I've been thinking a lot lately about sex addicts. Not people who love sex and can't get enough of it (see my MySpace blog on Truths and Myths about being a slut for more on that one), but people who are truly addicted to sex, much the same as people are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. The people I'm thinking about need their "drug" of choice (including sex) so much that they pursue it even when they know it's definitely not in their own best interests.
Take Beth Walsh, my main character from my suspense novel High Risk. Beth, to all outward appearances, is just another yuppie housewife: affluent, beautiful, and basically a good person: she loves her mother; she volunteers at Chicago's Children's Hospital; she even seems to be a devoted wife to her attorney husband. But Beth's dark side is, I believe, sexual addiction. And, like any addict, I think Beth deserves compassion and sympathy because she's wrestling with more than just bad morals and poor impulse control when she tricks around behind the husband she proclaims to love, she's wrestling with a disease that has gone unchecked and uncontrolled for far too long.
To prove my point, I stepped once more inside Beth's twisted psyche to answer some questions for her. The questions below were developed by the Sexual Addicts Anonymous 12-step Program to help determine if you've crossed the line from simple horn dog to addict. So, as Beth, here are "her" answers to the questions that determine sexual addiction:
1. Do you keep secrets about your sexual or romantic activities from those important to you? Do you lead a double life?
Oh God, yes. I feel like almost everyone who knows me: my mom, my dad, and especially, Mark, my husband, would turn their backs on me in an instant if they knew some of the things I do when Mark is away at work. I definitely have a double life, complete with different clothes, make-up, and even a personality. I'm not proud of it, but there it is.
2. Have your needs driven you to have sex in places or situations or with people you would not normally choose?
This question makes me shudder when I think of some of the ways I've let myself be used (by a father and son in one shameful episode) in the pursuit of "pleasure." The funny thing is I never really get much "pleasure" from these experiences, yet I never seem to learn...the next time will always be better.
3. Do you find yourself looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media?
I don't have to. My weekday afternoons of promiscuity are enough to keep me "aroused"...and ashamed. But I will confess that seeing a hot man on a book cover or on TV or in a magazine can be enough to make me start guiltily planning my next adventure.
4. Do you find that romantic or sexual fantasies interfere with your relationships or are preventing you from facing problems?
Yes....in two ways, the first is when I start to get hungry for some "variety." As the need (or obsession) builds, I tend to block out the rest of my life to figure out how I can get my next "fix." Second, after I do have an encounter, I find the guilt and shame can make it hard for me to function normally with family and friends...the depression is too great.
5. Do you frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter?
Yes, I'm like a man in that regard (or at least some men I've run across). Once I've had an orgasm, the shame and guilt rush in and I just want to get home, and back to Mark, and back the person I wish I was.
6. Do you feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid touching your body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual feelings, that you are asexual?
Sometimes I wish I had these feelings, but I sometimes wonder if my hypersexuality has its roots in the way my father made me feel worthless growing up.
7. Does each new relationship continue to have the same destructive patterns which prompted you to leave the last relationship?
Since each new "relationship" usually lasts only for a few hours, this is a tough one to answer. I don't really have relationships, I have encounters. And, as I said above, these encounters should teach me a lesson about not getting the gratification I seek, but they never seem to.
8. Is it taking more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief?
Yes. I find myself doing things I never thought I was capable of...and with people I wouldn't normally have anything to do with in my "other" life.
9. Have you ever been arrested or are you in danger of being arrested because of your practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent phone calls, etc.?
The thoughts I have been having lately about a certain man, Abbott Lowery, who has been stalking me and threatening to expose me and ruin my life could certainly result in my being arrested...for murder. I'm scared.
10. Does your pursuit of sex or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs or development?
Who has time for spiritual development? So, yes. I know what I'm doing is wrong in so many ways, yet I can't seem to help myself.
11. Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence?
Oh yes. I am constantly afraid of bringing home an STD, or worse, HIV, to Mark. There's not only the risk of exposure and everything blowing up in my face, but there's also the horror of infecting an innocent person because of my behavior.
12. Has your sexual or romantic behavior ever left you feeling hopeless, alienated from others, or suicidal?
Sadly, yes. For everything I've said above. I feel especially alienated because no one knows the real me, the secrets I hide, and I fear that, if they did, they would hate me.
Sex Addicts Anonymous urges people who answer even one of these questions with a yes to seek help. Poor Beth. How low does she have to sink before she can get a grip on her self-destructive and high risk behavior?
Order High Risk to find out.