Ah, the adolescent years: they are rife with curiosity, rebellion, changing bodies, emotional upheaval, you name it. Heck, no one said it was easy being a teen. If anything, it’s one of the most difficult periods in one’s development. There’s already so much to deal with, as teens learn to adjust to their physical changes along with the accompanying emotional ups and downs, their increased freedoms as high-school begins or comes to an end, and the heightened expectations from parents, teachers, and friends. However, the prevalence of hyper-sexualized imagery used in advertising, on television, in video games, on billboards and magazines, lends itself to inevitably skewed ideas and expectations regarding sexuality. For instance, online pornography is easily attainable, and often for little to no cost. Add the instant gratification of text messaging and the increased use of smart phones, and all of a sudden, not only is sexual content readily available, it’s often viewed surreptitiously. In fact, communicating via text message is the preferred means of contact for teens, so it’s not terribly surprising that sexting, sending provocative self-portraits, and using suggestive apps are a heady component in the adolescent vernacular. For some, however, this behavior can become compulsive, which can mean:
- Loss of control over their behavior with sex
- Continuing to participate in that behavior, regardless of its negative consequences
- A preoccupation or obsession with the sex, porn, etc.
There is also a lot of shame associated with acting out sexually, particularly when it’s driven by addiction and compulsion. Like using drugs or drinking, there is a “high” associated with it, and addict behavior will prevail with sexual addiction, just as it does with drugs and alcohol. The truth is, as a culture, we are encouraged to be sexy but not sexual. Additionally, there is a double standard regarding sexuality, ie. the idea that “boys will be boys” or “girls are just more promiscuous.” There’s also a double standard regarding sex itself: hypersexuality in boys is frequently considered “studly,” while the same behavior in girls is often perceived as “slutty.” Sadly, that thinking lends itself to secrecy along with a heightened sense of shame. Couple that with an inclination toward addiction, and you’ve got a cocktail of doom. Fortunately, as more therapists and counselors become aware of sexual addiction, it’s more likely to be addressed in treatment. Also, as people enter treatment and begin to open up, any issues with sex addiction tend to come out. Not only does this process help alleviate their sense of feeling alone, it also provides a healthy environment of support, which allows for healing and change.