And there's too much silence already on sex addiction of women. Fortunately, some are speaking up. And what's coming out is for positive recovery.
For example, today Marnie Ferree: "Female Sex Addict: Not an Oxymoron." Most postively, Beaty asks and Ferree begins to answer the questions about positive recovery for the woman sex addict and for those who are in her life:
How would you advise a single Christian [woman] sex addict to proceed in recovery?
Bless her heart. It is hard. I think obviously to proceed in integrity and holiness, I think to really focus on her healthy relationships, and they can be of opposite gender, but to be certain about what’s driving them and what the foundation is. And I think to embrace her sexuality, and by that I mean to be very aware of and in touch with her feminine side, whether that’s her appearance or her creative side or her athletic side. To really be a whole person and not just focus on “Well I’ve gotta find a man.”
What do sex addicts need most from the people who love them?Ferree's language -- such as in the phrases "embrace her sexuality," "working on themselves," "enable," "responsible," "healthy boundaries," and "attachments" -- is not only important for beginning to open up and to talk about sex addition. But her words, such language, is also helpful for engaging in the positive process towards recovery.
They need loved ones to educate themselves about sex addiction, especially about women. They need to understand the extraordinary challenge that the female sex addict is facing. Second, female sex addicts need their loved ones to be working on themselves. My husband would say that he enabled me for years by his passivity. I’m still totally responsible for what I did, but it sure would have helped had he been healthy enough to put his foot down and say, “I am not going to live with a wife who is unfaithful to me.” That’s what I mean by doing their own work: setting healthy boundaries, learning themselves how to address their own attachments and the impact they have had in their own life.
In her book, No Stones: Women Redeemed from Sexual Shame, Ferree has this section on recovery:
Working the Twelve StepsOne of the important parts of recovery, implicit in Ferree's paragraph here, is that one works from one's own experience. Not surprisingly, Ferree makes clear in her own experience (and even in her book too) that one cannot recover easily (if at all) without support, without a group for support. And yet, Ferree suggests also that one cannot force another to go through steps of recovery, nor can anyone do any part of recovery for anyone else.
Merely attending a Twelve Step support group isn't enough. In my experience, lasting recovery requires actually working through the Twelve Steps. Many who're new in recovery fail to grasp what that means. It's an enormous undertaking. One woman naively thought she could work the Twelve Steps in a matter of a few weeks. "After all," she said, "there're only Twelve of them. How long could that take?" Most women find it takes a minimum of a year to work through the Steps - and that's only the first time. Revisiting the Steps regularly is an on-going part of recovery. [Page 182]
Furthermore, Ferree not only says something about recovery; she also does something. Freere is not just being an exemplar; rather, she's revealing her own experience as part of her ongoing process of recovery for herself. One's own experience in recovery -- that is, not being silent -- is eventually one of the points of dis-cover-y, of un-covering. Thus, a related matter of recovery is safety, safety when speaking up and speaking out about one's self and one's own experience, safety in revealing oneself in a group of others who have or have had the same experience and are supportive as a group, committed to the safety of confidentiality.
I believe J. Keith Miller has, likewise, advised that revealing oneself to and in a support group is not a "strip tease"; but, quite differently, revealing one's struggles in the safety of one's support group is much more purposeful, as with the purpose of willingly taking off one's clothes before going into surgery so that the medical group can help the patient. Miller makes these points in his book, A Hunger for Healing: The Twelve Steps as a Classic Model for Christian Spiritual Growth.
I'm bringing up Miller's book when talking about Ferree's book because both have addressed Christian audiences. But they stress (and so I want to emphasize, perhaps to caution as if it's not already known) how recovery sometimes is not safe in the Christian church. Miller addresses men and women, but Ferree speaks to women more directly. Ferree speaks primarily to women because the church often compounds the problem of recovery for women. The silence and silencing is troublesome, for women, for women struggling with sex addiction, within the Christian community.
Ferree is at the place in her recovery where she is able to feel safe talking about her experience in the church, and with those now in the Christian community. For example, Ferree is able to give her interview to Beaty, who is an editor of "Her.meneutics - (n) the Christianity Today blog for women."
And Ferree, at her own website, bethesdaworkshops.org, is able to give her own "testimony" as if to the Christian community. Her experience, her story, what she reveals is how personally responsible she has had to be for her own sex addiction; and she adds the other struggle, one of the reasons for her silence so long:
It was the religious folk I was afraid of. The Christians - the church people - those were the ones I wanted to avoid. I knew how the church dealt with sinners like me. They still threw stones. Maybe not literal ones, but sharp ones nonetheless.Ferree has felt the need to recover beyond the church. She's created Bethesda Workshops for "Sexual Addiction" and "Co-Addiction" so that others, with the assistance of a safe staff of licensed therapists and support groups, can begin the process of recovery.
Ferree's experience of silence, as a woman struggling with sex addiction, is not unique. Although Dr. Drew's popular tv show Sex Rehab includes women, there is generally much more attention given to sex addiction among men in the popular media and to the recovery helps offered to men; there's been more public attention given to men struggling with sexual addiction than than to women struggling with sexual addiction. Similarly, in the blogosphere (even the Christian blogosphere), recovery advice is more offered to men -- as at the blog "Porn Free: To offer sexual redemption through Christ to those who are slaves to pornography." For example, at a Porn Free post entitled, "12 Steps to Sexual Purity," a person identifying herself as Nicole, a self-identifying Catholic, says:
Your site is very god bit i noticed something….. your mnistry seems to be directed specificaly to men suffering from porn addiction. When are we going to see somr help fpr us ladies who suffer the same? We express our addictions difernetly for men....
... I am a female sex addict and have been searching on the Internet for resources and information and I only find information geared to men. it can be very isolating and frustrating when it is assumed that only men have this problem. it is more prevalent than you would think.Fortunately, Nicole has begun to speak out and like many others has found (and goes on to share) positive helps, such as Ferree's Bethesda Workshops and her story of recovery.
Nicole brings up an important point about the differences of sex addition for men and for women. Often men are the ones who tend to abuse women and children. For boys abused, there is often a cycle created in which they grow up to be abusers. Statistics on these cycles can be cited, but they are sorely under-reported given the shame. For girls and women, the shame is compounded by the public perceptions that a woman struggling with sex addiction is an anomaly and is abnormal (in comparison to a male's struggles).
Ferree has another helpful essay on the website of the National Association of Christian Recovery. Entitled "Women and Sexual Addiction," the article also explores "The Link Between Abuse and Addiction." Ferree's essay, some of her readers's comments, and the NACR site all give links to places and resources for recovery.