porn addiction and sexual anorexia

As we discuss this topic, it is important to make the differentiation between sexual dysfunction and sexual aversion. Refusing to have sex is different from a physical inability to have sex. Refusing to have sex is different from low desire, due to low testosterone.

Sexual dysfunction is different from sexual aversion, which is a more extreme problem.

In order to advise wives properly, we must understand all of the factors, and, no matter what, we must understand the stress that inhibited sexual desire causes:

  • confusion
  • eroded affection
  • damage to self-image / self-loathing
  • damage to sexual values
  • despair and hopelessness

Sexual Dysfunction vs Sexual Aversion

Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction can affect men of all ages, but is especially common in older men.  The most common problems related to sexual dysfunction include ejaculation disorders, erectile dysfunction and inhibited sexual desire. Sometimes, it can be a transitory issue that resolves itself. If not, these issues can often be corrected by treating the underlying causes.

The first step in dealing with this issue is to rule out all physical reasons for sexual dysfunction.

Often, men have trouble talking about these issues, and may resist seeking medical diagnosis and treatment, which can cause distress in their wives. It is really important for men to step up to the plate, and to pursue answers. It is one way of showing their sacrificial love for their wife. The ability to sublimate one’s ego for the good of the marriage is an important skill for a satisfying marriage. Men, remember that you are partners in all things, including health and intimacy. No topic should be off limits in marriage.

Men, your wife deserves to know what is causing distress in your sexual relationship. When men avoid dealing with this issue, they leave their wife in the confusion of suspended animation, where they often take on undeserved shame for causing the problem, or for being unattractive. Abandoning sexual intimacy without pursuing the causation is betrayal of the marriage vows.

The main types of male sexual dysfunction are:

  • Erectile dysfunction (difficulty getting/keeping an erection).
  • Premature ejaculation (reaching orgasm too quickly).
  • Delayed or inhibited ejaculation (reaching orgasm too slowly or not at all).
  • Low libido (reduced interest in sex).

Physical causes of overall sexual dysfunction / low libido may be:

  • Low testosterone levels.
  • Prescription drugs (antidepressants, high blood pressure medicine).
  • Blood vessel disorders such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and high blood pressure.
  • Stroke or nerve damage from diabetes or surgery.
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking.
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse.

Psychological causes might include:

  • Anxiety / Concern about sexual performance.
  • Marital or relationship problems.
  • Depression, feelings of guilt.
  • Work-related stress and anxiety.
  • Effects of past sexual trauma.

Sexual Aversion

Having ruled out physical causes of sexual dysfunction, we turn our attention to Sexual Aversion Disorder, which is defined as a “persistent or recurrent extreme aversion to, and avoidance of, all or almost all, genital sexual contact with a sexual partner”.

Causes of Sexual Aversion

  • Your husband may have been inculcated with sexual shame messages as an adolescent.
  • Your husband may be a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Your husband may be addicted to pornography, and is a sex addict.

Some men may look into their past (especially childhood and adolescence, when sexual connections are beginning to formulate), and not find any trauma, but they find messages of guilt, shame, or blame associated with sexual arousal or touch, which caused body shame, or shame about sexual arousal.

Some individuals, who experience sexual aversion, may have experienced sexual trauma, or another type of trauma. They may have had one or more experiences where sexual contact was forced. Especially in formative years, such as childhood and adolescence, the brain is creating pathways to understand sexuality. If a sexual trauma occurs during these years, the brain may link sexual arousal or sexual touch with threat, danger, anxiety, or pain.

Additionally, sexual abuse can lead to compulsive porn use, sex addiction and periods of sexual aversion. A problem may arise when the wife has come to know that her husband is addicted to porn, but feels compassion for him, because he endured sexual abuse as a child. Her compassion may lead to a loss of appropriate boundaries, and an acceptance of the porn addiction.

I won’t mince words: PORN KILLS MARRIAGES! Porn addiction causes betrayal trauma in the wife.

Betrayal needs to be addressed from a focal point of domestic abuse. Within that context is the only way to appropriately approach this type of situation without re-harming, or re-traumatizing the victim of the chronic manipulation.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

Compulsive Sex vs Compulsive Non Sex

There are several reasons that someone has gotten to the place where they view sex as the enemy.

Sexual addiction is a continuum, with people on one end who have lost the ability to regulate their own sexual behavior, to folks on the other end who cannot force themselves to be sexual without dire internal consequences. Both obsessional states draw their power from deep sexual hatred.

Porn addicts can become sexually anorexic as their brains and bodies get trained to respond to pornographic images rather than to real, live human beings. This can cause all sorts of problems, such as the inability to have an erection during sex or dissociation during sex. Additionally, porn addicts carry deep levels of unadressed shame, which can contribute to their avoidance of sex.

Sexual Anorexia, Porn Addiction and Sex Addiction

Psychology Today defines sexual anorexia as a condition in which a person “may refuse all sustenance—in this case, emotional and sensual sustenance—in order to keep chaotic feelings, anxiety, and unexplored trauma at bay.”

Sufferers of sexual anorexia often have unprocessed trauma, that they haven’t dealt with, leading to shame and feelings of self-loathing. They often have difficulty being vulnerable with their partner, and may also have difficulty satisfying with their partner’s emotional needs. Their partners may feel like they “shut down” around emotional discussions, leaving their needs unmet.

Instead of developing emotional and physical intimacy with their wives, they may use pornography as a substitute for emotional connection. However, porn is addictive, and becomes the replacement for marital intimacy, leaving the wife abandoned in her marital vows, while the husband is driving his feelings of disconnection deeper.

How does porn cause sexual anorexia?

Porn/Sex addicts go through periods of deescalation in which sex becomes the enemy, which fuels their partner’s feelings of inadequacy.

Here are some stats:

  • 72 Million worldwide internet users visit adult sites per month [1]
  • 12% of total websites are pornographic (4.2 Million websites) [1]
  • 42.7% of internet users view pornography [1]
  • The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans are sex addicts, which is 18 million – 24 million people [2]
  • Sex addicts have an average of three compulsive sexual behaviors [3]

In one study [3]:

  • 68% of sex addicts in one study had participated in extramarital sex
  • 15% had visited prostitutes, and several addicts mentioned peep shows, massage parlors, and telephone sex.
  • 18% of addicts reported involvement in voyeurism,
  • 12% in exhibitionism
  • 4% had taken indecent liberties
  • 5% admitted to incest, two to molestation, and one to molestation and raping his wife while she slept
  • All the addicts were able to clearly define a relapse

So, What Should We Tell The Wives Of These Husbands?

Obviously, physical sexual dysfunction must be approached with discretion and compassion, but it must be acknowledged, and the feelings of both partners must be validated, felt and worked through. Chronic avoidance of this issue, is a form of abandonment, which is not acceptable. If you feel like you and your husband are struggling to deal with this issue without adverse effects on your marriage, please talk to your doctor, and a therapist who is trained in this field.

What about the wives of men who suffer from undealt with sexual trauma?

Again, this is a delicate topic. Often, men will not disclose sexual trauma. Men see sexual trauma as a sign of powerlessness and weakness, which for the male ego, is a very difficult thing with which to come to terms. Often, the first sign that something is wrong can be a sexless marriage, or a porn addiction, with the sexual addiction that it leads to.

Sexual anorexia and porn addiction cause betrayal trauma, in the spouse. Here is a list of 26 betrayal trauma symptoms. This is serious!! This causes great harm to the wife.

The effects of betrayal trauma can be debilitating. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual consequences may include:

  • A loss of self-esteem
  • Sleep difficulties and irregularity
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Loss of faith in spiritual beliefs

When The Church Becomes Secondary Abusers

Sadly, the concept of betrayal trauma is somewhat new in the cultural sense, while it has not been new to the thousands of wives who have been the victim of it over the course of decades. Because of this resistance in religious organizations to tackle these issues, concern for the husband can eclipse concern for the wife. Worse yet, zero attention is placed on sexual issues, in the church, due to the rampant participation in porn addiction by men in leadership. See stats below.

Unfortunately, the church seems to be the last to adopt a trauma-informed stance, which is the opposite of God’s heart. God’s economy is all about the vulnerable, the helpless and the down-trodden. From the commands to the Israelite’s to “show your love for the stranger” (Deut. 10:17-19), to Jesus’s ministry, where He cared for the widows by condemning those who took advantage of them (Luke 20:46–47). He felt for them, and had concern for them (Luke 17:12–16 and John 19:26–27). In Paul’s instruction to the early church (outlining a policy on how to take care of the widows), we see God’s heart concerning women.

During a time when women were not treated equal to men, Rabbi Yeshua showed not just great respect for women, He championed their rights. He defied the norms and elevated their status.

Avoiding these issues speaks to an underlying issue with patriarchy and control, and the Church (universal) is loathe to dismantle the structures of power that have long-bred the atmosphere that leads to easy access to vulnerable women, and the protection of the men who prey on them.

Coming from this stance, religious organizations are wont to say abusive things like:

  • “Maybe you are not sexy enough.” NO! Porn subverts normative attraction to real human beings.
  • “You need to be more submissive.” NO! Sex addiction is about power and control. Safe sex is NEVER about control or submission.
  • “He should be having sex with you.” NO! Sex with a sex addict is unsafe.
  • “You need to work on your marriage.” NO! The marital vow of faithfulness has already been broken by the sex addict.
  • “You need to stay and help your husband.” NO! The husband has already abandoned the wife. It is not her responsibility.

What should the Church say instead?

We should encourage her to separate, so that she can be safe, until he demonstrates that he is addressing his addiction and becoming a safe individual.

The church needs to understand treatment timelines, and not rush reconnection:

  • A period of sexual abstinence, typically 60-90 days, is now a standard recommendation in the early treatment period.
  • 1-2 years of individual recovery prior to combined recovery treatment

Unfortunately, due to the extreme secrecy, deceit and manipulation surrounding sex addiction, it is hard to come up with reliable recovery rates. Unlike drug addiction, there is no urine test to use to create credible data concerning recovery.

There are tons of stats and studies on personality disorders, and one thing we know for sure. If sexual addiction is a symptom of a personality disorder, that personality disorder will be with the person for life.

The Church must be really reticent in holding out hope for recovery, and take a watch and see approach. And, we need to keep in mind that God does not ask that a wife continue indefinitely in the abandonment that the husband has caused.



A Message of Compassion To The Wives

If you are a wife who has experienced the pain of a marriage riddled with sexual addiction, you are not alone. You may feel numb, and shutdown from the betrayal you have experienced. What is happening to you is wrong. It is not your fault. It is not your responsibility to fix. You deserve safety, and healing.

It is okay for you to go against the bad advice of your religious organization, and leave the marriage for a place of healing and safety. Your church is not in your marriage. Your church is not a trauma therapist. Statistically, half of the men in your church, struggle with their own sex addiction and are not in position of strength to help you with this issue.

If you need to talk to someone who understands, leave a comment, and I will get back to you. You are not forgotten. I care.

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