Exploring sexual addiction as it relates to people with a sexual attraction to both genders is complicated by the fact that bisexuality, perhaps more than any other sexual orientation, is characterized by complexity and misunderstanding. The challenge starts with the fact that many people experience attraction to both sexes at some point in their life and it is not uncommon to have had sex outside one’s usual orientation sometime along the way. It is, in fact, often a part of the development of one’s sexual identity. The obvious question arises: when does the attraction or behavior make the person bisexual? Even the term, bisexual, is probably inadequate and is rejected by some people who, for example, see themselves as heterosexual but periodically act on a homosexual impulse.
In an attempt to avoid as much confusion and controversy as possible in this discussion, bisexual will refer simply to anyone whose sexual attraction or sexual behavior includes both males and females. Sexually addicted bisexual will refer to people attracted to both genders who have the characteristics of sex addiction. Initially our focus will be on some general information about bisexuality, before exploring the aspect of sexual addiction.
A context for discussing bisexuality is provided by looking at some indication of its incidence. Knowing that the practice is spread through the world’s cultures, we cite specific statistics in the U.S., where in 2002 the National Center for Health Statistics revealed that 1.8% of U.S. males and 2.8% of females consider themselves bisexual. This compares to 2.3% of males and a similar number of females who consider themselves to be homosexual, published in the same report. Presumably no statistics exist as to how many bisexual people are sexually addicted.
Some bisexuals never form a singular permanent relationship but have serial, alternating or concurrent relationships with both genders. Others form a permanent relationship with someone of one gender but continue to be attracted to people of the other gender and may periodically engage in sexual activity with members of the other sex. Probably in most of these committed relationships the bisexual person hides the attraction and the sexual relations from the relationship partner. An example of this scenario is the man who considers himself heterosexual and gets married but continues to be attracted to other men and sometimes yields to the urge to be sexual with a man, which he attempts to keep hidden from his wife.
Some bisexuals consider their bisexual nature congruent, embracing it as part of who they are. For others the bisexual orientation is egodystonic, meaning it is inconsistent with their self concept, which may create a frequent inner struggle. In the latter category are those bisexuals who approve of their attraction to the opposite sex, but resent or try to deny their attraction to their own gender. It sometimes turns out that a person in this situation has denied a homosexual orientation and that the preference for the opposite sex is not a true attraction but a societal compromise. An eventual acceptance of their homosexuality can be the successful resolution for such a person. It is a common misperception, however, that anyone who experiences bisexual urges is merely a repressed or latent homosexual.
Beyond the scope of this discussion are those who are heterosexual and do not have sex with the same gender but obsessively fear being homosexual, and vice versa. To reach a site with some well-written information about HOCD (homosexual obsessive compulsive disorder), provided, not by a clinical specialist, but someone knowledgeable on the subject, click here. (The sponsor of the site you are currently viewing, Counseling Affiliates Sexual Addiction Treatment Program, does not take any responsibility for the content of the above linked site.)
Turning now to the issue of sexual addiction, we start with an understanding that what determines the sexual addiction is not the sexual preference but rather specific characteristics which cross all lines of gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, etc. A very brief summary of sexual addiction characteristics includes sexual behavior that: 1) violates some of one’s own personal values, 2) leads to living a double life in which some sexual behavior is kept secret, 3) becomes a dependency to which the person turns in times of stress, 4) is characterized by unsuccessful attempts or promises to stop the behavior, 5) exhibits a pattern of risk-taking and progression to more extreme behaviors, 6) results in unwanted consequences and life problems, and 7) involves denial of all the previous characteristics. To learn in more detail about the characteristics of sexual addiction in general, click here.
Not surprisingly, ambiguity can be encountered in applying the characteristics of sexual addiction to bisexuality. For example, it was shown previously that for some bisexuals there is an inherent tendency to feel in violation of one’s conscious or unconscious values, e.g., I am a straight man but have sex with other men. Also, as is true for many gays in predominantly homophobic cultures, bisexuals can experience a lot of social stigma, which engenders shame, fear and secrecy. It is easy, therefore, to see how a bisexual person could exhibit a number of the above characteristics, simply because some of their impulses are inconsistent with society’s norms and expectations. On the other hand, a salient feature of sexual addiction is impaired thinking and denial, making it a delicate task to separate the chaff from the grain, the stigma from the disorder.
In the endeavor to distinguish sexual addiction, it is essential to pay careful attention to such indicators as frequency of behavior, reasons for the personal violations, degree of risk and progression, and other extremes that can be differentiated from cultural considerations. A therapeutic process with a skilled sexual addiction specialist would be helpful in making such an assessment. For information on locating specialized professional help, click on the “Treatment” side button. It would be a good idea to inquire if the program or individual has experience treating bisexuality.
One illustration of sexual addiction in a bisexual context which occurs with some frequency is the situation mentioned previously in which some men who consider themselves heterosexual and who pursue heterosexual relationships also experience a sexual attraction to men. These men periodically act on their attraction by secretly engaging in sexual behaviors involving men. Patrick Carnes, PhD, noted authority in the sexual addiction field, says in his landmark book on sexual addiction, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction: “The [sexual] addiction is even more complicated for men who consider themselves heterosexual, but are compulsive only in homosexual ways.”
The behaviors of such men can be sex acts compulsively performed with anonymous men with whom they connect through various means, such as gay hangouts, the Internet, personal ads, or mutual recognition in any random social situation, such as a shopping mall. Or the sexual liaisons are sometimes with male friends or acquaintances discovered to have a mutual attraction. The behaviors are also sometimes solo activities not involving physical contact with another man, such as masturbating to pornography that focuses on the male or masturbating to fantasies about males. Sometimes such men even fantasize about male sex while having sex with their heterosexual partners.
The attraction is often activated when in the presence of other men. It can also contain an element of envy of other males’ attributes. In this form of bisexual sex addiction, the addict may unconsciously compare himself to other males, feeling inferior to them and, again unconsciously, wish he possessed their features or qualities. Friendships with idealized men may be formed in which sex is not overtly pursued, but the sex addict experiences altered states from being in the “energy field” of the other person. Afterward when alone, the addictive experience in these relationships may be heightened to a euphoria state by masturbating to fantasies about being sexual with the sexualized person.
Once again we are reminded that some clandestine behaviors are typical for non addicted bisexuals, as well as gay and lesbian people, due to cultural constraints, and that they are an even more prominent feature of the sexual landscape of addicted bisexuals because of the added influence of the addiction, which compulsively intensifies many of these tendencies.
Sometimes the addictive attraction operates in cycles. The addict may be free of it for periods of time during which the attraction is dormant or repressed. Then stress or various other circumstances, such as a sexual overture by another man, reactivate the attraction and the need.
As with other sex addicts, the bisexual who discovers an addiction to sex uncovers an asset in that he or she will then have a frame of reference to explain some of the more puzzling contradictions that have been experienced, as well as opening the door to acquiring a network of support to assist in a recovery process. To learn more about the recovery process, click here, [Link to The Recovery Process] and for professional help, click here. In conclusion, here is a final thought about the problem some bisexuals tend to experience. For those attracted to both genders who are personally uncomfortable acting on both attractions but prefer a lifestyle based on one sexual orientation, there does seem to be an answer. The resolution basically involves a thorough self examination and eventually a psychological choice of heterosexuality or homosexuality, combined with openness and support to reinforce the choice in the future.
For the bisexual who is also a sex addict, it may turn out that the attraction to the incompatible gender embodies the addiction. For example, a man could have a natural affinity for heterosexuality wherein his sexual relationships with women would lack addictive qualities, but be addictively attracted to men so that his sexual behavior in these relationships would fit the characteristics of addiction. In this case, it would make sense to use recovery support to stop sexually acting out with men. However, it is important to point out that reaching an accurate understanding of bisexuality issues may not be simple or obvioous. The dynamics just mentioned might, for example, be indicative of repressed homosexuality. Therefore it is extremely helpful, if not essential, to have professional assistance from someone skilled in working with bisexuality issues, and, if sexually addicted, by a sexual addiction specialist—finding someone skilled in both areas would be an ideal situation for the bisexual sex addict.
A place to start if interested in checking out the possibility of sexual addiction is to click
below on the Professional Treatment link and then scroll through definitions of out-patient treatment and in-patient treatment as well as lists of programs and individuals. The programs and individuals listed are known for treating general sexual addiction issues, but by asking you may find they have knowledge and skill relating to bisexuality.
Another good prospect for getting help with both sexual addiction and bisexuality issues would be to click on the "Specialized Help" sub tab under the "Gay Sex Addicts" side button, for a list of programs and specialists. Sometimes clinicians specializing in one of the GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender) orientations will have experience with the others as well.
Click here for Info about Professional Treatment for Sexual Addiction