Sex Addiction Isn't Just For Guys

In pop culture portrayals, characters with “hypersexual disorder” — the official psychiatric name for what's colloquially called sex addiction — are almost always men. 'Twas the case in both recent sex addiction movies (Shame and Thanks for Sharing), and in shows such as Californication and Desperate Housewives. Men are also more likely to get diagnosed and treated for sex addiction in real life. But today's article in The Atlantic indicates that all of this reflects cultural bias more than actual gender differences in sex addiction prevalence.

Few studies have been conducted on female sex addiction — there was one last year, and another in 2003, the latter of which rated twice as many women as needing "further evaluation" for hypersexual disorder, according to The Atlantic article. Although there have been few studies focusing specifically on female sex addicts, "you won’t have any trouble finding research on female hypoactive sexual desire, also known as 'low sex drive,'" The Atlantic notes. This research paradigm dovetails nicely with conventional wisdom about sex: That normal men want it all the time, and women are more into diamonds and cuddling.

This research paradigm dovetails nicely with conventional wisdom about sex: That normal men want it all the time, and women are more into diamonds and cuddling.

Another misconception may also be at work: That sex addiction is purely about feeling lusty. Sex addiction should be thought of as "a pathological relationship with a mood altering experience," experts say — not an addiction to sex or orgasm per se.

Sex addiction therapist Kelly McDaniel calls it "a compulsion to use romance, people, and sexuality to feel alive.’” When put like that, sex addiction begins to seem a lot more like any other type of addiction, no? That definition also seems to make it easier to conceptualize women as sex addicts for some people. Hypersexual disorder can involve sex and other patterns of compulsive relationships, dating, cheating and/or emotional affairs.

You can first-hand accounts from a female sex addict here, here and here. It's worth noting that despite the stereotype of hypersexual women as being needy or insecure, female sex addicts are more likely to be power-seeking or trying to avoid loneliness or emptiness, according to therapist Marnie Ferree.