The first thing you should know is that although I (Roger Jones) am listed as the author of this article, I am actually not. I am simply the one who posted this blog. This article was written by a dear friend and leader at Where Grace Abounds, Kari Bratager, who has since gone on to be with the Lord. She lost her fight with cancer in the Fall of 2014. We miss her presence with us often! Sexual anorexia was a topic she spoke about a number of times in our various group meetings.
Since starting this blog and launching our new website a month ago, we have been paying close attention to what pages are being visited. People seem to be finding this piece in particular, which is several clicks into our website from the Home Page. As of today, it is the most viewed item over the past month, including the new blogs we’ve been posting and promoting. We thought it might be nice to bring it to the forefront here and give it even more exposure. It is a little lengthy, so it has been broken into two parts. (Part 2 will be up later this week) For those who knew Kari, let’s remember her as we read. And let’s all take a moment to learn something.
By Kari Bratager
What is Sexual Anorexia?
Sexual Anorexia can also be known as sexual aversion or revulsion. Unlike the sexual addict who spends most of their time obsessing about how to obtain sexual contact, a sexual anorexic will spend a majority of their time obsessing over how to avoid sexual contact or thought. There are many factors that sexual anorexics tend to have in common.
First, they obsessively avoid any form of sexual contact, discussion, or other things that may be related to sex. This leads them to fear and avoid most forms of intimacy (especially with the opposite sex), including sexual, emotional, and relational intimacy. When a relationship starts to become too intimate or deep the sexual anorexic may find ways to sabotage the relationship. This avoidance of sexuality and intimacy becomes an obsession for the person affecting their work, hobbies, friends, families, and interfering with their normal life).
Secondly, the sexual anorexic usually deals with a core issue of shame. This may show itself in low self-esteem, self hatred, a distorted body image, doubt over sexual adequacy, and shame over past sexual encounters, including abuse. Many sexual anorexics are competent perfectionists who fear making mistakes.
Third, most sexual anorexics also deal with various forms of self destructive behavior, including self injury. Since sexual anorexia requires extreme relational deprivation, their destructive behavior may take the form of a simultaneous out of control behavior such as overeating, overspending, or workaholism.
Fourth, this person may either identify more with the opposite gender seeing their own gender as weak or bad, or may see themselves or all humanity as gender neutral. They may also see the opposite gender as monstrous or scary.
Fifth, this person usually holds many similar core beliefs. They tend to believe that they are intrinsically bad or evil, undeserving of basic human needs. Because they believe they are evil they also believe that no one will ever be able to truly love them. They also believe that no one will ever be able to meet their needs thus they have to depend fully upon themselves. Finally, they believe that “sex is their most terrifying need (Carnes, 1997, p. 107).”
Portraits of Sexual Anorexia
Sexual Anorexia has many different faces. It may be the male or female who seems to be eternally single, they haven’t dated much and those relationships tend to end quickly when they do happen. The sheer thought of a relationship becoming intimate and leading to sex is enough to cause this person to flee. This person has probably created walls in their everyday relationships, and needs to learn to create healthy boundaries that allow some people in. For this person their everyday life is about avoiding sexuality.
It may also look like the married sex addict who feels free in their relationships outside of marriage, may visit prostitutes, or look at pornography on a regular basis but refuses to have sex with their spouse.
Finally, it may look like a married or unmarried sex addict who tries to control their behavior to the point that this need to control their behavior becomes an obsession. This person may never engage in a pattern of sexual addiction again or may bounce back and forth between periods of sexual starvation and sexual binges. This person may also be called a sexual bulimic.
Roots of Sexual Anorexia
Sexual anorexia tends to be linked to the sexual violation of a person at a young age. It is also seen a reaction against living with parents who were sexual addicts. Finally it can also be related to growing up in an atmosphere in which sex was looked down on as being something dirty.
Part two of this blog will continue with a discussion about the difference between healthy abstinence & sexual anorexia and wrap up with some thoughts from Kari about How Healing Begins.
Carnes, P. (1997). Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming sexual self hatred. Center City, MN: Hazelden
Carnes, P. (1989). Contrary to Love: Helping the sexual addict. Minneapolis, MN: CompCare.
Carnes, P. (1991). Don’t Call it love: Recovery from sexual addiction. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Carnes, P. (2001). Out of the Shadows: Understanding sexual addiction. Minneapolis, MN: CompCare.
May, G. (1988). Addiction and Grace. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
Schaumburg, H.W. (1997). False Intimacy: Understanding the struggle of sexual addiction. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Sex and Love Addicts Annonymous. (1992). Anorexia: Sexual, social, emotional workbook. Newton, Mass: Augustine Fellowship.