Sexual addict vs. sexual predator

The general public was disgusted and judgmental of celebrity figures when they succumbed to their bad choices in the wake of their sexual addiction. Recall the fall of Tiger Woods, Josh Duggar, and Charlie Sheen. Their bad choices led to time in rehab and time out of the spotlight. Compared to the scandals today, the choices made by Woods, Duggar and Sheen were no doubt horrific for their wives and significant others, but their bad decisions were made with other consenting adults. Fast forward to today and all of the #metoo commentary. We have drifted into an area of sexual harassment and sexual acts with no boundaries on non-consenting individuals. We have strayed into areas in which the consequences are not divorce or bad publicity (though there is that) but jail time. The daily reports of new celebrities being accused of horrible acts of sexual harassment, and in some cases, of rape or violations with minors, are shocking. Just this week, Anthony Weiner, former NY congressman who was convicted of sexting with a minor, began his almost 2-year prison sentence.

Make no mistake, one who is suffering with a sexual addiction can absolutely stray into illegal acts and maybe already has by being involved with prostitutes. This is the nature of such an addiction because the behavior and thrill-seeking require an escalation of sexual acts to continue to feel the rush. Anthony Weiner is a prime example of a sexual addiction that spiraled out of control. So, I don’t want to create a falsehood that a person with a sexual addiction does not make choices which can lead them into unethical and/or illegal territory. It absolutely happens. But as a person who works everyday with regular people who are struggling with sexual integrity and addiction, I want to speak up and differentiate between a person who has a sexual addiction and a person who is a sexual predator.

Most men (because the majority are men) who experience pain around sexual addiction feel guilt, shame, embarrassment, and deep hurt about how their choices have affected themselves and their loved ones spiritually, financially, and emotionally. They don’t want to continue to make these choices. They want to change. They want their behavior to cease. They aren’t touching women in the workplace or using their power to manipulate sexual favors. Such acts would expose them, and they very much want to keep their secret safe. A great number are young men growing up in the age of the Internet and were overly exposed to Internet porn and now they are hooked. They too aren’t sexually assaulting women one day and headed off to get help for their sexual addiction the next.

A sexual predator is operating outside of the boundaries of consent. Though they might have a sexual addiction in that they might look at pornography to excess, sext images of themselves, and visit massage parlors or strip clubs, they have taken it an entire step out of the realm of all things legal. The moment they decided to engage in behavior that left another person feeling invaded upon for their own sexual pleasure, they became sexual predators. The weapon is sex and they are no longer just hurting themselves. Even though Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are seeking treatment for their addictions, that does not in any way relieve them of criminal responsibility. In a recent USA Today article, Dr. Doug Weiss, a leading sexual addiction therapist, said it best. “Sexual addiction is not an excuse for criminal behavior. Sexual criminals are still responsible for their crimes. The treatment for sexual offenders, including court-ordered psychiatric hospital stays, differs from treatment of non-criminal sexual addiction because they have a different level of pathology,” Weiss says. “It’s a different thought process to injure another for your pleasure.”

So as the topic of sexual addiction is becoming more mainstream in this very heinous manner, I want the general public to understand that sexual addiction doesn’t usually look like the media is portraying it right now. Many men who are dealing with a sexual addiction are not participating in illegal/non-consenting acts. I hope we can keep in perspective of that before we judge everyone who is suffering with this addiction as “disgusting” or “perverted.” The last thing that we need is for a person who is working on this addiction to be lumped in with the predators and feel more shame.

[Are you struggling with a sexual addiction? Specialized sexual addiction counselors have training for not only sexual addiction but helping partners through the pain of this addiction. Search your area for counselors who have the acronyms of CSRT (Certified Sexual Recovery Therapist) or SRT (Sexual Recovery Therapist). S-Anon, COSA, and Pure Desire offer support groups for partners. Click on the link to find a meeting near you.]


2 thoughts on “Sexual addict vs. sexual predator”

  1. Joshua Shea says:

    This is beautifully written. As someone who had a porn addiction for 25 years dating back to my early teens, it strayed into illegal territory for a short time before being arrested. With more than three years of counseling, inpatient rehab, group therapy and yes, a short stint of incarceration behind me, I can now see what was the porn addiction and what were the other forces that came into play at the end.

    The distinction between porn/sex addict and sex offender is an important one to make, but like any addiction, it’s important to note that things can drift into illegal territory. I thank God for my outcome. It saved my life. I think about how many others that weren’t “outed” and it’s scary. Thank you for this well-written article.

    1. Thank you for your honesty Joshua. I’m so glad that the steps you took and had to face stuck. You bring up an important point that consequences (like incarceration) can turn people around.

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