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My sex addiction started when I was seven years old, after discovering a box of dusty porn tapes underneath the guest room bed. The images of naked, busty women with men kneeling at their feet, arms snaking up their thighs, excited me in a way that my Saturday morning cartoons never had: I was aroused. I wanted to be those women.
I began sexualizing everything after that: my Barbies, cartoons, classmates. I didn’t understand what I was doing, but I was hooked.
When I was 14, I had my first boyfriend, and my sex addiction took on a new, more physical form. We groped one another under the blankets; I performed clumsy oral sex. I felt that I found my duty. I was now like the big-breasted women on the tapes: I finally had a boy at my feet, and it was sex that was keeping him under my newfound power. I learned that sex equaled love, and as long as I was willing to give it, I wouldn’t be alone.
And I never wanted to be alone.
Fast forward to age 16, and I was dating a new, older boy. I lost my virginity to him in the basement of my family’s beach house with my mother banging on the door in a panic, demanding to know what was going on in there.
It was, like most first times, truly memorable. The relationship with this boy was highly sexual, and I performed my duty even on the days I didn’t feel like it. Especially on the days I didn’t feel like it, because that was when I needed to the most; if I didn’t put out he wouldn’t love me, after all, and then I’d be alone.
After I was raped at age 18 by an ex-boyfriend, I began to spiral. I sought out sex wherever I could. I wanted to regain the control I had lost during the assault.
I singled out men who were similar to my perpetrator -– emotionally unavailable, sexually charged, complete assholes -– and slept with them to feel validated. I was trauma bonded to my perpetrator. I even had sex with his best friend to try to make him jealous.
Sex was no longer about love -– it had metamorphosed into a power struggle that I was intent upon winning.
I dated a guy on and off for three years during college, and by dating I mean mostly fighting and having sex. In the beginning of our relationship, I was hospitalized for severe anorexia, and while I was there, he cheated on me. I was livid.
A few days after my discharge from the hospital, I attempted to regain my power by having sex under an overpass with a grungy pot dealer I knew from high school. The scales were tipped back into my favor as I discovered the use of sex as retaliation: “eroticized rage.”
I used this tactic a lot when dating this college boyfriend, and it worked the way I wanted it to: the sticky mess I created by cheating on him kept him around, albeit for negative reasons, and I wasn’t alone.
I began to experience sex as compulsive, and as my list of partners grew, so did my addictive sexual behaviors. Grasping onto sweaty shoulders, heavy breathing hot in my ears, I wondered about the meaning of it all. I never wanted to be alone, but here I was, the most alone I’d ever been.
I was depressed and isolative. The only people I saw were the guys who came over for sex. Despite having multiple partners at a time, I felt utterly and completely disconnected. None of those guys cared about me really, except for one who, after having sex on my kitchen floor, told me he loved me.
I got nervous and laughed -– how could he love me? I was unlovable, made bitter after years of being used for loveless sex and four AM booty calls. So I laughed and he left, never to speak to me again. It hurt because I really did love him -– a lot -– but my sex addiction kept me from accepting that someone could love me like he did, and I blew it.
My sexual drive became unquenchable, and, bored, I turned to the Internet to find new partners.
“Do you do this often?” one man asked as I let him into my apartment, and I shrugged. Later during his visit I was frozen, watching his gold necklace bounce on his chest as he violently choked me, and I thought idly to myself that I wouldn’t call this guy again.
After I told my sister what had happened, she moved out of our apartment, saying she felt unsafe with the people I was bringing home. A week later, my family staged an intervention, and I was sent to rehab for my sexual addiction.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and my behaviors while in treatment, although the idea of healthy sexuality eludes me still. I don’t know how to have sex in a healthy way, and relationships? Forget it. To be vulnerable and intimate is scarier to me than scorpions.
I’ve got a ways to go but by working the Sex Addicts Anonymous program and applying what I’ve learned in treatment, I know I’ll get there someday. I would love to have a functioning, loving relationship with a person, to find that spiritual and physical connection I hear is so great, but those things take time.
The difference is that this time, I’m willing to wait.