With all the stories in the news today about powerful people in the media, in Hollywood and even political leaders and their involvement in inappropriate and unwanted sexual behavior, a lot of terms are being used incorrectly.
Using terms incorrectly and not understanding the difference between two commonly heard terms, sexual harassment and sex addiction only causes more confusion and muddies the waters. While both do have to do with behaviors, this is really all that these terms have in common.
Sexual harassment is the targeting of specific individuals because of their sex. It is most commonly seen when men harass women in the workplace as a way to demean or gain power or control over the person being harassed. While it may be physical in nature, it can also refer to teasing, taunting or making sexualized comments that are directed towards one woman or women in general.
It is very common in sexual harassment for the women to be told that they must perform specific sexual acts or endure countless requests for sexual favors. A very good example of this is the Harvey Weinstein scandal were numerous women have come forth to accuse the film producer of making them watch him remove his clothing or demanding they give him massages to be able to advance their careers with his films. However, there is also the Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K, Matt Lauer and several others that are very public examples of sexual harassment towards women.
Sexual harassment can escalate to sexual misconduct and sexual assault. Often this behavior is driven by a need to dominate or gain power or to watch the emotional pain of the individual being harassed. This behavior is not about sexual gratification for the man; it is about power and control over the victim.
Sexual addiction includes sexual behaviors, but it is driven by internal factors like any other type of addiction. Individuals with sexual addiction have a compulsion to engage in sexual conduct, even though they know it is risky, dangerous or potentially destructive to their lives and their relationships.
Sex addicts do not abuse or control their partners as a general rule. Sex addicts are often not sex offenders and most do not make their sexual addiction a part of their workplace.
Unfortunately, when prominent men are accused of sexual harassment, they often refer to themselves and their actions as a result of a sex addiction. However, a closer look at the pattern of behavior can often demonstrate they are guilty of sexual misconduct and not an addiction.
Sherry Gaba, LCSW, Psychotherapist, Certified Transformation and Recovery Coach and author of the award winning book The Law of Sobriety: Attracting Positive Energy for a Powerful Recovery and Ecourse. You can take her quiz to find out if you are co-dependent or sign up for a 30 minute strategy session with Sherry. Check out Sherry’s new book The Marriage and Relationship Junkie: Kicking Your Obsession.