Women Who Stray

Notes on the history and current practice of female infidelity

Here we go again! Rapist or poor, misunderstood sex addict?

How quickly can the media misdiagnose Strauss-Kahn as a sex addict?

French politician strauss-Kahn is charged with rape. And already the media is diagnosing him as a sex addict.

Yet another famous man is in trouble for his sexual behaviors. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, French politician and head of the International Monetary Fund, is under arrest, sitting on Riker's Island, alleged to have raped a female maid at his high-priced hotel.

And in less than twenty-four hours, this man has now been misdiagnosed as a sex addict. Robert Weiss, sex addiction guru has proclaimed Strauss-Kahn as a sex addict, writing that: "Powerful men engaged in intensely stressful jobs need to have their emotional lives in balance. While functioning at a very high level intellectually, a sense of invulnerability combined with poor self-care and constant pressure to perform can leave them emotionally vulnerable to undermining the very things they have worked so hard to achieve. In this way, sexual addiction has affected some of the most notable figures in television, politics, and entertainment. David Duchovny, Elliot Spitzer, Larry Craig, Christopher Lee, Bill Clinton, and of course Tiger Woods are just a few examples of how sexual acting out can manifest in men of power who should know better.

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Strauss-Kahn is "not in control" of himself, because he's a sex addict, at least, if you believe the media that is.

"The underlying source of these types of addictive sexual disorders is a lack of adult emotional support and intimacy combined with often overlooked early histories of early emotional trauma. People who addictively utilize intensely pleasurable experiences as sources of emotionally distracting stimulation are maladaptively attending to very real emotional needs in dysfunctional ways. Those are individuals who work 16 to 18 hour days, travel the world at a far distance from those close to them and often have few people to fully confide in - while having to manage intense stress and pressure. They often don't make it a priority to create and enjoy down time. As a result, they miss out on the relaxation, self-care and emotional intimacy, human beings require for a healthy life."

So, like Newt Gingrich, who blamed his sexual infidelity on his patriotism and the stress of his job, Strauss-Kahn's actions are the result of his work? In media attention to the sexual scandal of the French politician and International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the media attempted to understand and explain why this powerful French politician would allegedly attempt to rape a woman. French psychiatrists described that "There is a loss of control," and that sex addiction "is characterized by a loss of rational control, as well as significant and measurable changes in the neurochemistry of the brain," ...where ""Willful rationality is no longer the orchestra conductor...". We know now, that telling people that something is uncontrollable, creates this belief. And this belief, that one's sexuality is an uncontrollable force, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

One of the developing fields in psychology is raising significant questions about the effects of trauma on people's lives. For decades, therapists have casually diagnosed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on anyone who discloses a history of childhood sexual or physical abuse. While the effects of these events are significant, some interesting research and theories now suggest that it is actually the meaning that people give to these events, that truly impacts their lives.

In one study of PTSD, researchers interviewed flight attendants who had survived plane crashes. They found that they could divide the attendants into two groups. One group consisted of those attendants who felt panicked and out of control during the crash. They felt that the crash was happening to them, and there was nothing they could do during the event, but wait and die. The other group experienced a crash as well, but during the event, they focused upon doing what they could, using their training, to preserve the lives of their passengers and themselves. The key difference between the groups was the feeling of being "out of control," something the first group experienced, and the second did not. The first group experienced the long-term negative effects of PTSD, at far higher rates than the second. Somehow, even though the physical experiences were the same, the different cognitive experience, of being in charge, in control, of something, anything, was protective.

Studies with soldiers and others exposed to trauma and stress has shown that when a person in a stressful situation does SOMETHING, anything, that they have been trained to do, believing that it will help them retain control, the experience of the trauma is lessened. In one study in the military, levels of the chemical cortisol, related to stress, were measured in soldiers awaiting an attack on their firebase. Some soldiers engaged their training, preparing themselves and their base for the coming battle, while others sat and fretted. The men who laid out razor wire and dug foxholes had lower levels of stress, while the bodies of the men who sat and waited showed dramatically high levels of cortisol. So, the message is, if you believe that you are powerless, your body does too, and you and your body enter into a spiraling cycle, where your feelings of powerlessness feed on themselves. In contrast, when you find yourself feeling powerless, if you begin to do something, almost anything, which has a chance of improving the situation. You will feel more in control, and suffer less long-term effects from the experience.

If we continue to tell these powerful men that they (and all the male readers) are not in control of their sexualities, then we will get what we ask for. If you tell yourself you're out of control of your behavior, you will be. If you tell yourself that these horrible things that have happened to you have ruined your life, and changed it forever, then they will. We should stop leaping to diagnose sex addiction in these narcissistic, amoral and predatory buffoons who treat the world, and the women in it, as their playtoys. We should demand that our leaders and powerful men be ethical and responsible, both behind the desk, and in the bedroom. We should not give them the "out" of saying that their jobs give them a sexual illness that leads to an inability to control their penises.

 

 

David J. Ley, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Insatiable Wives, Women Who Stray and The Men Who Love Them, available from Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

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