Does Sex Addiction Make You Skinny?
by Guest Blogger David J. Ley, Ph.D.
Society fought long and hard to get rid of the concept of nymphomania, banishing it from American medicine, but it is now back, under the new name “sex addiction.” The history of the concept of nymphomania is a dark and disheartening tale that should serve as a warning sign to us. Carol Groneman has written the definitive tale of this sad episode of medical malpractice. She tells horrific stories of women hospitalized and subjected to surgery and varied torturous “treatments,” all in the name of suppressing their dangerous sexuality. Throughout the ages, the social view of female sexuality has fluctuated. In the Middle Ages, women were seen as too sexual and vulnerable to the influences of the Devil through their sexual feelings. In the nineteenth century, women were seen as beings who did not enjoy sex, save for the satisfaction it gave their husbands. Nymphomania is a metaphor, that shows how medicine, law, and society view female sexuality.
Today, women have fought to reclaim their sexuality. Artists like Madonna have embraced their sexuality, celebrating it as a defining and beautiful part of their personality and image. But despite this, women are attacked in the media, simply for enjoying sex too much. Celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Amy Winehouse, already struggling with the effects of significant substance abuse, are called sex addicts because they admit they enjoy sex, and their boyfriends have described them as wild in bed. But, is it a disease for a woman to like sex as much as a man?
Women with high libido (defined in some research as having or desiring more than seven orgasms or sexual encounters in a week) often struggle with social acceptance of their sexuality. They are frequently labeled as sluts or whores and taught that their sexuality is negative and unladylike. Such women often have more male friends than female, as they report that men understand them better and don’t stigmatize them for their sexuality. Many of these women also report having been labeled as sex addicts, merely because their libido is similar to that of many men. In research by Eric Blumberg, one woman reported being labeled as a sex addict by a therapist after she disclosed that she goes out on weekends “to get laid.” When the woman disclosed that she masturbated daily, her fate was sealed in her therapist’s eyes, as he he labeled her sex drive unhealthy and excessive.
But sex is healthy, and lots of sex is very healthy. Especially for women. Women who enjoy sex more, live longer. Women with healthy sex lives are more able to conceive. Frequent sex lowers women’s waistlines, and women have happier relationships when they have more sex, even if they are just masturbating alone. The more sex a person has, the lower their stress in life, and even reduces the numbers of days they take off from work for illness.
Sex addiction therapists, are subject to their own biases, around sex and gender. Calling women sex addicts because they like and desire sex as much as men is nothing more than the slut/stud dynamic, masked in clinical terms. Even proponents of sex addiction acknowledge that little is actually known about female sex addicts, and that labeling sex addiction in females as “relationship” or “love” addiction is largely a myth, based upon social views. Women need to resist turning sex into a disease, and need to confront the many TV doctors and therapists who casually throw around the label of sex addict, and challenge the sexism that is embedded in this concept, sexism that has no place in medicine.
David J. Ley, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he oversees a large mental health clinic. Dr. Ley has been a guest on the Anderson Cooper Show, the Dr. Phil Show, numerous radio shows and has written for multiple international newspapers. Interviews with this controversial, award-winning author and expert have appeared in Glamour Magazine, Salon, Huffington Post, and his work has been referenced in Playboy Magazine and in newspapers and magazines around the world. He is the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction and Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them.