Porn via high-speed Internet has been described as the “crack cocaine” of sexually addictive behaviors. It is important to note that pornography is not problematic for everyone who views it and not everyone who watches pornography is a sex addict. Compulsive pornography use is marked by increased use of pornography, a diminished ability to resist urges to view pornography, repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop utilizing pornography, and use of pornography despite having endured negative consequences. Individuals addicted to pornography may prefer to masturbate while viewing pornography rather than engage in “real sex.” A significant body of scientific evidence and recent clinical studies indicate that compulsive pornography users experience the same brain changes and neural activity as drug addicts.
Paying for Sex
Individuals who are addicted to paying for sex engage in the exchange of money or goods for sex. These behaviors include the frequenting of sex workers such as escorts, prostitutes, erotic massage, erotic dancers (strippers and go-go dancers), paying for online “cam” shows and phone sex services. Persons addicted to paying for sex may seek “sugar daddy” type relationships. Paying for sex is a transactional experience absent of intimacy. Sex addicts who exhibit this behavior describe feeling guilt, shame and despair after paying for sex and often make promises to themselves never to do it again, yet find themselves repeating the activity again and again. Paying for sex is considered a high-risk behavior because it is illegal in most U.S. states. Sex addicts who pay for sex are often aroused by the sense of power they get from paying for the sexual act. It is typical of sex addicts who pay for sex to feel highly entitled and utilize well-developed rationalizations to avoid feeling profound shame, guilt, and insecurity about themselves.
Individuals addicted to anonymous sex are aroused by the lack of intimacy, lack of courting, and immediacy associated with this type of sexual behavior. Individuals seeking anonymous sex may frequent bathhouses; may “cruise” for partners in public areas such as parks, locker rooms, bars; and utilize phone apps in pursuit of one night stands or “no strings attached” sex. Persons addicted to anonymous sex spend significant amounts of time searching for anonymous sex partners and engage in more risky behaviors such as public anonymous sex and unprotected anonymous sex. Sex addicts may rationalize this behavior as having “a high sex drive” or describing their actions as part of the “social norm”. Individuals who engage in compulsive anonymous sex are typically in a dissociative state and may be highly compartmentalized in various aspects of their lives.
This behavior typically involves watching individuals disrobe or engage in sexual acts without their consent. Persons engaged in voyeurism may utilize cameras with a zoom lens, binoculars to look into others’ homes or stand in public places where they can catch a glimpse of individuals. The viewing of pornographic videos and photos can also be described as voyeuristic. A marked escalation in this behavior may include the use of secret cameras in order to record people (who have an expectation of privacy) and/or repeatedly walking past certain areas for hours hoping to see something sexual. Persons engaged in voyeurism may masturbate while voyeuring but orgasm is not the source of sexual satiation. Voyeurism is intrusive because it violates the boundaries of the individuals who are being observed without their consent. Voyeurs have strong rationalizations for their behaviors and often claim that if people did not want to be recorded or watched they would not “dress in revealing ways.”
Individuals who engage in exhibitionism call attention to their bodies or sexual body parts in public areas such as in front of windows, in parks, and in public bathrooms. Exhibitionists are aroused by the shock or curiosity the person viewing them experiences. Many exhibitionists believe that their victims are actually aroused their exposure. Although some exhibitionist behavior can be arranged between consenting adults, problematic and compulsive exhibitionism is an intrusive act that violates boundaries. Compulsive exhibitionism can escalate to serious criminal offenses such as “flashing” children and public masturbation.
Compulsive Use of Internet Sex Chat Rooms and Web Cams
The internet offers us new ways to socialize; date; and express our sexuality through social media, messaging and, web cams. Compulsive use of web cams to view and/or engage in sexual behaviors (masturbation, role play or conversations, etc.) is a form of escape that is emotionally numbing for many addicts. Although “real people” are interacting through chat rooms or web cams, these interactions are simulated sexual experiences that lack the emotional risk inherent to in-person human interactions. Individuals who are addicted to web cam sex/chat rooms spend countless hours on these behaviors all while racking up debts on pay sites. These behaviors can severely impact a person’s work performance and social life due to the loss of sleep and increased isolation of compulsive internet sex chatting or web cam use.
This behavior can consist of multiple long-term affairs, multiple short- terms affairs, or serial affairs. Individuals who engage in chronic affairs are aroused by the excitement and intensity associated with the early courting, secrecy, fantasy, and sex. The affair addict (sometimes referred to as a “love addict”) confuses sex and lust with love. They may delude themselves into believing they are more sensual than other people or more sexually expressive. Sex addict/love addicts who pursue affairs are highly compartmentalized and have deeply entrenched rationalizations and justifications for their infidelity. These individuals fear true intimacy and may share vulnerable emotions with their affair partners because they feel safer with a person who mostly knows them within the context of a secret and physical relationship.
The behavior can be described as the withholding of sexuality from one’s self and their sexual partners. Sexual anorexics are averse to engaging in or initiating sex. Individuals who are addicted to sex may also go through periods of sexual anorexia similar to the binge (excessive sexual acting out) and purge cycles (withholding sex) manifested in some eating disorders. Sexual anorexics fear the intimacy experienced during sex. Research indicates that the same neural networks engaged in (food) anorexia are also activated with sexual anorexia.