Sunday, May 01, 2011

Why I think I'm a sex addict

A few weeks ago, I had a really terrible conversation with my mother about my past. To wit: her live-in boyfriend, who, while I was a teenager, left pornography all around the house. Which I consumed voraciously.

My sexual activity and appetite have been insatiable for as long as I can remember. I don't know if this pre- or post-dated the porn. It's definitely led me to get too physical too quickly with men I've dated. Which, as everyone knows, is the best way to get a relationship to end as quickly as possible.

I started wondering if I have an actual sex addiction. I spoke with a friend who's an addiction counselor, and he asked me a very pertinent question.

"How do you feel when you haven't had sex for a long time, Ayelet?"

"I get angry," I said. "Frustrated. Impatient. Snappish. People annoy me; I resent them."

"Sounds like withdrawal," he said. "I think you might be a functional sex addict."

So I took the sexual addiction screening test (female version), which appears on several reputable websites like HealthyPlace and PsychCentral. Here it is, with my answers:
  1. Were you sexually abused as a child or adolescent? No
  2. Do you regularly purchase romance novels or sexually explicit magazines? No
  3. Have you stayed in romantic relationships after they become emotionally or physically abusive? Yes
  4. Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts or romantic day dreams? Yes
  5. Do you feel that your sexual behavior is not normal? Yes
  6. Does your spouse or significant other(s) ever worry or complain about your sexual behavior? No
  7. Do you have trouble stopping your sexual behavior when you know it is inappropriate? Yes
  8. Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behavior? Yes
  9. Has your sexual behavior ever created problems for you and your family? Yes
  10. Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like? No
  11. Have you ever worried about people finding out about your sexual activities? Yes
  12. Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior? Yes
  13. Have you ever participated in sexual activity in exchange for money or gifts? Yes
  14. Do you have times when you act out sexually followed by periods of celibacy (no sex at all)? Yes
  15. Have you made efforts to quit a type of sexual activity and failed? Yes
  16. Do you hide some of your sexual behavior from others? Yes
  17. Do you find yourself having multiple romantic relationships at the same time? Yes
  18. Have you ever felt degraded by your sexual behavior? Yes
  19. Has sex or romantic fantasies been a way for you to escape your problems? Yes
  20. When you have sex, do you feel depressed afterwards? No
  21. Do you regularly engage in sado-masochistic behavior? No
  22. Has your sexual activity interfered with your family life? No
  23. Have you been sexual with minors? No
  24. Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire or fantasies of romance? Yes
  25. Do you ever think your sexual desire is stronger than you are? Yes
How is the test scored?
    1-3 (Your sexual behavior may be an area of concern)
    3-5 (Your answers indicate professional help for sexually compulsive or addictive behavior is warranted)
    6+ (Your answers reveal that you clearly have a problem with potentially self abusive and/or dangerous consequences. You should seek treatment with a trained professional.)
I got a 16. So I'm inclined to think I might have a problem. And as addicts love to do, I'm looking for someone to blame. I know that my father's death propelled me into emotional neediness. I used to watch "The Newlywed Game" as a little girl and dream about being a bride. I was obsessed with having a boyfriend in elementary and middle school. And high school too, and college. But in college I started having sex.

So combining emotional neediness with the sex drive of a teenage boy (which has not much abated, to my dismay), I spent my twenties and thirties trying, trying, trying to find true love and great sex. I found a lot of good sex, but precious little love. And since I wasn't really well medicated until well into my thirties, I had a lot of the kind of sex that led me to answer "yes" to a lot of those screener questions. One-night stands with complete strangers. It's a miracle I never got raped, killed, or HIV.

Most of those encounters took place during periods of hypomania, which confounds the issue because hypersexuality is a symptom. But at other times, I was perfectly lucid and -- hungry. Craving. So I hooked up.

I downloaded a list of Sexaholics Anonymous meetings, but I've been too ashamed to go. And right now, I need to focus on getting a job and getting along with my colleagues. But this is something I have to address eventually.

The 10 pounds I've gained during unemployment might protect me somewhat from male interest, which is bad for my ego but good for my virtue. And once I'm able to exercise more, hopefully I'll get to a weight I'm comfortable with. Either way, fat or normal weight, a woman can always find a man to have sex with. So I need to take care of this issue.

And right now I'm not speaking to my mother. Because she still lives with that douchebag. I know I'm only trying to blame them for my problems, and since I'm the only person responsible for me and my problems, I have to accept and forgive. But I just can't right now.


  1. It's definitely led me to get too physical too quickly with men I've dated. Which, as everyone knows, is the best way to get a relationship to end as quickly as possible.

    I'm not sure why everyone knows this. Or even that everyone does.

  2. Men lose interest if you give in too easily -- or if you're the aggressor. It's happened in almost every relationship I've ever been in.

  3. you sound like a normal person. I know someone who is a sex addict, and he flunked out of college and lost jobs because he was compulsively watching porn and jerking off all night long and couldn't wake up for work. Hooking up when you are single for a while, having sex maybe a little too soon after meeting someone, that's perfectly normal. (I know not from a religious sense, but from a biological sense...humans have a biological need to have sex).

  4. oh and when I was a teenager I obsessively read the porn books my mom left hidden in the bottom of her drawer. Totally normal. The Kinsey report found that like 85% of women admitted to masturbating, and quite a few people use porn or else the industry woudln't be popular.

  5. AE, I'm willing to bet you never called a phone sex line and invited a stranger to come over and have sex with you. Twice in one night.

  6. not through a phone line per se, but I had many one night stands with people I just met when I was single, and I've hooked up with more than one dude on the same day. :) I've also met up with dudes (from the internet) specifically to hook up with them, which we both knew in advance was going to happen. I don't think it's all that different.

    If it's interfering with your life then it's a problem, if you are doing it compulsively and not enjoying it at all then it may be a problem, but if you just enjoy NSA sex, why medicalize it into some kind of problem? Is it possible you are just breaking some norms about how you feel you *should* act and are feeling guilty about breaking those norms?

    I don't know, maybe I run with a wild crowd, but I know lots of people who are polygamists (not the religious kind), who go to orgies and sex parties, who are into s and m and get beaten by random people at clubs, who dress up as pirates and go camping at pirate sex festivals, I even know some sex workers and people who have appeared in calling a sex line and hooking up with some random dudes, even two in one night, seems pretty vanilla to me :)

  7. oh and as for the hooking up too soon...I've found that to be the case too, if you hook up on the first date many dudes will assume you were just in it for a one night stand. Which is why I had a 4th date rule for hook ups with dudes I was interested in a relationship in (and a 1st date rule for dudes who would have never worked out, ha!)

  8. Maybe I should just adopt a 4th-date rule ;)

  9. Guess I should warn my wife, then.

    We were living together within three days, and we've been married for nearly 20 years.

  10. "Either way, fat or normal weight, a woman can always find a man to have sex with"- Ha, reminds me of a Chris Rock skit!

    ...still, I think over-sexual could be better for a woman than under-sexual, 'cause from most of what I've heard, it's usually the husband who wants to have sex and the wife who's uninterested. Even if they're busted-up it don't make them more needy or willing. So, a little less of that asexuality could do the world good in my opinion.

  11. HaTzair, I have often said that most husbands are wasted on wives. It's a trope of popular culture that husbands always want more sex than their wives. That would never be the case with me.

  12. Dave, you are the exception to the rule. Every time I've gotten sexual too fast in a relationship, it's led to problems.

  13. Don't sweat it, Ayelet. With all due respect, this test seems preposterously puritanical to me. The questions are so broad in scope, and they even include non-sexual factors. I think a large segment of the single population under 45 would score 15+, and 90% would score a 6+.