Sexual Mores, Addiction and Women: Why We Need a New Paradigm

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A few days back, Archana and I watched a movie titled “Addicted”.  The story was of an African-American lady entrepreneur, Zoe Reynard (played by Sharon Leal) who used to sign up artists and work with the different companies to promote their work.  This would mean marketing their work on posters, calendars or books etc.  Great business model and a very good business.  She has a handsome and loving husband and great kids.  Her mom lives with them and also helps out with the kids all the time.  She has an amazing assistant who basically sets up all sorts of deals for her so that the company can soar higher.

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Perfect life and perfect world.

addictedBut, despite an active sex life, she has a need for more.  After making out with her husband, she goes off to watch some porn and help herself climax again.  In short, her sexual desires are not fully met by a very active and loving husband.  Then, one day, she meets a Latino artist who is flirtatious and also very handsome.  She goes to meet him to get him to sign on to her company – which he does – and gets lured by him into a love making session.  She finds this very satisfying and from there starts their illicit relationship.  Soon, she comes to know that he is involved with someone else as well.  Not satisfied with him, she goes to a night bar, where she sees an African-American guy – handsome and “ready” – and has sex with him in the bathroom.  Soon she “uses” him as well as the artist, even though she is trying hard to get away from them both.  She is also seeing a counselor to get off this “addiction”.  Despite knowing that she is being sucked into the world of illicit relationships, and lying to her husband, kids and mother, she just cannot get over the urge to go “for more”.

Ultimately, there is showdown where one of her lover dies and she is caught by her husband.  Finally, her husband accepts her back and they work on her “addiction”.  The hidden culprit for her addictive behavior was in her past.  Child-hood actually!

The whole premise of the movie was very intriguing and dealt with a subject seldom touched.  I wanted to delve further into the reasons of behavior – specially amongst women.  What my research threw up was most interesting.  Let us take a look.

Sexual arousal and women

Sexual addiction is common in both men and women.  Tiger Woods, actors Russell Brand, David Duchovny (X-Files fame) and celeb Jesse James have been known to have seeked help for their addiction.  Even women are addicted to sex just as men are.  Here is a story of a writer from Los Angeles who came out with her story of sex addiction.

After that, sex was always on my mind. Dredging through the book “Treasure Island” in seventh grade, I told myself I was allowed to masturbate to orgasm at the end of each chapter so I could finish by the due date. There are 34 chapters in that book and, having made that deal, I breezed through them over the course of a few blissed out days. Robert Louis Stevenson will forever be an erotic novelist in my mind.

Women the world over and through the centuries have been “sexual codependents”.  Taking charge and feeling good and righteous about sex has never been allowed to them.  In her book “Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search For Love and Power”, author Charlotte Kasl says something very interesting – In general, sex addicts tend to use (manipulate) relationships in order to have sex, whereas sexual codependents use (manipulate) sex in order to keep relationships. Neither group has a clue as to true intimacy.

Some say that by acting out sexually, women may be trying to react against the society.  Actually, in many addictions that women fall into that might be true.

Even though women go through the exact same – or more pronounced physical impact of visual stimulation from sexual content, they tend to under-rate it.  That has been the findings of many studies (The Many Shades of Lust: How men buy glasses and women become helpful!).

Porn has been the most common way to elicit and measure the element of lust in people.  Most of the porn world since historic times has focused on depiction of women in explicit situations.  But is porn’s impact only exclusive to men?  Studies reveal an interesting twist.

In fact, studies by Meredith Chivers show that women react as strongly to porn as men do. In some cases, it seems that women actually react more strongly to porn than do men, as women respond with physiological arousal to visual depictions of almost any sexual activity, whereas men seem to be much more rigid and limited in what they respond to. But, whereas men respond with both physical and psychological arousal, women more frequently show physical arousal, at the same time they deny being turned on. So, women react to porn, they may just be unwilling or unable to acknowledge it – after all, they aresex taught from childhood that “good girls don’t do that!”

While men show a strong correlation between their physical and mental indicators of arousal, women deny that they are aroused even when the physical indicators show a much higher level of arousal than men.  This dissonance has been genetically ingrained in women over the ages.  There are two reasons for this – One, the social expectation of what a “good girl” is, and second, giving in to a sexually attractive man does not ensure a “good” long term partner.  Women are wired to look for a “good” and “committed” partner as opposed to a physically attractive one!

This film shows how women behave differently.

The “Infidelity Gene

Now, with the studies on psychology and physiology of the female sexuality, comes another revelation.  Of the Infidelity Gene.  This special gene has been found to be common amongst those who have reported infidelity to their partners.

This past March, Richard Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, made the claim that some people are genetically predisposed to infidelity. Apparently, women who carry variations of the AVPR1A (a receptor of a hormone arginine vasopressin gene) are simply “biologically inclined to wander.” I don’t know though, last time I checked daddy issues aren’t inherited.

A majority of Friedman’s theory goes off of a Finnish study on siblings in Genetic analysis of human extrapair mating, led by psychologist Brendan P. Zietsch, and published in the Evolution and Human Behavior journal. While the study in question did find an apparent association between a number of AVPR1A receptors and extrapair mating in the female participants (although no such association was found in the male participants), the study also admits its inability to replicate results of previous studies. (Source)

Apparently, women can blame it on their heritage, if not upbringing for their indiscretions after all.

Chilhood abuse and Sex Addiction

Sharon O’Hara writes in Psychcentral on the women addicts:

Women sex addicts, on the other hand, tend to use sex for power, control, and attention. They score high on measures of fantasy sex, seductive role sex, trading sex, and pain exchange.

Women who are prone to sex addiction and infidelity may have some child-hood trauma to look into for their situation.  In the movie, “Addicted”, Zoe Reynard – the protagonist – finally has to come to terms with the memories of a child-hood rape to pinpoint where the anomaly of her psychological behavior stemmed from.

The urge to control and get attention are very common amongst those who have suffered child-hood abuse.  That is why it can play into heightened sexual behavior in some cases for women.  It all impacts different people – both men and women – differently.

Early childhood trauma and/or sexual abuse often lead women (and men) in adult life to problems with addictive sex and/or serial cheating. Such women repeatedly seek emotional intensity rather than relational intimacy. Women with unresolved childhood trauma as well as those with emotional instability — women who carry an uneven and disjointed sense of self — can seek consistency and feelings of importance through intensity-based romantic and/or sexual activity.

Feeling “in control” over someone desiring or wanting them sexually/romantically helps them to approximate feelings of worth, importance, belonging, and emotional safety. Female relationship and sex addicts use a constant stream of sexual activity to fulfill unmet emotional needs, and also to avoid being needful, genuine, and intimate with someone who could hurt them (as happened when they were when young). (Source)

Addiction is an addiction is an addiction

Yes, that is a realization that, most caregivers, loved ones, and close relations of those who end up in the state of addiction, do not come to soon enough.  They use lack of morality as the cause and all the treatment that goes along with that – including invoking the topic of “sin” etc.

Whether it is alcohol or drugs or sex or anything else, the spiralling downward of a mind that is controlled by the lure of that “soothing agent” – however devastating it may be – cannot be taken lightly.  It needs help and care.  But for that the person who is addicted needs to take action.  Most times, the action may prove to be inadequate.  But one needs to persist.

In some way, we all are products of our past.  If we weren’t, we would be enlightened beings.  The power of the past is visible in the similarity of your nose to that of your grandfather’s (for example).  The body has its own memory, just as mind has it.  Intimacy – whether forced or otherwise – creates memories in your body which are skewed.  It takes great awareness to transcend that powerful suction of the past.

To lead a full life – and not that of a ‘slave’ to abuse of some substance or behavior – one needs to get off of the merry-go-round.

For women, sexual freedom does not only mean bra-burning or parading in nude in the downtown of a major city.  But to acknowledge what is genuinely being said by their body.  And see that their minds and bodies are aligned in their approach to personal intimacy with their partner.  Just as it is nothing unusual for a man to express his sexual self, there should be no shame in a woman doing so too.  That itself will be a good start for many who could end up where Zoe Reynard found herself after the cover blew off!

Featured Image courtesy : Telegraph

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