by Barry Kerr
A good friend recently told me he had come to the conclusion that he had a life-long sexual addiction to strikingly beautiful women, and it’s created problems all his life. Indeed, Dave, a handsome 64 year old, has had a number of sexual partners over the years, including three wives, each quite attractive, by anyone’s standards.
Such an addiction, if real, brings up the image of a charismatic playboy, coasting though countless superficial relationships, with little or no regard for the feelings of his partners, always ready for a new seduction to give him that momentary sense of the conquering victor.
But this doesn’t describe Dave. His partners have been relatively few. His loyalty to and care for his wives’ happiness has been sincere and much the focus of his attention. He is a sensitive and deeply introspective man. For most of his adult life he has strained to live integral to his standards of moral decency, both before and after he converted to his very conservative Christian faith.
So what did he mean by his sexual “addiction” to beautiful women? And how is this any different than simply having an acute taste for beauty in a partner? And why should it cause problems? Having a beautiful woman would add to any man’s contentment, right?
Not necessarily. As Dave explained his recent discovery, it became clear why not.
Like many men, “I had from an early age, made physical beauty a high and uncompromising priority in my set of relationship values,” he said. “This value often blinded me to other values that I liked to think of as equal in importance, but which I apparently was willing to compromise”, once enthralled with the seductive attentions of an available siren.
Seems like a common occurrence, doesn’t it? A man blinded by beauty? And it is. To a great extent, nature has hard-wired men, more than women, to respond to visual cues from women. Just the waist-to-hip curve of a woman’s body is enough to catch a man’s attention and alter his awareness and experience of his surroundings.
Nature has designed this for the obvious intention of procreation, and to that extent, the attraction a man feels to his ideal feminine form is a natural, healthy dynamic. Most any man, even without coaching from our over-sexed media, will aspire to couple with as attractive a woman as he is able. An average looking man will settle for less than his ideal. Just look at all the couples you’ve met or seen in the media. With some exceptions, average people tend to mate with partners who are similar in the range of good looks. Men with power, money, or fame tend to seek and attract women above their own level of physical charm.
So if it’s natural for a man to include good looks as a high priority in his search for a partner, then how could that ever be called an addiction? Sure, beauty can blind a man to a women’s faults, but isn’t the problem really that he is weak and unwilling to open his eyes and see who she really is? Is the attraction to her beauty, in itself, really the problem?
As Dave lived out his cycle of relationships with beautiful women, each time arriving at yet another version of suffering, rejection and disillusionment, he eventually saw the pattern repeat enough to ask deeper questions.
That word, “disillusionment” (freed of an illusion, of what is not real), is an important one for all us as we journey through our relationships in life. As we experience disillusionment, it typically feels bad as we struggle to let go of the good we thought was real. Yet, as we let go, if we keep our hearts and minds open to what really is real, the questions begin to surface and the answers come to us. Often, we don’t like the new answers, or some of them, and we go about recreating our old reality with a new partner, missing the opportunity to step into a full version of a new authentic consciousness. At some point, after repeating this cycle too many times, we might be ready to fully embrace the truths that life is presenting to us about ourselves. Then, we typically feel an uplifting, a liberation from blindness, that inspires us toward a new, more authentic and fulfilling way to live and relate. Such has been, for myriad generations, the nature of human suffering, growth and the evolution of consciousness.
For Dave, it wasn’t as simple as putting a high value on feminine beauty. That felt natural to his manhood. What time and experience had brought to his awareness was that there was another, deeper, more personal and profound value attached to his experience of a woman’s beauty.
“I don’t know where I learned it”, he said, “but from early childhood I learned to believe that if a woman is especially attractive, then she somehow is superior to me and she must have the capacity to know and judge my worth, not just my worth as a partner, but as a person. If she chooses to be with me, she is validating my worth. Then, if she gives herself to me in sex, she is proving my worthiness, proving it to me.”
Underlying this belief, allowing it to even make sense to Dave, is a much deeper belief, namely, that his self-worth is dependent on what others think, that he needs some third party intermediation to establish his worthiness to receive God’s blessings.
With his self-worth at stake, and dependent on a beautiful woman to establish it through sexual surrender to him, no wonder Dave felt “addicted” to the experience. It’s the only way he could continually confirm or re-establish his worthiness to receive life’s blessings.
The problem, of course, is that Dave’s partners can never really do that. Beauty doesn’t really give them that ability or the right. It’s all in his mind. And as his partners began to notice his self-doubt, they began to experience his desire for them as a neediness for something beyond what they could deliver, something they judged he should already have, without them. His partners lost respect for him, found him desperate for their approval, and eventually they each felt repulsion and turned against him as if rubbing their disapproval into his open wound of unworthiness.
“Get some balls!” they could have said. “Ask God to show you your worthiness. Don’t make me do that. I want a man who already knows.”