Sexual addiction is a complex disorder that has received a lot of attention in the past couple of years, largely due to celebrities who sought treatment for it after their extra-marital affairs were exposed. Many people assume that a sexual addiction involves an out-of-control drive to have sex (i.e. intercourse or oral sex) with a variety of different partners. While this may be true in many cases, there are actually many different types of sex addiction. In other words, this particular addiction can manifest in a variety of ways besides what most would deem “traditional” sexual activity. This is one of the things that sets sexual addiction apart from addictions like alcoholism and drug addiction and one of the reasons some treatment professionals prefer the terminology “hypersexual disorders.”
For sexual addicts, the goal is sexual stimulation. They crave it just like an alcoholic craves alcohol or a junkie craves his next high. Because the craving is so powerful, they’ll go to great lengths to satisfy it – often with no regard for the consequences. Unfortunately, some types of sex addiction, such as exhibitionism and pedophilia, are illegal. Not only can they land the addict in jail or prison (when caught), they often cause serious psychological trauma to the victims – particularly for victims of pedophilia.
Opinions regarding sex addiction vary. Dr. Patrick Carnes, author of the book “Don’t Call it Love” and an expert on the topic, discusses ten different types of sex addiction which will be discussed below. However, others include a few additional ones that he doesn’t. Regardless of the actual activity, the common factor is that when it is part of the addiction it is devoid of any genuine intimacy or love.
Following is an overview of different types of sex addiction behaviors. Keep in mind that some of these sexual activities (when done in moderation) are not necessarily considered deviant or part of an addiction. They may occur within the context of a normal sexual relationship.
Unlike most other types of sex addiction, fantasy sex occurs when individuals are obsessed with fantasies that are sexual in nature. Although they may involve a romantic partner or lover, they typically allow the person to remain detached from anything that resembles genuine intimacy. In that sense, they provide an escape from reality.
When part of a sex addiction, these fantasies preoccupy a significant amount of the individual’s time and energy. They can be incredibly intense and often interfere with the ability to develop any real feelings of love towards the sexual object. Mature love includes an unconditional acceptance of the other person. Fantasy sex, however, often involves unrealistic expectations (e.g. a partner with a flawless body) and scenarios.
Sex addicts who engage in anonymous sex are excited and gratified by having sex with complete strangers. They may have frequent one-night stands, pay for a prostitute, or have sex with a variety of partners whose identities remain anonymous. The anonymity is part of what makes the sex exciting, while allowing the sex addict to avoid developing any real feelings of love or intimacy. This not only serves as an emotionally protective barrier, but also helps maintain the sexual attraction. Once the anonymity is broken, the sex addict loses interest.
One of the most common types of sex addiction involves paying for sex. This allows the sex addict to have an endless stream of willing sexual partners. Paid sex often involves paying for a prostitute or “escort”, but it also includes paying for phone sex. In many instances, anonymous sex involves paid sex. The primary exception would be the sex addict who sees the same prostitute on a regular basis – sometimes for years.
Typically, paid sex doesn’t allow for any real emotional connection to develop. This is primarily due to the fact that it’s nothing more than a business transaction for the individual who’s being paid. They rarely have any genuine interest in any type of real relationship with the other person.
Sex for Trade
This is essentially the flip side of paid sex. Sex for trade types of sex addiction occur when it’s the addict who’s receiving compensation for sex. The compensation often comes in the form of money or drugs but may also include gifts or even necessities, such as shelter. Although the addict is treating sex as a business, the underlying drive often has to do with the sense of power obtained from charging others for sex. In some cases, the sex addict desperately needs the drugs (when they’re addicted to those as well) or basic survival.
One of the riskiest types of sex addiction, in terms of getting caught and prosecuted, is exhibitionism. Sex addicts who are exhibitionists are sexually turned on by “flashing” their genitals (usually in public) to people. Part of the excitement for exhibitionists is often due to their victims’ startled or disgusted response. They also get aroused from the attention they receive.
Some exhibitionists exposes themselves via pornography (e.g. in photos or videos), stripping in a club, or being part of a peep show. Some exhibitionists fondle themselves or blatantly masturbate while exposing themselves. Like some other types of sexual addiction, no actual physical contact is made with the other person, and the activity doesn’t include any emotional connection.
Another one of the more common types of sex addiction, voyeurism involves the act of spying on unwitting individuals. The victims of voyeurs are usually fully or partially naked. They are involved in an activity that is very personal or intimate in nature, such as showering or bathing, getting dressed or undressed, having sex, or even going to the bathroom. Voyeurs are sexually aroused by watching their victim, and often masturbate while they are observing the other person. Part of the arousal and excitement for many voyeurs is the secretive and exploitative nature of the activity.
Voyeurs – who are often called “peeping Toms” – satisfy their cravings in a variety of ways. These include spying on someone with a telescope, binoculars, hidden camera or video recording device, or through a hole in the wall. Other more “acceptable” means (i.e. there isn’t an unsuspecting victim) used by voyeurs include viewing pornography or going to peep shows. Voyeuristic sex is a very isolated activity which prevents any type of emotional (or physical) connection with the desired object.
Seductive Role Sex
This is one of the types of sex addiction that can be very cunning. In seductive role sex, addicts gets others to engage in sexual activity with them by using manipulative ploys, persuasion, or charm. Rather than developing any kind of genuine connection with the other person, they treat him or her as a conquest. Part of the arousal and excitement comes from the challenge of getting the other person to comply. This gives the addict a gratifying sense of power. These sex addicts may have numerous relationships – sometimes at the same time as well as one after the other.
Pain and humiliation are the primary components of sadomasochism, often referred to as S&M. Sex addicts who engage in sadomasochism may be primarily sadistic or masochistic. Sadists are sexually aroused by humiliating or causing pain to their partner. They enjoy dominating their partner, who may or may not be consenting to the interaction. Masochists, on the other hand, are sexually stimulated when they experience pain or are the object of humiliation.
While sadists require another person (or in some cases, an animal) for their activity, masochists often inflict pain upon themselves. Types of activities in S&M often include whipping, hitting or beating, cutting or scratching, burning, shocking, and choking. In some cases, serious injury and even death may occur.
This is one of the types of sex addiction that involves touching someone in a sexual manner without their consent. The addict usually touches the genitalia, breasts, or buttocks of their victim. Frotteurism, which involves rubbing up against someone, is one type of intrusive sex. It often occurs in a crowded public venue in which the addict can easily escape.
Intrusive sex often involves someone who has authority or power over their victims. For example, police officers, prison guards, and others who often have to “pat down” or restrain individuals as part of their job may engage in this type of sexual gratification. Also, sex addicts who are teachers, priests, and parents may sexually exploit children and adolescents in this manner. It is not uncommon for their young victims to misinterpret the attention as genuine caring or love. This is the victims often have a sense of loyalty towards their perpetrator.
Individuals who engage in exploitative sex obtain sexual pleasure by coercing the other person to participate. This includes pedophilia (having sex with children) and rape. The victims are often very vulnerable (such as children, invalids or disabled, or hospital patients). The addict obtains gratification from the power they are able to exert over their victims. Exploitative sex may involve sadism. While many types of sex addiction can cause significant emotional trauma for the other person, exploitative sex, by its very nature, is especially traumatic for the victim.
Many types of sex addiction result in serious consequences for the addict. Potential consequences include losing custody and visitation rights of their children, ending up in jail or prison, job loss, financial difficulties, serious health issues or physical injuries, and relationship problems. As with any addiction, however, the addict continues to seek gratification in spite of these consequences.
Treatment is available for sex addicts. Its effectiveness depends on a variety of factors, however. In many cases, the sex addict undergoes treatment as part of a court mandate rather than seeking it on their own. Denial, shame, potential humiliation, and / or the fear of legal consequences prevent many sex addicts from voluntarily pursuing treatment. Psychotherapy is one of the primary forms of treatment for sex addiction. Group therapy, medication, and other treatment methods may also be included in the treatment regimen.