Friday, April 09, 2010

Sex addiction (by Suzie)

“How much can a Swedish woman forgive?” asks the headline on an AP article datelined Stockholm. It says some women there wonder why Elin Nordegren hasn’t left Tiger Woods already. “She is, after all, from Sweden — a nation famous for its strong-willed and independent women.”

“Sweden is still a champion of women's rights,” the article continues, but has become more conservative about couples divorcing if they have children. It quotes relationship coach Asa Hellberg:
If you take care of your own problems and scrutinize your own codependency, and the partner seeks help for his sexual addiction, then you can stay in the relationship.
Wrongheaded Idea No. 1: When your partner cheats, you need to examine what you did wrong, too. If you don’t, plenty of people will do it for you, suggesting you were too independent or let yourself go or didn’t satisfy his sexual needs or didn’t treat him well in some other fashion.

Wrongheaded Idea No. 2: If you’re a feminist and/or a strong woman, you must leave a cheating man. Your feminist credentials shouldn’t get yanked if you stay, as some people tried to do with Hillary Clinton. Perhaps you accept that your partner isn't faithful, but you love and respect him for other qualities. Just be forewarned that others may accuse you of staying with him for all the wrong reasons, just as they may accuse you of not thinking about the children if you leave him.

Wrongheaded Idea No. 3: If someone has multiple affairs, he's a sex addict. An article by the Mercury News quotes mental-health professionals discussing whether the label is valid. One says it applies if someone remains preoccupied with sex "despite mounting negative consequences." For Woods, Jesse James, David Duchovny and others, they had multiple affairs before being busted.

One way that addiction to sex differs from addiction to substances and gambling is that the first can directly harm other people, while gambling and substance abuse often hurt people indirectly. A woman can gamble away the money needed for groceries for her kids or neglect them when she's drunk, for example. But the alcohol and money are objects. If a man obsessively pays for prostitutes, strippers or porn, or he becomes a voyeur -- all activities mentioned in the article -- he's treating women like objects and hurting at least some of them. Of course, he also may hurt other people if he runs out of money and can't pay child support, for example. The article mentions countless one-night stands, and it's possible he uses alcohol, drugs or deceit (insinuating that he can help their career or he wants to have a longer relationship, for example) to gain consent from at least a few of them. I hope therapy addresses why he thinks women are disposable objects.

Sex addiction can escalate into other criminal behavior, including rape, according to "However, it should be noted that sex addicts do not necessarily become sex offenders." That's reassuring.

ETA: Women are diagnosed much less often with sex addiction, and the activities tend to differ, according to a Suite 101 author. In general, they don't buy men.