A DICK, and I'M ADDICTED TO YOU
factors complicate life for hookers and johns Even
in our supposedly equal and enlightened society, women and
men experience a whole host of social phenomenon in vastly
different ways, perhaps none more than sex addiction. If a
woman is addicted to sex, she can feed her addiction by finding
men at a bar to take home, falling quietly within societal
norms that are widely accepted, considered harmless and even
"A really attractive sex addict has her pick," said sex therapist
But while male addicts will have sex with an unattractive
woman, things don't work out the same when it comes to women
and unattractive men, he added. Male addicts often pick up
a prostitute, a move that harms communities, strains the tax-funded
legal system, risks their physical health and fuels the addictions
that many sex-trade workers suffer.
The different realities for men and women point to how social
and psychological factors above simple sex drive combine when
it comes to buying sex, say two sex addiction experts.
sex therapist Doris Vincent estimates 12 per cent of sex addicts
are also addicted to paying for sex, while Hrushka believes
up to half of the men who buy prostitutes may be addicts.
"When I was at john school, a third of them thought they might
have had a problem," said Vincent, who has spoken about sexual
behaviour and addictions at the Edmonton-based school.
In what's formally known as the Prostitution Offender Program,
eligible men caught buying sex who choose to participate in
the school's day long course learn about the health risks
of their behaviour and hear stories from people and communities
victimized by the sex trade.
Just as the school's approach sways away from traditional
punishment, Vincent said she participates to reach those whose
sex addiction is the root of prostitute buying.
"I'm hoping to show them that there are people who can help,
not just scorn and shame," she said.
Sex addicts have often been exposed to pornography from as
young as six years old, said Vincent, and become shocked at
the sexual sights before they are able to understand.
"As with all addiction, the root is trauma," she said, noting
how the images "alter their normal sex development."
Widespread use of the internet, where porn is widely accessible
without parental supervision, is a concern for that very reason,
the therapist added.
Children often get frustrated not knowing how to deal with
emotional problems like stress, Vincent said, and may turn
to pornography, often accompanied by masturbating, as an escape.
"It begins to be used as a drug (and) alters the brain chemistry
at some point."
Of course, that's not to say that any child who comes across
their dad's copy of Playboy once or twice will turn into a
sex addict, just as someone who has the odd drink won't necessarily
become an alcoholic.
Vincent said the danger is with repeated exposure to porn,
where the viewer needs to see increasingly shocking images
and then suffers withdrawal, setting up an addictive cycle.
With such distorted images imprinted in their mind, an addict
de-links sex with intimacy, and will have trouble forming
normal, healthy relationships.
"Someone addicted to sex can't be sexually aroused by someone
they care about," noted Vincent.
Hrushka cited one married male client he has worked with who
was buying sex three times a week for 20 years while on runs
as a trucker, without his wife finding out.
Most sex addicts have been exposed to pornography, but the
therapist also cited figures that 97 per cent of treated US
addicts have been emotionally abused, 81 per cent had suffered
sexually abuse and 72 per cent have been abused psychologically.
"A higher percentage of individuals who develop sex addiction
were sexually abused, but it's not a guarantee" that the abused
will be addicts, he said, adding that many sex addicts are
also hooked on alcohol or drugs.
therapists agreed it's generally true that men have a higher
sex drive than women.
"Testosterone is a factor," said Hrushka, noting how higher
estrogen counts in women lead to more desire for "cuddly"
contact, with less of a focus on orgasms.
"But the biggest organ is your mind," he said. "Men and women
are chasing different things."
For sex addicts, Vincent said, a lot of women get addicted
to romance, fantasizing and masturbating, often turning to
the internet to find some online partners who will pursue
"It's more about excitement and anticipation [and] the feeling
of being in love," said the therapist. "An orgasm is not part
of it. Some are looking for the excitement of the chase, to
get a high and escape."
He said sometimes the addicted women chase love through sex,
while men chase intimacy through sex, and both get frustrated
when sex doesn't automatically bring it about.
Male sex addicts buy sex to create what Vincent called "simulated
intimacy," or for no-hassle sex that doesn't need to have
an accompanying relationship.
Some of the men who buy sex are excited experimenting with
something different, with the uncertainty or risk.
"They spend more time cruising (for street sex-trade workers)
then with the prostitutes themselves," she said.
"Guys usually being on the street would have higher rates
of addiction," added Hrushka.
He said treatment for the condition, which runs from mild
to severe, can include cognitive therapy, or having the addicts
change their beliefs.
Vincent forwarded the Edmonton numbers of Sexaholics Anonymous
(988.4411) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (429.9886) for those
She said addicts should check if their therapists have a policy
to keep information confidential, and to not forward what
they're told on prostitution-related activities to the police
unless a life is at risk.
But addicts nonetheless form only a portion of those buying
prostitutes, meaning that simply putting people in therapy
can't be seen as a catch-all solution for those looking to
cut buying sex by curbing demand.
When asked if it was normal to buy sex or if normal people
do it, Hrushka countered that "normal" is a relative term.
Some johns come from an ethnic or economic-class sub-society
where prostitution is considered acceptable, he said, just
as mistresses are less taboo in other countries.
"There's still some of that around," said the therapist.
Some men don't have the social skills or attractiveness to
get into a relationship, Hrushka said, or find that being
a virgin into their 20s, 30s or 40s is unbearably out of sync
with popular societal notions.
Social beliefs can come into play even when it comes to attitudes
about pleasuring oneself through masturbation versus buying
sex, said Hruska.
"People say 'there's no way I'm touching myself-that's someone
else's job,'" he said, noting that other men can't take the
time or effort to form a relationship in their current situation
and buy sex to quickly and cheaply fulfill their sexual needs.
"I work with a lot of single guys on the rigs who have a lot
of money," he added, "but not a lot of time."
But Hrushka stressed it was not only blue-collar workers buying
sex, mentioning how he's dealt with lawyers, businessmen and
even church ministers.
can have a self-centred attitude, thinking they can do whatever
they want, with money often giving a sense of power, the therapist
"It's about the domination, to make them do what you want,"
said the therapist. "Some guys say, 'I feel like getting laid,
and instead of going to the bar, I can get what I want.'"
Last year, the executive director of Prostitution Awareness
and Action Foundation of Edmonton noted the number of men
buying sex who are abusive, calling violence part of prostitution.
In a foundation video, she talked of how some sex-buying men
are lonely, curious or say they want to help the woman by
paying her for food or a place to stay.
Hrushka said higher-income men often buy their sex from escort
agencies, while those with lower incomes pick the cheaper
"The internet has created a big shift," he said, pointing
to webcams and the availability of online sex and sex-buying
Because women are generally less physically strong then men,
Vincent said women may fear the risk of buying from the street,
and there's also the social stigma.
"I imagine it's terribly embarrassing for a women to buy sex,"
The diverse factors behind sex-buying is reflected by the
prostitution awareness foundation's website statement that
it's "working towards long-term solutions to the complex issues
central to prostitution."
The group, which runs the john school, has put up billboards
asking, "When you buy sex, who really pays," reminiscent of
an anti-drunk-driving public-education campaign.
When asked how to curb the buying of sex, Hrushka cautioned
that many people are squeamish and shy talking about sex,
an act that is not harmful by itself.
"We're dealing with a market economy," he adds, when asked
if buying sex will ever stop. "Money rules. Whatever you want
can be bought."