The Psychology of Sex
LOVE AS ADDICTION. Regardless of age, a crush, hero-worship or falling in love, along with other pair-bonded relationships, may be regarded as the prototype of addiction. The person who has fallen in love becomes addicted to the love partner – obsessed and preoccupied with the next “fix” of being together or talking together. In the paraphilias (Chapter 5), the love partner becomes replaced, in part or in toto, by some intrusion. A fetish, for example, a shoe fetish, insists on being included in the imagery of erotic arousal. A fetishist is addicted to his fetish. A transvestite’s addiction to his women’s clothes is another example. No matter how many times he disposes of them, in an attempt to escape their erotic demands on him, sooner or later he compulsively replaces them. In a women’s wear store, he is like an alcoholic in a distillery. For the zoophiliac, the addiction is to his/her pet. And so on...
Some children grow up unable to become love-addicted, that is, they are deficient in becoming pair-bonded as lovers. Such a deficit tends to be associated, inter alia, with Klinefelter’s (47,XXY) syndrome in males, and with hypopituitarism in either sex (Chapter 5). The extent to which this deficit may belong to other syndromes, some perhaps still unnamed, is unknown, but is undoubtedly greater than is usually believed. There are also some children who are much delayed in reaching the pair-bonding stage.
Some children grow up to become not pair-bonded, but addicted instead to a nonerotic, nonsexual substitute. Thus some people are addicted to carbohydrate and eat food in place of having a partner sexually and erotically. Others become addicted to pharmacologic products and become bonded to them at the expense of love-bonding and performing sexually with a partner. Alcohol is the most universal of the addictive replacements for sex with a partner, most commonly the spouse. Some street drugs, notably morphine derivatives, are analogous. Both sexes are affected, but males are more incapacitated than females, by reason of becoming impotent.
One of the least understood characteristics of an addiction is that, like the negative and positive poles of an electric current, or the negative and positive of a photograph, an addiction exists between two people, just as the pair-bonding of love exists between two people. There are some dramatic examples of this two-way process, as when one partner in a marriage is a chronic alcoholic and the other a chronic martyr to the other’s alcoholism. If the alcoholic should reform or die, then the other may transform from being a martyr and total abstainer to being a chronic alcoholic.
So complete a role-reversal is relatively uncommon. By contrast, the phenomenon of role-reciprocity or role-collusion is common, and remarkably so in the erotic/sexual addictions of the paraphilias. Thus the martyr-wife of a sadist may for half a century accommodate to her husband’s inability to reach orgasm unless he vilifies, humiliates, restrains, disciplines, injures, and tortures her. Conversely, a husband may, if he is a masochist, demand his wife to be the dominatrix. After the orgasm is achieved, the sadism or masochism, respectively, may recede into the background, and the man may be repentant and mortified at what he has put his wife through (almost always the man is the instigator, whether as sadist or masochist). With the logic of a lawyer’s mind, one might easily tell the wife to separate and divorce. But legal logic is not the logic of role-collusion, and so the couple stays intact. In those relatively rare instances in which they together get into sexological therapy, it eventually emerges that if the offender’s behavior changes for the better, then the offended one can’t cope and deteriorates into either somatic or psychopathologic illness, or both.
In the present state of knowledge, the extent to which the accommodation of the partner to a paraphiliac’s addiction begins as a mutual attraction (Chapter 4) is not known. It is known, however, that the degree of accommodation of the one partner to the other may develop so as to have extraordinary tenacity, as is always the case in the psychology of abuse and abuser, martyr and tyrant, and slave and master. Herein lies the explanation of why the therapy of sex addictions must, virtually without exception, be couple therapy in order to be effective. It needs great patience and much time.
Though unconventional, it is not as odd as it might sound to speak of the love-addicted and to classify the rituals of the paraphilias among the addictions. It is more usual to reserve the term, addiction, for substance abuse, it being understood that the substances of abuse are either swallowed, inhaled, or injected into the blood stream. There is no reason why the products to which one is addicted should be restricted to such methods of entry into the self. They might equally well include products that enter through the eyes and, perhaps with some assistance from the other senses, become mental images in the brain, as is the case predominantly in the love addictions. Once past their point of entry, they activate the brain and its chemistries of neurotransmission – all of which is not too far removed from the way in which opium and its derivatives activate the brain by competing with the brain’s own recently discovered opiate-like neurotransmitters, the endorphins.
John Money, Love and Love Sickness: The Science of Sex, Gender Difference and Pair-bonding, pp. 151-154. John Hopkins University Press (Baltimore, London) 1980.