Therapy recently reported that 1 in 4 of us are unhappy with our sex lives. Problems with sex arise out of a combination of factors: for example lack of confidence, communication difficulties, inexperience and lack of skill, unrealistic expectations, refusal to take responsibility for our own sexual pleasure and

What many people are not aware of is that there are a vast amount of beliefs and opinions about sex that we all have and take with us into every sexual encounter. For the most part, we are not aware of out particular biases and expectations yet these unexamined yet rigid convictions have the potential to ruin any sexual experience.

1. SEXUAL FANTASY IS A BARRIER TO INTIMACY

Many people prevent themselves from having the best sexual experiences that they could have because they believe that fantasy should be restricted to masturbation and should not be an aspect of partner sex. This could not be further from the truth. Choosing whether and when to share a private desire with your partner can be exhilarating. Yet sharing is not the point of fantasy. Fantasy is all about learning what turns you on and exploring your potential to express your sexuality. It is not unusual for women to have trouble reaching orgasm with a partner because of insufficient mental arousal. She probably knows how to orgasm through masturbation but feels too guilty to enter the realm of fantasy when with her partner. The ability to be intimate is enhanced by self-knowledge and confidence and the uninhibited expression and communication of fantasy can bring people closer together.

2. PENETRATION IS THE GOAL OF SEX

Concentrating on the destination rather than the journey is responsible for the burden placed upon men to ‘perform’ on demand but is only a part of a vastly wider area of sexual possibilities. Penetration is often made the center of sex, yet oral and manual sexual activity is likely to be at least as – and frequently more – satisfying for a woman. When penetration is seen as the ‘goal’ of sex, then foreplay becomes something that leads to proper sex, rather than being a pleasure in and of itself. When sex is reduced to being a rush towards the man’s ejaculation through penetration, then it is no wonder that so many people find sex to be disinteresting and boring. It is more that the definitions of sex in our culture are shallow and trivialize the majesty and mystery that sex can be.

3 MORE SEX MEANS BETTER SEX

Quality versus quantity of sex is likely to be different at varying times. It is unrealistic to expect that sex is always going to be mind-blowing and require a heavy investment of time and effort. Variety is the key. Getting stuck in a predictable routine that both partners play out means that sometimes both quantity and quality suffer. We are surrounded by misinformation about sex. Surveys that tell us how often everybody is having sex (or more realistically, how often people say they are having sex) become methods of establishing a spurious norm of sexual activity that you may try to replicate.

Quality can suffer if you are too intent upon upping the quantity of your sexual experiences. Many people feel under pressure to have a lot of sex but this does not mean that they are going to be a better lover or have better sex. It merely means that they have more sex. Compulsive sexual behaviour can be detrimental to your sense of who you are, what you have to offer, your work, relationships. It can mask low quality sex. Comparing yourself with your perceptions of other people’s sex lives is always a destructive mode to get into. The only thing that needs matter to you is your own sexual happiness.

4 I AM JUST NOT A VERY SEXUAL PERSON

Loss of sexual desire is a common concern for many people and it is an issue that has no single cause. When you have persistent thoughts about feeling unworthy, unloved, unwanted and of not deserving of great sex, not attractive enough, you may manage to convince yourself that you just are not very sexual. Everybody has sexual energy and the capacity to express and enjoy a fulfilling sex life. What can happen is that your negative thoughts about yourself mean that you lose touch with the sexual part of yourself and start to feel disconnected from your sexuality. Identifying the internal self-talk that is damaging your sexual expression enables you to begin to re-connect with your sexuality and believe that you are no different to anyone else: you deserve and are entitled to sexual happiness. You will need to change the way you think about yourself or your label will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you are looking for evidence to back up a belief, you can always find it. It doesn’t make it right or true. It just means you see what you want to see, whatever helps you feel comfortable – even this is only the comfort to be found in what is safe, unchallenging and familiar.

5 BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE HAVE BETTER SEX.

Sex begins in the brain and sexual attraction and energy feed off of factors other than physical appearance. When you make love, you are so much more than your body. This belief feeds off the comparisons you make between yourself and other people. Beautiful people do not have more successful relationships, nor do they have better sex. Sexual fulfillment is about self-acceptance. The way you feel about your body is apparent to other people and can make sex a joy or a disaster. The danger with this belief is that you start to play the game of ‘If only’. If only I was thinner, more attractive, more sexually adventurous, then I can have the sex life that I want. When you make your dreams dependent upon some other change, then you reduce the chances that you will find the courage to make any changes at all. There is nothing to be gained by waiting. You need to start taking action to change now.

Your body image and the things you tell yourself about your sexual desirability are important factors that influence your sexual happiness. Whilst valuing your own desirability makes quality sex more achievable, loving your looks alone is no guarantee of a deeper and more solid sense of self-esteem. You can feel desirable but empty of desire. Self-acceptance and learning to love yourself extends beyond appreciating your attractiveness and incorporates an acknowledgment and respect of who you are, what you stand for and what you contribute to the world and other people.

6 THE CHILDREN MUST COME FIRST.

Many couples experience a decrease in their sexual satisfaction after they have had children. Believing that the child’s needs should always come first can mean that a total lack of privacy, time, energy and commitment makes sex a distant memory. Having children is a stressful time for every couple and the relationship dynamic will change. Balancing affection and attention between your children and your partner is a challenge that needs to be met head on.

Couples with young children need time alone to focus on each other’s needs and desires. They need to listen and respect each other and acknowledge their sexual situation, whatever it is. Being a mother or a father does not mean that you have to give up being yourself. It is important to set boundaries with your young children so that they know and accept that their parents expect privacy sometimes and are not always prepared to rush to fulfill their child’s needs on demand.

7. SEX IS NO LAUGHING MATTER

Playing, being silly and laughing are all great ways to deepen intimacy and enhance sexual pleasure. Some people believe that sex must be, can only be, ‘romantic’ and so attach a great deal of earnestness to the experience. It is possible to learn the benefits of lightening up. When sex cannot incorporate elements of play, it is often an indication of an impoverished emotional connection. Usually, it is not difficult to bring the fun back into sex, even if it feels a little forced at first.

When sex is viewed as about achievement and competition, then lightness and frivolity are likely to be absent. Keep in mind that sex is about whatever works for you and keeping play and foolishness a part of sex can help to prevent sex becoming a stale and predictable.

8. SEX MUST BE A GENEROUS ACT; I WANT TO SATISFY HIS/HER SEXUAL NEEDS

Great sex is both generous and selfish. Most people do get turned on by their partner’s arousal and this is fantastic but if you put all your energy into finding out what she/he wants, what about you? Who is giving you what you need? Being prepared to get your own needs met is an indication that you are willing to take care of yourself, rather than relying upon other people to meet your unmet and perhaps unvoiced desires.

Sexual communication is all about clarity, saying what you think and feel. It is also about setting boundaries, discussing what you do not like and both parties must be able to say no and for this to be accepted. If you find yourself having sex because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings, think about what you are doing. Honour yourself and what you want and share any feelings of ambivalence. This means that intimacy levels can remain high and misunderstandings are not given opportunity to distort your relationship with your partner.

9. PREMATURE EJACULATION IS A SIGN OF A POOR LOVER.

Being unable to control ejaculation is a worry for many men. Most practically, even if you have had an orgasm, don’t leave your partner high and dry. Often feelings of shame, failure and anticipating your partner’s disappointment mean that his orgasm means the end of sex. It comes back to widening your perception of what sex can be and not being enslaved to ideas about sexuality that are widely circulated in our culture.

In terms of his sexual pleasure, learning how to manage his anxiety about performance and being able to talk to a partner are the most effective ways of building sexual confidence. Some of the informal strategies that are popular in our culture do more harm than good. For example, trying to delay ejaculation by distracting yourself with non-sexual thoughts will do little to enhance your sexual pleasure.
This strategy is more likely to create a feeling of disassociation for him from his own body and the situation that he is in. It may help him to delay ejaculation (although this is debatable) but consciously focusing away from your physical pleasure is unlikely to facilitate peak sexual experiences. Being emotionally present during sex is crucial to sexual awareness and intimacy. It is a far more successful strategy for a man to learn about how to control his ejaculation than to continue to consciously create emotional distance from his partner and the sexual experience.

Tantric sex exploration is a great way to learn the capacity to control male ejaculation as it teaches techniques that enable him to distinguish between orgasm and ejaculation. Contrary to popular belief they are not the same thing!

10. AN ERECTION IS ONE AND THE SAME THING AS SEXUAL AROUSAL

This is a difficult idea for many people to get their heads around. Sexual arousal happens within a context that is emotional, physiological and visual. If you think about the nature of desire and attraction, recognise that it is not always a purely physical response; it involves idiosyncratic and sometimes unpredictable preferences. Sexual desire just does not exist without a sexual context. It is confirmed/reduced by the accompanying emotions and thoughts that you focus on at any time. Men have erections of varying hardness according to how they are thinking and feeling at the time. An erection does not necessarily mean that a man is fully, or even a little, aroused. He may become erect without feeling particularly sexy.

For men who are insecure about maintaining their erection, confusing erection with arousal means that they often rush into sex before they are completely ready. If you habitually move from low arousal into sex, desire may well start to decrease. Part of the reason for this is that many men feel that they may lose an erection if they don’t immediately act upon its presence. Having sex in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity is not going to give you the best sexual experiences that you are capable of having.

There are many things that men can do to learn to have more confidence and control over their erections and ejaculatory control instead of ignoring his insecurity and depriving himself of great sexual experiences. Whenever your decisions and actions are motivated by fear and uncertainty, you are selling yourself short in some way or another. Many men are not sure about where their pleasure comes from during sex and experience a lack of understanding about their own bodies that means that they are unaware that their whole body can become aroused. If you are committed to gaining ore control over your ejaculatory response, invest in some of the many interesting and informative guides that enable men to delay ejaculation and become more connected with their sexual potential.

There are many other myths that run people’s sex lives. Whenever you find yourself thinking ‘he / she / I should / must / ought . . . ‘, you are probably listening to the demands of a sex myth that is taking you away from what you want and think and encouraging you to follow what other people want and feel. When are you going to listen to and follow you own rules?

Recognise that the thoughts that you have affect the sex life that you create. Know that you can choose to change the way you think and learn self-acceptance, respect for your sexual self and experience ease, excitement and power in the ways you choose to express yourself sexually.

© Dr Tara Few, The UK Sex Coach, 2007

(c) Dr Tara Few, The UK Sex Coach. [http://www.uksexcoach.com] I am a sex and relationship coach and I work with people who know that sex is important to them but who feel that something is missing from their sex lives. I can help you to explore your own sexual style, desires and needs. Connnect to the fun and pleasure potential of your sexuality by working with me and you can become a happier and more confident lover.

Do You Know Someone With A Sex Addiction?

Sex is not a comfortable topic for many people, even though talk about it has become more open and relaxed. People may speak freely of their sexual experiences and particular taste, but what remains taboo are the sexual problems of individuals. Men find talking to their doctors about erectile dysfunction problematic, so it’s not surprising that confronting another person about their possible sex addiction would be even more challenging and awkward.

Many addicts choose to seek help from a licensed professional, an expert in the field. However, sex addiction is probably a subject most comfortably discussed among family, closes friends and spouses. For the moment let’s address the issue from the friend and family point of view.

Here are some signs a person you know might have a sex addiction:

1. Is their sexual behavior leading to problems?

Are pregnancy scares a common thing for them? Have they caught or transmitted an STD? Being careless about safe sex, having random sex, or having multiple partners are signs of sex addiction. These behaviors show the person has placed fulfillment of sexual needs above all other priorities. Are they putting themselves at risk for problems as a result of their sexual behavior? Sex in the workplace creates a risk of being fired, as does masturbation and viewing pornography while on the job. Even if this is done off site during a lunch hour, these activities show a lack of control and the inability to separate appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.

Some other problems not as tangible, and not as easy to see, are ones involving how much time an individual spends on sex. Oftentimes, the addict will cancel plans to go out or visit, preferring to stay in to watch porn, and/or masturbate. People with an addiction to porn will spend inordinate amounts of time watching videos and films, excluding family and friends. Have they given up hobbies they once enjoyed? Stopped going out on weekends? Maybe you used to talk to them often and they haven’t been as available recently?

What might be more visible are their romantic relationships. Do they bounce from one person to another in rapid succession? Are they having a series of “one-night stands? While there is no definitive amount of time one should devote to sex, or a way to measure how much sex is “normal,” if someone you know seems like he or she is only in a relationship for the sex, and have been frustrated in forming a real bond, that could be a sign of addiction.

Keep in mind one can be “addicted to love.” The act of seduction and the rush of brain chemicals produced when a relationship is in its early stages can form a sex addiction. While men and women can suffer this, female sex addicts are more likely to exhibit this behavior. It may not involve actual sex, but a person who is constantly starting new relationships (sometimes before the previous one ends) or flirts excessively may be showing signs of sex addiction.

2. Do they often talk about sex?

People tend to discuss subjects of interest to them, daily occurrences or events they have experienced. Is your friend bringing up pornography often in idle conversation? Such talk between friends is normal, but note how often the individual talks about it. Does it seem like that is the only thing he or she has to discuss? Are sex and pornography the only topics that seem to peak this person’s interest or gets the individual animated? It is possible that’s all he or she talks about because it’s all that person has to talk about. A porn addict can spend the bulk of his or her free time viewing pornography, leaving them with little else to speak of in conversation.

This can be tricky; each person is different, as is each friendship. A person addicted to sex may not talk about it, feeling shame and guilt, or they may bring it up at inappropriate times.

Note things other than speech, too. Having a poster of an attractive model in one’s room is common. Having one’s screen saver set to show hardcore pornography might be cause for concern. Do they have pornographic backgrounds on their mobile phones? Inappropriate ring tones? While these may be signs of mere tastelessness, they can also be signs of this addiction.

3. Have they brought up sex addiction in conversation?

Many sex addicts suffer from this addiction for a long time before suspecting they have it, and then a longer time before they stop denying it. If they’ve broached the subject of sex addiction, they may be testing the waters, so to speak, to see how you will react. Many sex addicts feel ashamed of themselves and keep their addiction a secret for fear they will lose friends. It’s not likely they will admit to having a sex addiction, but they may ask you your opinion on it, or talk more in depth about a high profile celebrity claiming to suffer from the issue. They may even mock the notion of sex addiction, feeling you suspect them of it and wanting to alleviate your suspicions.

How you feel about sex addiction is up to you, but most people taking this approach are scared and looking for support and your reaction could affect their choice in receiving professional help.

For spouses and romantic partners, you have a more intimate knowledge of the suspected sex addict than anyone else. Some things you should look for if you suspect your significant other may be suffering from this addiction are:

· Are they becoming more demanding about sex with you?

If is fairly normal for two people in a couple to have differing libidos. It’s also pretty common for sex to put a strain on a relationship. How your partner reacts to being told “no” and how insistent is he/she on the subject of sex is an example of where red flags may appear. An addict in need of a substance can become highly agitated when they don’t get it. Spousal rape is a real thing, and just because they didn’t coerce you into sex with force doesn’t mean there wasn’t a transgression. A sex addict can exploit the power dynamic in a relationship, threaten to do something negative, or withhold something from their spouse to get sex. If they’ve resorted to these harmful behaviors, oblivious to the emotional damage being caused, that’s a sign of addiction.

· Are they going somewhere else for sex?

Being unfaithful doesn’t necessarily mean your partner is a sex addict, but it is certainly one indication, especially if this isn’t the first time. While this may be a sign of a troubled marriage, if the bond between you is otherwise strong, the infidelity may be sue to the addiction. An addict craves the physical act of sex, or the intoxicating feeling of a new relationship, they are not necessarily in love with the other person or not in love with you. Often, addicts aren’t even interested in the act of sex, but in the repetitive behavior that leads up to the act, creating the dopamine levels the addict craves.

Remember, pornography and masturbation are sex acts. Is your spouse on the computer in the early morning hours before work? Do they hide large amounts of pornography on the computer? Are they less interested in sex with you? How you feel about some masturbation and pornography use is up to you. Some levels of self-gratification and porn are not detrimental, but if the use of these sex acts is at a point of contention, and your partner hasn’t given it up, that’s a sign they’re dealing with an unhealthy compulsion.

It is important to realize that only the addict himself/herself can really know the depths of their addiction and it is the individual that must realize he or she is suffering before treatment and recovery can be sought.

The Treatment of Sex Addiction – An Analytic Approach

It is well known among people in the 12-step sex programs that of all the addictions, sex is the most difficult to master. Far from the notion that sex addiction is the “fun” one, the suffering of dealing with this affliction is enormous. The compulsion is so compelling that it is common for members of the sex recovering groups to be unable to maintain any continuous time of sexual sobriety, giving way to despair and hopelessness. Before treatment, sexual enactment is the addict’s only source of safety, pleasure, soothing and acceptance. It vitalizes and connects. It relieves loneliness, emptiness and depression. Sex addition has been called the athlete’s foot of the mind: it is an itch always waiting to be scratched. The scratching, however, causes wounds and never alleviates the itch.

Furthermore, the percentage of people who go to therapy or a 12-step program is quite small. The majority of sexual compulsives live in isolation filled with feelings of shame. Almost 100% of the people who come to me for an initial consultation, whether it be for compulsive use of prostitutes, phone sex, a fetish, cross dressing, or masochistic encounters with dominatrixes, relay that beneath the shame they feel in telling me their story, they also experience a sense of freedom that comes from finally being able to share with another human being the hidden, shameful, sexually compulsive acts that imprison them.

This is a condition that gradually bleeds away everything the person holds dear. The life of a sex addict gradually becomes very small. The freedom of self is impaired. Energies are consumed. The rapacious need for a particular kind of sexual experience drives the addict to spend untold hours in the world of his addiction. Inexorably, the compulsion begins to exact higher and higher costs. Whether it be on the internet indulging in sexual fantasies with fantasy people, being on the phone to the sex hot-lines, or frantically searching the net and the S&M clubs for someone who will act out a particular, ritualized fetish fantasy, or cruising the bars searching for the “one” who will have sex in a public toilet, or going to dungeons to be whipped, flogged and humiliated, sex addiction is a devastating illness that takes an enormous toll. Friends slip away. Hobbies and activities once enjoyed are dropped. Financial security crumbles as sums as high as $40,000 or $50,000 a year are spent on sex. Then there is perpetual fear of exposure. Relationships with partners are ruined, as the appeal of intimate sex with a partner pales in comparison to the intense “high” of indulging in the dark and devious world of sexual compulsion.

What is a sex addict? Sex addiction, of course, has nothing to do with sex. Any sexual act or apparent “perversion” has no meaning outside of its psychological, unconscious context. A simple definition of sex addiction is not dissimilar to definitions of other addictions. But a simple definition of this complex and intractable condition doesn’t suffice. What sets sex addiction apart from other addictions and makes it so persistent is that the subject of sex touches on our innermost unconscious wishes and fears, our sense of self, our very identity.

Current treatment might include participation in a 12-step program, going to an outpatient clinic, working with the Patrick Carnes material, aversion therapy, or the use of medications to stave off hypersexuality. Most therapy is cognitive-behavioral, designed to help the patient to control or repress the instinct for a period of time, usually out of a desire to comply with the group norms of their 12-step meeting or a need to please the therapist. While I recognize the efficacy the 12-step programs to provide structure and support, in my opinion, the reason that relapse is so prevalent is that these treatment modalities do not effect long-term structural personality change that eliminates the compulsion at its roots. Current treatment does not aim to transform psychic energies so that the reality sector of the mind dominates the personality so that the impulse to act out can be understood and controlled.

While the definition of sex addiction is the same as that of other addictions (recurrent failure to control the behavior and continuation of the behavior despite increasingly harmful consequences), sexual compulsion is set apart from other addictions in that sex involves our innermost unconscious wishes, fears and conflicts. Sex addiction is a symbolic enactment of deeply entrenched unconscious dysfunctional relational patterns with self and others. It involves a person’s derailed developmental process that occurred as a result of inadequate parenting. Hence, permanent growth and change are most likely to occur in the arena of contemporary psychoanalysis, which seeks understanding and repair of these unconscious dysfunctional relational patterns along with the development of a more unified and structured sense of self. This new personality restructuring can better self-regulate feeling states without the use of a destructive defense like sexualization and can find meaning, enjoyment, intimacy, meaningful goal setting and achievement from attainable and appropriate sources in life.

The remainder of this paper will give a brief overview of the historical psychoanalytic views about sexual deviance, and will then articulate the current analytic understanding about the dynamics and treatment of sexual compulsions.

Any discussion of historical psychoanalysis must, ipso facto, begin with Sigmund Freud. Freud formulated that sexual deviance occurs due to an incomplete resolution of the Oedipus complex, with its concomitant castration anxiety. Unconscious castration anxiety occurs in the person’s present-day consciousness in the form of fear of confrontation, retaliation, or rebuke, a sense of inadequacy, and perhaps doubts about gender identity. Sex addiction, according to Freud, is a defensive way to cope with a tenuous sense of masculinity combined with unrelenting anxiety about sex, women, intimacy, aggression, and competition. Analysts that followed Freud held varying views. Sexual compulsions derive from an insatiable need for approval, prestige, power, bolstering of self-esteem, love and security which are experienced as being necessary for survival. The addict experiences the absence of sexual acting out as a threat to his very existence.

Characteristic of any addict is a long history of a disturbed mother-child relationship. An unempathic, narcissistic, depressed or alcoholic mother has low tolerance for the child’s stress and frustrations. Nor is she able to supply the empathy, attention, nurturing and support that foster healthy development. The result in later life is separation anxiety, fear of abandonment and a sense of imminent self-fragmentation. This anxiety sends the sex addict running to his eroticized, fantasy cocoon where he experiences safety, security, a diminution of anxiety as well as the quelling of an unconscious wish to establish and maintain the missing, yet essential tie to mother. Typical of this person is the hope that he can find an idealized “other” who can embody, actualize and make concrete the longed for endlessly nurturing parent. This approach is doomed to failure. Inevitably, the other person’s needs start to impinge on the fantasy. The result is frustration, loneliness and disappointment.

On the other hand, a mother can be overly intrusive and attentive. She may be unconsciously seductive, perhaps using the child as a replacement for an emotionally unavailable spouse. The child perceives the mother’s inability to set appropriate boundaries as seductive and as a massive disillusionment. Later in life, the addict is hypersexual and has trouble setting boundaries. Real intimacy is experienced as an engulfing burden. The disillusionment of not experiencing appropriate parental boundaries is acted out later in life by the addict’s unconscious belief that the rules don’t apply to him with regards to sex, although he may be regulated and compliant in other parts of his life.

A major theme for all addictions is that they have experienced profound and chronic need deprivation throughout childhood. Addicts in general sustain emotional injury within the realm of the mother-infant interaction as well as with other relationships. Intense interpersonal anxiety is the result of this early-life emotional need deprivation. In later life, the person experiences anxiety in all intimate relationships. Because the sex addict has anxiety about being unable to get what he needs from real people and because his desperate search for the fulfillment of unmet childhood needs inevitably end in disillusionment, he inevitably returns to his reliance on sexual fantasies and enactments to alleviate anxiety about connection and intimacy and as a way to achieve a sense of self-affirmation.

Sex, for the addict, begins to be his primary value and a confirmation of his sense of self. Feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and worthlessness magically disappear while sexually preoccupied , through acting out or through spending untold hours on the internet. However, the use of sex to meet self-centered needs for approval or validation precludes using it to meet the intimacy needs of a cherished other. Characteristic of this kind of narcissism is the viewing of other human beings not as whole people who have their own feelings, wants and needs, but rather as deliverers of desperately needed satisfaction that shores up a fragile sense of self. This sets up a cycle wherein his narcissism prevents him from deriving satisfaction from mutual, reciprocal relationships in real-life. Sexualizing, once again, is returned to as a magical elixir wherein his needs are magically met without having to negotiate the very real vicissitudes of intimate relationships.

A client of mine, a 48-year-old attractive single man, is in the process of the breaking up of yet another relationship. After spending years of living a noxious childhood household, he went into his own world of fantasizing and masturbation as a way to soothe and protect himself.

“When I was a kid, I was obsessed with beautiful women in the magazines. When I was able to date, I went through one woman after another. In adulthood, I knew there was sadness and anger I didn’t want to face. To evade them, I had a steady stream of women who worshipped me, soothed me, paid attention to my needs. I went to peep shows and I visited prostitutes. Many a night I would spend hours in my car circling the block looking for just the right street-walker to give me oral sex in my car. One night I had sex with a transvestite. I cried all the way home.”

He met a girl whom he designated as “perfect – my redemption, my salvation.” He became engaged but soon lost interest in the sex, which he described as “boring”. While still engaged, he started picking up hookers for oral sex in the car and began compulsively using phone sex.

His current relationship is breaking up because he picked a woman for her youth and beauty (which reflected well on his narcissistic self). The rest of the story is predictable. They moved in together and the beautiful, young, sexy female started become real and having needs of her own. He admits he never felt warmth or love for her; she was merely a supplier of his narcissistic needs. As the relationship deteriorates, he fights the impulses to return to sex with strangers who don’t make demand on him.

Another client of mine, a 38-year-old married man, has a compulsion to visit prostitutes. Three years into the treatment, he was finally able to talk about his anger towards his mother for depriving him emotionally through neglect and for never touching or caressing him. He can now make a connection between visits to the prostitutes and his hostility against mother for depriving him of sensual pleasure. He got lost in the mire of his parents’ constant feuding.

“When I was very young I would put a blanket on my genitals as a kind of soothing which I wasn’t getting from my parents. The rest of my life was a struggle to find other ways to soothe myself. When I discovered prostitutes, I thought I was in heaven. I can get sex now and be in total control. I can have it immediately, any way I want it, whenever I want it. I don’t have to concern myself with the girl, as long as I pay her. I don’t have to concern myself with vulnerability and rejection. This is my controlled pleasure world. This is the ultimate antithesis of the deprivation of my childhood.”

The use of sexualization as a defense is a common theme that runs through the psychoanalytic literature. A defense is a mechanism the young child devises to psychologically survive a noxious family environment. While this way of protecting himself works well for a period of time, the continuous use of it as an adult is destructive to the person’s ongoing functioning and sense of well being.

By losing himself in sexual fantasies and constantly seeing others as potential sex partners, or by erotic internet enactments, the sex addict is able to significantly reduce and control a wide variety of threatening and uncomfortable emotional states. Most addicts control or bind potentially overwhelming anxiety via the addiction process. Diminution of depression, anxiety and rage are some of the pay-offs that operate to facilitate and maintain life in the erotic cocoon.

I quote another patient which illustrates a case of narcissistic personality together with the use of sexualization as a defense. He is a 52-year old attractive, successful single man.

“I went on a date the other night. She wanted sex. I didn’t. It’s predictable. I don’t think I can even maintain an erection anymore. While a spend untold hours compulsively websurfing to live in my erotic fantasies, when it becomes real, when you find someone who seems to be the embodiment of your sexual pre-occupation, interest soon wanes as her wants and needs come into the picture. Sometimes, I don’t even bother with the pursuit of real women, because I know the inevitable result is disillusionment. I’m simply not prepared to meet somebody else’s needs.

Oddly enough, my life is still dominated by sex. It becomes the lens through which I view everything. I go to a family gathering and get lost in sexual fantasies about my teenage nieces. I live in constant fear of being found out to be a “pervert”. I see a woman on the train dressed in a way that triggers me, and I’m ruined for the day. Regular sex just doesn’t do it for me anymore. It’s got to be bizarre or forbidden or “out of the box”. I arrive at work in an erotic haze. Women around me are all objects of sexual fantasy. I’m distracted; not focused. If something requires my attention, when real life intrudes and yanks me out of my sexual preoccupation, I get angry. Real life is so boring. Ordinary sex with a girlfriend holds no interest for me.”

This patient uses sexualization as a defense. He uses his sexual pre-occupation as a way to ward off chronic feelings of loneliness, inadequacy and emptiness born of a childhood trying to get nurturing from a withdrawn, depressed mother. When stress or anxiety begins to overwhelm the regulation of his emotions, he is beset by intense urges to indulge in his fantasies and enactments. Sexualization thus becomes his standard way of managing feelings that he perceives to be intolerable as well as a way of stabilizing a crumbling sense of self-worth.

It is my belief that sex addiction requires a contemporary psychoanalytic approach. Psychoanalysis changed drastically in the 1970′s with the work of a prominent psychoanalyst who jettisoned the Freudian approach and established a kind of treatment that is particularly useful in treating sex addiction. Contemporary analysts no longer conduct treatment three-times a week on the couch. They do not unearth hidden meanings, or remain silent, or put themselves on a “thrown” as being the “One Who Knows”. The process is a shared one and the relationship between patient and therapist is co-created and mutual.

Some contemporary psychoanalysts use the concept of a vertical split in treating the addict. The split exists from inadequate parenting which results in structural deficits in the personality. Patients often report that they feel fraudulent, living two separate lives with two different sets of values and goals. They feel they’re acting out a version of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekell and Mr. Hyde.”

One sector of the personality, the one anchored in reality, is the responsible husband and father. This part of the person is conscious, adaptive, anchored in reality, structured, and often successful in business. This is also the sector that experiences guilt and shame about his sexual behaviors and ultimately drives him to seek therapy to ameliorate his misery.

The “Mr. Hyde” side of the vertical split has a completely different set of values and seems to be impervious to his own moral injunctions. “Mr. Hyde” represents the unconscious, split-off part of the personality. It is impulse-ridden, lives in erotic fantasy, and is sexualized, unstructured and unregulated. This side of the vertical split seems to be incapable of thinking impulses through, and thus is oblivious to the consequences of his behavior. This is the part of the self that is hidden, dark, driven and enslaved.

A comprehensive discussion of the actual process of therapy is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice to say, the therapist uses him/herself as an instrument in integrating the split which results in personality structure building. Treatment bridges the gap of the split. Its aim is the establishment of a relationship with the therapist that regulates emotional states, is used as a “laboratory” to bring to consciousness maladaptive relationship patterns, provides empathy and understanding and reconstructs the childhood origin of the addiction. The goal is an integrated self that is able to merely experience a sexual fantasy without being preoccupied with it and without acting out a damaging sexual scenario.

The patient achieves some ability to self-regulate moods, and to seek out adequate and sustaining available supportive relationships both in and out of treatment. He is then free to put sexuality in its proper place and free up energies to gain satisfaction from real relationships, pursue creative or intellectual goals, obtain pleasure from hobbies and activities, and have a heightened sense of self-esteem, thus enabling him to end his isolation. He is then free to love, to have deeply satisfying, self-affirming sex, work to his potential, and experience being a valued member of the human community.