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Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The Wild Child Conference: Teens and Sexual Addiction

Every year in September in Marion, Ohio there is a conference known as The Wild Child Conference.  The goal of this conference is to keep educators and organizations that work with teens in the know about teen life, culture, and the topics that impact their lives.  For the third year in a row, I have the honor of being a part of the board of the Wild Child Conference.  The 2011 WCC looked at addiction in the lives of teens.  Here, Jeff Grant, former pastor and now licenced counselor who works with sex addicts, talks about the impact of sexual addiction in the lives of teens.  Below is an overview of terminilogy and the 10 signs of addiction.

The 2012 Wild Child Conference information


There is actually little research into teens and sexual addiction. This is new and emerging.
What does it mean to have a broken emerging sexuality? This is something that people working with teens need to understand.

For example: John, growing up in a family where both parents are present. Upper middle class, conservative Christian church. John is about 10. John has not heard much about sex, his parents don’t like to talk about it. His first encounter with sex is with his babysitter who is 17. Over a period of time she molests him. John can say something to his parents, or he can say to himself a variety of things: This is wonderful, this 17 year old woman is attracted to me and spend time with me. He might tell his parents. He might not. he might have an adverse reaction. He will probably be somewhere in the middle. He will most likely keep it a secret and bury it. Deep down inside there is going to be a violation. When older people violate that boundary with younger people there is a deep violation, it is traumatic and has consequences. As a teenager John finds porn on his computer and keeps creating these feelings for himself.

What do children do when they are traumatized? They act out; they shut down (act in = self hatred)
He has been introduced at a young age to things that are not healthful.

When we have sex, chemicals are released in our brain. It can be a pleasurable experience. Dopamine, adrenaline, etc. When you add this violation on top of that, a memory is embedded. Sex becomes embedded with emotions of fear, violation as well as the pleasure.

Example 2: Julie. She is an African American who lives in a downtown city. Parents are engaged in her life but having problems with each other and get divorced. Julie’s mom meets a new man who is an angry person. She is 14. She goes out on a date with an older boy. This boy gives her alcohol and date rapes her. Julie is isolated because of her parent’s divorce. Boy says it is her fault, makes her feel guilty. Most likely Julie will say it was her fault and come to believe that she is bad and her body is bad and sex is bad. So what does she do with this new self image? The nature of trauma is that we have a tendency to repeat it (trauma repetition). People who are victimized are at a greater risk of being re-victimized. One reason they are likely to be re-victimized is that they are putting themselves in situations where they are replaying their own trauma to try and work it out.

Both of these young people have been traumatized and their sexuality has been affected. So what do they do with that?

Two options: you eventually get caught or the behavior has to escalate to keep the satisfaction.  The escalating behavior can result in sex addiction.

Sex addiction: any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment. It is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates the addict’s life. Sexual addicts make sex a priority more important than family.

We have a cultural belief that sexual beliefs are a taboo topic and we don’t have a right to talk about it. We don’t talk about sex. But teens are experimenting and trying on different things about sexuality like we try on clothes.  3 to 6 % of the population are facing sexual addiction.

It is important that parents and caregivers talk with teens about sex and sexual behaviors to help them develop healthy attitudes towards sex.

Pornography: Is designed to change your brain. Pornography has also been the driving force behind the Internet changes and growth. They created pop up windows and the ability to take credit card charges. It is designed to help you find your fantasy. It is designed to change the way you look at sexuality. It changes your brain chemistry, it is designed to do so. After time you come to think about women and sex differently. Pornography is about power.

Sex addiction is different than sex offenders. Sex addiction does not mean someone is engaging in sex offender activities. Someone who is truly attracted to children is a different case than sex addiction.

Another unhealthy coping strategy is sexual anorexia: to balance out the behavior they no longer engage in sex. It becomes compartmentalized (disassociated).  The truth of human nature is that we can not permanently disconnect parts of our self, it has to come back out.

10 Signs of Addiction:

  • Loss of Control – engaging in activities you don’t want to or intend to
  • Efforts to Stop – repeated specific attempts to stop the behavior which fail
  • Loss of Time – Significant amounts of time lost doing and/or recovering from the behavior
  • Preoccupation – obsessing about or because of the behavior
  • Inability to Fulfill Obligations – The behavior interferes with work, school, family and friends
  • Continuation Despite Consequences – Failure to stop the behavior even though you have problems because of it (social, legal, financial, physical).
  • Escalation – need to make behavior more intense, more frequent, or more risky
  • Losses – Losing, limiting or sacrificing valued parts of life such as hobbies, family, relationships and work
  • Withdrawal – Stopping behavior causes considerable distress, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, or physical discomfort

For more information, visit
TeenPaths.org Teens and Sexual Addiction

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