NYC Psychotherapist Blog

power by WikipediaMindmap

Thursday, March 24, 2022

What is Sexual Narcissism? Part 1

People with sexual narcissistic traits are self centered and usually have an inflated view of their sexual abilities.  They're primarily focused on what they want and, in the process, they can be manipulative, aggressive and coercive to get what they want (see my article: Understanding the Underlying Emotional Dynamics of "Players").

What is Sexual Narcissism?

Their focus is primarily on having sex and they often have little ability or interest in developing emotional intimacy with their sexual partners.

They believe they have a right to sex. They're also usually not interested in what their partners want sexually.

If they're in a relationship, they're often unfaithful and lack empathy for their partners (see my article: The Connection Between Infidelity and a Need to Feel Desirable).

Like most other psychological problems, sexual narcissism is on a continuum with some people exhibiting more traits than others.

What is the Difference Between Sexual Narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Sexual narcissism and Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are related, but they are two separate concepts.  

As a personality disorder, NPD is observable in all areas of a person's life--whether it's their romantic relationships, familial relationships or with work colleagues.

Sexual narcissism shows up specifically in sexual relationships.  Although it's possible for someone with NPD to also engage in sexual narcissism, a sexual narcissist doesn't necessarily have a NPD.

Another difference is that while a sexually narcissistic person is often aggressive, someone with NPD doesn't necessarily engage in aggressive behavior or, at least, it's not part of the criteria for diagnosing NPD.

What Are the Telltale Signs of a Sexual Narcissist?
  • Charming During the Initial Phase of a Relationship: Sexual narcissists like the thrill of the chase, so during the initial stage of a relationship they're often charming until they get what they want. Once the chase is over and they have what they want, they no longer feel the need to be charming and engaging.  At that point, they usually take their partner for granted.
  • Grandiose Behavior With Underlying Low Self Esteem: Although their behavior is grandiose with regard to their perception of their sexual prowess, they often have an underlying sense of low self esteem.  The grandiosity is a cover up for a poor sense of self.  They also use sex and their many sexual conquests to boost their poor sense of self.
  • A Focus on the Physical Over the Emotional: Their primary focus is on having sex--not establishing an emotional connection.  Having sex isn't about emotional intimacy for them--it's about sexual performance, dominance and boosting their ego.  They often have an inflated sense of their sexual performance--regardless of how their partner feels about it (see my article: What is Performative Sex?).
  • A Lack of Empathy For Their Partner: Although they might try to charm and impress their partner during the initial phase of a relationship, once the thrill of the chase is over, from their point of view, their partner exists to please them.  They often don't see their partner as having their own needs and wants. They often pressure their partner to perform sexual acts their partner might not be interested in.  They can demand sex from their partner regardless if their partner is tired, sick or in pain.
  • Negative Reactions If They Don't Get What They Want: They don't like it when their partners don't give them what they want.  They might get angry, critical, sarcastic or passive aggressive (e.g., giving their partner the cold shoulder or the silent treatment). They might try to guilt trip their partner into doing what they want. Taking on the role of the victim is typical of the sexual narcissist--even while they're the one who is victimizing their partner.
  • Put Down Their Partner: In order to feel superior or manipulate their partner into doing what they want, a sexual narcissist will often belittle their partner by calling their partner names or putting them down in other ways (see my article: What is Belittling Behavior?).
  • Treat Their Partner Poorly After Sex: After sex, they usually don't engage in cuddling or being affectionate with their partners. Usually this is because they lack the ability, but also because they don't feel the need after sex because they've gotten what they were interested in.  It doesn't matter what their partner might need.
  • Infidelity: The sexual narcissist is often unfaithful.  Once the thrill of the chase is over, they want to find the next person to pursue sexually because this is what they most enjoy.  They're often not concerned about whether their behavior will hurt their partner.
In my next article, I'll provide a clinical vignette to illustrate what sexual narcissism looks like in a relationship.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you're with someone who is a sexual narcissist or if you recognize these traits in yourself, you can benefit from working with a licensed mental health professional.

Rather than trying to resolve this problem on your own, seek help.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during regular business hours or email me.