The Meadows Blog

Monday, 22 November 2010 19:00

I can’t tell anybody about what I do sexually. I’m too ashamed.

Maureen Canning Maureen Canning

I can't tell anybody about what I do sexually. I'm too ashamed.

Shame about addictive sexual behavior is normal, but when certain behaviors - such as voyeurism or exhibitionism - fall far from the cultural norm, there can be a profound sense of judgment, shame, and stigma. When an addict's behaviors are out of the ordinary, he is often seen as perverted, deviant, and a nuisance. But the acting-out behavior is not based in "perversion." Rather, it's based in an event that affected the individual's sexual development.

When a child or adolescent experiences a disruption in his or her psychosexual development, it creates a template or memory. The child can be so disturbed by the event that he may become preoccupied or obsessed with it. For example, a child who comes from a family that leaves the door open while using the bathroom, bathing, or dressing may witness images that are confusing and overwhelming. A little girl who sees her father urinating can be upset by this, but, at the same time, she may be curious. She may find it exciting, scary, or intriguing. She may feel shame about her interest as she tries to sneak peeks of her father in the bathroom. Before she knows it, she is online, looking at sites about urination. When she becomes sexually active, she acts out with men who urinate on her.

Her resulting feelings are identical to what she felt at the initial upset: excitement, fear, disgust, shame, curiosity, and danger. She has become obsessed, and that obsession has progressed over the years.

In another scenario, a heterosexual adolescent boy sees his mom getting dressed for a night out. As he watches his mother putting on lacy undergarments, he becomes aroused. The arousal is confusing, because he knows it is wrong to have sexual feelings toward his mother, but his body automatically and naturally reacts to the images. He feels a tremendous amount of shame. But, at the same time, he is excited, anxious, intrigued, and confused. He starts to sneak more peeks - not only at his mother, but at his sister and her girlfriends as well. He becomes obsessed with their movements, anticipating when he can get another glimpse of the forbidden. Eventually he hides a Web cam in the bathroom so he can spy on his family and friends.

Both of these individuals have become sexually addicted. A disturbing yet intriguing disruption set off a self-destructive, repetitive cycle. Through repetition and fixation, the individual attempts to gain control over the original trauma. "If I can gain control over this experience, it will go away, and I will feel better about myself." This is not a conscious thought, but rather an unconscious attempt to "undo" the original experience.

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