First there was my therapist himself, who was so used to working solely with men that he often accidentally referred to my inner addict as "he." Then the downtown institution devoted to treating sex addicts of all stripes who told me that unfortunately none of their 60+ weekly therapy groups included a woman’s group. They just don't exist.
I did eventually find a group elsewhere willing to accept a female member, but only after the issue was discussed, voted upon and approved by married members' wives, who were perhaps understandably nervous about the whole arrangement. In the end, my acceptance was contingent on the requirement that I have no contact with group members outside the weekly sessions and that I always wear pants, sleeved shirts and closed shoes to group, lest my ankles, toes or shoulders prove irresistibly triggering to the male sex addicts.
One of the general rules for beginners in any 12-step program is, "The men stick with the men and the women stick with the women." This is even more crucial in sex addiction recovery. But since a huge part of a recovery program is identifying with other addicts, making phone calls to them in times of temptation, and working with a same-sex sponsor, the odds were definitively stacked against me.
There were other female sex addicts in the 12-step group I began attending—about five of the hundreds-strong fellowship. However, I attended a few weeks worth of meetings before I ever ran into one of them. Vulnerable and emotionally shattered, it was hard to keep forcing myself into those intimidating rooms full of men who could have seen me as an intruder, a distraction or potential sexual temptation.
Again, I don't want to seem ungrateful—that therapist and those rooms filled with men saved my life. And there's something to be said for the arrangement—I was able to form relationships with safe men that were non-sexual in nature for maybe the first time in my life. But where are all the female sex addicts anyway?
Women may be more prone to love, fantasy or romance addictions, which tend to lead to painfully codependent relationships or extramarital affairs. And in fact, love addiction-focused programs do include a lot of women. But for those like me, who acted out "like men," those programs can leave you feeling judged and unable to relate.
I know there are other women like me because I met some of them—working alongside me in strip clubs, at sex parties, and as escorts. I cruised guys with them at bars, turning last-call drinks into sloppy threesomes at seedy after-parties. But I've yet to meet one of them here on the other side.
Maybe it's because sex in general is more shameful for women—the sting of admitting promiscuity sharper than when a man cops to a string of affairs. But I'll never forget standing outside the room where my first sex meeting was held, peering through a window at the semi-circle of men with a flip-flopping stomach. I can't help but wonder how many other women approached the door, peered inside, and didn't have the courage to take their seat.