American culture has a lot of anger implicit in it's sexuality; often, sex and anger get confused. Many male and female sex addicts often score high on at least one of the 4 scales of Eroticized Rage on the Sexual Dependency Inventory-4 (SDI-4). When I bring this to their attention, many are surprised. Most say, "But I am not angry." What is often misunderstood about the word eroticized rage is that it doesn't necessarily show up as someone violently acting out sexually on another person (for some individuals, those that are sex offenders, this may actually be the case, however). On the contrary, it is often more subtle.
What is the origin of Eroticized Rage (ER)? For many, ER stems from early childhood experiences; ones that were often traumatic. Note: many people think of trauma as sexual, physical, emotional abuse. However, trauma entails SO much more than these types of abuses. Trauma can entail being bullied, having surgery as a child, experiencing a death of an animal or loved one, having a broken bone, being diagnosed with a disability or chronic ailment (i.e., childhood diabetes), divorce, parents who were on drugs,etc. ER often stems from early life events that leave a child/teen feeling powerless, out of control and angry...
What are examples of ER in sex addicts?
1. WITH MONEY: Someone that felt neglected, unworthy or de-valued as a child may use money to gain power and access over another person. For instance, if a sex addict frequents strip clubs, hires escorts, or goes to certain massage parlors, they may think that by paying someone money for sex, they will have them in their power to do whatever they want including value them as a person for that time (boosts their self esteem). The money is a way to feel powerful and in control where they may not have felt this by others, including primary caregivers, as a child. Thus, their anger becomes sexualized by using money to purchase sex, and to guarantee control, power, and full access over another person. Thus the stripper, escort, massager person becomes another object to use.
1.a. On the other hand, if a sex addict is a stripper, prostitute, escort, masseuse, she (most of the sex addicts I see that engage in these professions are females so I am going to say "she") in my experience, was most likely neglected as a child, as well as bullied by kids/teens in school. Some female clients report that they were bullied so terribly that the only way they felt they would be loved was by using their body sexually to gain power and control over men or women. The belief is often, "You may not like me, but you will like what I offer you sexually." Thus, stripping, for example, becomes a "get back" in a sense; a way to feel powerful and in control for the times they felt they were neither. By taking someone's money, women report feeling very powerful, especially when they take someone's money. This, is the ultimate way to feel "valued." Many women often report feeling disgusted by men they serve sexually but that they are able to compartmentalize their negativity in order to act out sexually (another component of eroticized rage that includes traumatic organization~being able to compartmentalize one's anger to feel powerful and in control).
2. By Acting Out: Many sex addicts are lacking self awareness when it comes to their emotions. Sex becomes a way to escape any discomfort. Folks with sex addiction are often terrified to express their feelings out of fear of being rejected. I often hear clients report stuffing their feelings with their partners then secretly acting out sexually. When we get to the root of the issue, many share feeling powerless and angry over the situation, therefore acting out as a way to "get back" at their partner for feeling helpless. They feel powerful in the moment they act out because they are the one in control (the secret feeds these feelings). The addict is very reactive in his/her response. Pay backs demonstrate this type of reactivity.
3. To Gain a Sense of Power: Some sex addicts who have a history of being sexually victimized will act out by initiating sex with various partners. This is their way of feeling powerful after perceiving that they were taken advantage of, or harassed, or verbally/emotionally mistreated. These abuses can come from various environments, whether it's at work by one's boss or co-workers, or random occurrence such as a family gathering or party. Another example is after a break-up. Some sex addicts who also have love addiction (a lot of times these are women in my experience) may act out sexually after a break up in which they were love addicted. This is a way to feel powerful and in control after experiencing rejection. It also is a way to feel validated.
Treatment for ER begins with educating clients on what ER actually entails as well as having them explore times in their life when they felt angry, powerless, and out of control (find the origin). Doing work around shame is also key. We specifically focus on why clients chose certain sexual acting out behaviors; what was the pay off for them? We assist clients in separating out sexual acting out from how they are actually feeling and encourage them to deal their feelings in healthy ways with their loved ones (and in general) so they will are less likely to act out. Also, we help clients learn how to manage their emotions by teaching self-soothing strategies (including EMDR strategies) to decreases clients discomfort around feeling. This empowers them to express their feelings in a healthier way. We also teach healthy communication styles and have clients practice them in group, individual therapy, as well as in the real world. We also teach and model healthy boundaries for clients since many clients do not know what boundaries include. We discuss women and men as being subjects instead of objects, teach the 3 second rule, as well as encourage people to express themselves with loved ones in a healthy way.
If you or someone you know has ER and needs support, contact us today! There is hope and healing is possible.