Sex Addiction: Ten Types of Problematic Sexual Behaviours

Written by Mike Quarress, a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist at Edgewood Treatment Centre.

In his years of research, Dr. Carnes, pioneer in the field of compulsive sexual behaviours, has compiled ten types of sex, comprising behaviours and thoughts rooted in pathological core beliefs, which we use today to help identify sex addiction. The assessment tool, called the Sexual Dependency Inventory allows clinicians to assess the types of acting out in which each individual engages. The Sexual Dependency Inventory is a list of behavioural scales representing these ten types of sex.

Each type of sex has unique rituals that become part of an individual’s sexual disorder. Each type, in its unique way, produces stimulation, arousal, pleasure, and behavioural reinforcement. The form of arousal is often dictated by one’s arousal template; this is influenced by many factors in one’s early development, and most importantly by one’s first experience of sexualized exposure. Especially for individuals who are predisposed to addiction, early sexualized experiences during adolescence reinforce neural pathways related to particular sexual preferences, and these are solidified as an individual reaches adulthood.

(1) Pain Exchange Sex

Many people who experienced childhood sexual abuse develop the desire to engage in pain exchange sex: touching, foreplay, and intercourse become subordinate to a dramatic story line that is often a re-enactment of a childhood abuse experience. In many cases, pain is required to achieve sexual arousal.

(2) Fantasy Sex

Fantasy sex is a refuge for individuals who perceive other forms of acting out as too complicated, too risky, or too much effort—fantasy sex is a way for them to disassociate from reality, including relationships. The porn industry has capitalized on this type of sex—it allows the sexual behaviour to remain secret. Engaging in sexualized fantasies depicted in porn scripts, often paired with masturbation, can become a compulsive behaviour to self-regulate emotions and escape loneliness. This compulsive behaviour becomes more about the fear of rejection, fear of reality, and about managing anxiety than about sex itself. Many individuals report not being able to fall asleep at night without watching porn and masturbating, similar to people with alcohol use disorders who drink before going to bed.

(3) Voyeuristic Sex

Voyeuristic sex is rooted in the use of visual stimulation to escape into an obsessive trance. Voyeurs are non-participants, but they move beyond fantasy to searching out sexual objects in the real world. It is normal for healthy humans to enjoy looking at other humans sexually and experiencing attraction—however, escaping into obsessive trances while watching people who are unaware can become problematic. The porn industry also facilitates this and porn can be part of the ritual of isolation. Voyeurism usually means objectifying the people being watched; thus, it is not a personal relationship and it allows arousal and stimulation without a connection.

(4) Exhibitionistic Sex

In exhibitionistic sex, an individual’s sexual arousal stems from other people’s reactions to seeing the individual engaging in sexual behaviour or revealing themselves—whether this reaction be shock or excitement. The individual becomes fixated on getting other people’s attention and has difficulty moving beyond that—eroticism comes from being noticed and watched. Arousal and pleasure often also result from transgressing social norms.

(5) Seductive Role Sex

Seductive role sex is about seducing partners: arousal results from the idea of conquest and diminishes rapidly after the initial sexual interaction. Flirtation, performance, and romance are the key erotic elements of seductive role sex. Individuals are obsessed with “falling in love” and winning attention from the person they desire. Another common scenario is where an individual will enter a relationship in which they feel trapped and cannot be themselves; they will then seek other additional relationships in which they can express different sides of themselves. These individuals often also have a fear of abandonment and maintain multiple relationships for security against the failure of any one relationship.

(6) Paying for Sex

Paying for sex involves purchasing sexual services: arousal is more connected to the payment and slowly transfers to the money itself. Commitment to, and renewal of, relationships are profoundly undermined when this behaviour is carried out in secret. Those who engage in paying for sex are often looking for sex without the risk of intimacy and vulnerability. The attitude of “I don’t have to know you and you don’t have to know me” reflects the complete absence real intimacy.

(7) Trading Sex

Trading sex involves selling or bartering sex for power. In this process, arousal is based on gaining control through sex, using one’s body as leverage. In many cases, trading sex is the re-enactment of childhood sexual abuse where the child gained power through sexual interactions with a caregiver. This makes it impossible to create significant, enduring bonds, or even to be true to oneself.

(8) Intrusive Sex

Intrusive sex is about boundary violation: sexual arousal occurs when an individual violates another person’s boundaries without consequences. Intrusive sex uses other people to stimulate sexual arousal, with little chance of repercussions. There is usually an underlying anger, and individuals “steal” sex. They justify their actions with the belief that no one would voluntarily respond to them as they would want—they are masters of their own deception.

(9) High-Risk Anonymous Sex

This involves sex with unknown partners: arousal and stimulation involve no seduction, nor cost, and are immediate—just like the addict’s need for instant gratification.

(10) Exploitive Sex

Exploitive Sex involves leveraging a significant power differential between an individual and another person. Common examples are featured in the media, where individuals in positions of power manipulate vulnerable people to engage with them in sexual activities. In more hierarchical workplaces, many employees can be vulnerable to exploitation. Individuals who engage in exploitive sex will exhibit “grooming” behaviour, which carefully and strategically builds trust with the unsuspecting victim. Attraction, flirtation, romance, and intimacy are all used to gain the confidence of another person for sexual exploitation.

Men’s Sex and Love Addiction Programs

If you would like to enrol in one of our men’s Sex and Love Addiction Programs, or if you would like more information, please call us at one of the numbers below. Our phone lines are open 24/7—so you can call us anytime.

  • 1-800-387-6198 for Bellwood treatment center in Toronto, ON
  • 1-800-683-0111 for Edgewood treatment center in Nanaimo, BC

You can also find more information about our men’s sex addiction programs on our website:

 

1 thought on “Sex Addiction: Ten Types of Problematic Sexual Behaviours”

Comments are closed.