Female sex addiction: Pleasure and compulsive behavior doesn’t descriminate by gender

Posted on 14 January 2012

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Sexual addiction is rapidly becoming an equal opportunity health crisis

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Friday, January 13 2012

B2M Productions/Getty Images
A reader wants to know if female sex addiction is moral or psychological problem.

BILL: At an open AA meeting last week, a visitor said he wanted to ask us about his live-in girlfriend, with whom he has two children. “She is unfaithful to me over and over,’ he said, “and doesn’t even have to be drunk to do it.”

DR. DAVE: He didn’t know whether to treat it as a problem in morals or addiction?

BILL: “She spends hours online looking at pornography,” he told us. Dave, I always thought a taste for porn was purely male. And I know that in my years doing the Greenwich Village bar scene for the Village Voice, I never ran into any women who had to have sex as compulsively as I needed a drink. Has equality struck again?

DR. DAVE: Tiger Woods’ doc, Patrick Carnes, is probably the country’s leading sex addiction specialist. Now his daughter, Dr. Stefanie Carnes is leading a movement to recognize women’s historical suffering as partners of sex addicts. Starting with a picture of wives victimized by their husband’s compulsive sexual appetites, she’s now discussing the female face of sex addiction, as sex addict herself. She also points out that cybersex behavior includes 40% women.

BILL: I believe she was making the point that internet anonymity lets women avoid the social sanctions against engaging in risky public sexual behavior?

DR. DAVE: If you want a good read on how the sexual addiction process develops, and how similar it is to alcohol and other drug addictions, read the book The Drug of the New Millennium. Its subtitle tells you the target: The Brain Science Behind Internet Pornography Use.

BILL: I remember that book coming out in 2010. What drew me to it was how he explained how this cocktail of five brain chemicals comes together in sort of a perfect storm of pleasure.

DR. DAVE: Sort of like your Perfect Gin Martini recipe, Bill. Actually, the analogy is good. Three of the five brain chemicals occur at orgasm or immediately afterwards. The key to understanding the addictive properties of internet porn or cybersex is the first two — dopamine and norepenephrine.

BILL: The gin and dry vermouth of sexual arousal that comes before the rockets bursting in air?

DR. DAVE: I guess you would say the dopamine is the most important part of the internet cocktail. It is a primary pleasure and euphoria brain chemical: release of dopamine is associated with craving and dependency in addiction. As long as you are sitting at the computer fantasizing, playing half-naked with your face hidden on your webcam, you are keeping your brain awash in that euphoria.

BILL: No quickie needed — behind closed doors, the female sex addict avoids social sanctions. Admittedly that’s a sexist POV, but addiction doesn’t care about traveling a politically correct route in its progression.

DR. DAVE: And the second brain chemical during this — possibly hours long arousal session — is norepenephrine. As the author notes, this chemical creates a burst of adrenaline that “sears” the memory of pleasure into the brain.

BILL: So something tweaks the craving for dopamine, the brain brings back a sharpened memory of just where to find more of that pleasure. And when the computer boots up, there, the Ashley Madison site for online extramarital affairs or any of the numerous webcam or chat sharing sex sites is just a click away.

DR. DAVE: What’s kept Middle America from seeing female sex addiction as something that actually exists is oddly enough, a kind of Puritanism. Any female sexual craving that the male cannot satisfy must denote a mythical nymphomania, and as such, is inherently “evil.” And how can your mother, sister and/or wife be evil? Conventional online sex wisdom wants us to believe its always the husband engaging in the new generation of Playboy and Hustler magazine-come to life in the internet chat rooms.

BILL: So what DOES the female sex addict look like Dave?

DR. DAVE: Let me leave you with the assessment of Dr. Patrick Carnes, who has his finger on the pulse of this aspect of health care. “We’re seeing women,” he says, “getting into pornography in a way we’ve never seen before [including online] sado-masochistic lifestyles.” He points out the mechanism where, even if the lifestyle is not that extreme, women can create a full-blown affair online and then, on an impulse, activate it in real life. All shaped out of fantasy, dopamine, and seared into your pleasure centers with norepenephrine.

BILL: I know the ending….and then, one day, she is over the line and out of control. Sexual addiction is rapidly becoming, as Dr. Stefanie Carnes says, “an equal opportunity” health crisis—thanks to the world wide web.

BILL: No quickie needed — behind closed doors, the female sex addict avoids social sanctions. Admittedly that’s a sexist POV, but addiction doesn’t care about traveling a politically correct route in its progression.

DR. DAVE: And the second brain chemical during this — possibly hours long arousal session — is norepenephrine. As the author notes, this chemical creates a burst of adrenaline that “sears” the memory of pleasure into the brain.

BILL: So something tweaks the craving for dopamine, the brain brings back a sharpened memory of just where to find more of that pleasure. And when the computer boots up, there, the Ashley Madison site for online extramarital affairs or any of the numerous webcam or chat sharing sex sites is just a click away.

DR. DAVE: What’s kept Middle America from seeing female sex addiction as something that actually exists is oddly enough, a kind of Puritanism. Any female sexual craving that the male cannot satisfy must denote a mythical nymphomania, and as such, is inherently “evil.” And how can your mother, sister and/or wife be evil? Conventional online sex wisdom wants us to believe its always the husband engaging in the new generation of Playboy and Hustler magazine-come to life in the internet chat rooms.

BILL: So what DOES the female sex addict look like Dave?

DR. DAVE: Let me leave you with the assessment of Dr. Patrick Carnes, who has his finger on the pulse of this aspect of health care. “We’re seeing women,” he says, “getting into pornography in a way we’ve never seen before [including online] sado-masochistic lifestyles.” He points out the mechanism where, even if the lifestyle is not that extreme, women can create a full-blown affair online and then, on an impulse, activate it in real life. All shaped out of fantasy, dopamine, and seared into your pleasure centers with norepenephrine.

BILL: I know the ending….and then, one day, she is over the line and out of control. Sexual addiction is rapidly becoming, as Dr. Stefanie Carnes says, “an equal opportunity” health crisis—thanks to the world wide web.

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Dr. David Moore is a licensed psychologist and chemical dependency professional who is a graduate school faculty member at Argosy University’s Seattle Campus. Bill Manville’s most recent work, “Cool, Hip & Sober,” is available at all online bookstores. A Book of the Month novelist too, Bill privately teaches “Writing To Get Published”

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