I'm writing predominantly from my experience of 25+ years
in the field of mental health, and from the fact that there
is a relative paucity of literature on the subject of
compulsive female sexuality.
You've mentioned several factors, however, which would easily
explain her behaviors, which are not statistically unusual
for people brought up in family environments similar to hers.
- Her mother was an incest victim, who was beaten by her father.
This means she grew up in an environment which modeled that
females are victims, and can only satisfy males by passively
accepting what is initiated by males. The inherent belief is
that they must do what they can to please men in order to
avoid pain and punishment. It assumes a mindset of low self
worth and poor self esteem.
- Her father was an abusive alcoholic.
Even is she was not sexually molested [to her knowledge],
and even if she was not directly physically abused, it is
clear that she experienced, at the very least, emotional
abuse from witnessing her mother's abuse, if not a more
direct, personal onslaught of verbal and emotional abuse.
This is extremely common, and very destructive to one's
self worth and self esteem. There is an organization that
caters to the networking and rehabilitation of such people,
called Adult Children of Alcoholics, or ACoA. Their home
page is here:
This kind of experience in childhood creates a syndrome
known as codependency. The ACoA site has a page which
describes this syndrome, which I'll reproduce in part:
"We had come to feel isolated, and uneasy with other
people, especially authority figures. To protect ourselves,
we became people pleasers, even though we lost our own
identities in the process. All the same we would mistake
any personal criticism as a threat.
We either became alcoholics ourselves, married them, or
both. Failing that, we found other compulsive personalities,
such as a workaholic, to fulfill our sick need for abandonment.
We lived live from the standpoint of victims. Having an over
developed sense of responsibility, we preferred to be concerned
with others rather than ourselves. We got guilt feelings when
we trusted ourselves, giving in to others. We became reactors
rather than actors, letting others take the initiative."
We were dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment,
willing to do almost anything to hold on to a relationship
in order not to be abandoned emotionally. We keep choosing
insecure relationships because they matched our childhood
relationship with alcoholic or dysfunctional parents."
More on the page:
- Her parents separated when she was 16 years old, and was
forced to move in with her sisters.
This physical abandonment, by both parents, could only have
have magnified the emotional abandonment she experienced as
a result of living with an abusive alcoholic.
You haven't given any indication that her mother received
any psychiatric care, while you've made it clear that her
mother's tolerance of mistreatment is indicative that she
likely had an undiagnosed mental disorder which made her
relationship with her daughter dysfunctional. Clearly the
mother didn't love herself enough to leave the husband in
a timely manner. Such a mother cannot provide the kind of
love that her child needs to feel nurtured and worthy.
This lack of nurturing can only result in a child who is
incapable of loving themselves in a healthy way.
The result of all this is that she experienced a compulsive
behavior which was devoid of any real satisfaction, and
which actually reinforced her feelings of poor self esteem
and low self worth. Her compulsion ended up being casual
meaningless sex, which fits with the fact that, "the girls
were never taught to hold back on having sex. It was never
ever discussed or mentioned. The mother let them sleep with
boys in their own house." It was an acceptable outlet for
Thus the real core is the compulsive tendency, not the
specific behavior in which it manifests. Others raised in
similar environments might manifest an eating compulsion,
a drug addiction or something else. This was very likely
further exacerbated by some degree of depression, if not
As to how common this sort of thing is, I can safely say
that there are very few families without some form of
dysfunction, and very few children are raised with the
kind of love that produces true mental health. A very
good article on the politics of addiction and codependency,
by Dr Michael Fitzpatrick, on the Spiked website, in
which he discusses the changing public perspective on
addiction, and the forces behind it, notes:
"Co-dependants are believed to experience 'a pattern of
painful dependence on compulsive behaviours and on approval
from others in an attempt to find safety, self-worth and
identity'. As Steadman Rice observes in A Disease of One's
Own, this is a concept of 'virtually limitless applicability'
and it was not surprising to find it extending to cover, not
only familiar bad habits, but even fads about novelties such
as the internet, mobile phones and the national lottery (all
of which were linked with media scare stories about new forms
of addiction in the late 1990s).
The inevitable result was inflated estimates of the numbers
of victims of various addictions: one (US) estimate reckoned
that co-dependency afflicted 'approximately 96 percent of the
population'. The UK advocacy group Action on Addiction claims
that 'almost every one of us has either experienced some form
of addiction or knows someone who has'. With typically British
modesty it settles for the assertion that 'in fact, one in
three adults suffers from some form of addiction'."
Much more on the page:
The British assertion is supported by the statistics page
on the Dane County NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally
"Twenty-three percent of American adults (ages 18 and older)
suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year,
but only half report impairment of their daily functioning
due to the mental disorder. Six percent of adults have
addictive disorders alone, and three percent have both
mental and addictive disorders."
"Approximately nine percent to 13 percent of children ages nine
to 17 have a serious emotional disturbance with substantial
functional impairment, and five percent to nine percent have
a serious emotional disturbance with extreme functional
impairment due to a mental illness."
"Not all mental disorders identified in childhood and adolescence
persist into adulthood, even though the prevalence of mental
disorders is almost the same percentage. A substantial number
of children and adolescents recover from mental illness."
"Of the 1,012,582 total hospital admissions in the U.S. in 1998,
261,903 (25.8 percent) were psychiatric admissions."
More statistics on the page:
I think I've covered all the salient points in your question,
but I'd also like to recommend a pertinent and well-written
article I ran across, called 'Females and Sex Addiction: Myths
and Diagnostic Implications', by Marnie C. Ferree, of the
Woodmont Hills Counseling Center in Nashville Tennessee:
Please do not rate this answer until you are satisfied that
the answer cannot be improved upon by way of a dialog
established through the "Request for Clarification" process.
Additional information may be found from an exploration of
the links resulting from the Google searches outlined below.
Searches done, via Google:
syndrome OR disorder female OR woman "multiple partners"
female OR woman "sexual compulsion" passive
codependency percent OR percentage
Clarification of Answer by
11 Dec 2005 18:29 PST
Statistics have been changing over the past 10 years or so.
Newer generations are reporting more partners before marriage.
A book called 'Her Way' culls and synthesizes "mostly overlooked
statistics about young women from diverse sources, including some
of the major social surveys of our time.":
"The youngest women surveyed, born between 1963 and 1972, were
twice as likely as women born just 10 years earlier to have
had multiple sex partners by age 18. These young women were
almost six times as likely to report this as the even older
generation, women born between 1943 and 1952 (Laumann, 328)."
"According to the Details "Sex on Campus" survey (1996), the
average number of lifetime partners for college men and women
is close: 7.2 for men, and 5.7 for women."
"Recent Glamour reader surveys report even higher numbers of
partners, with the respondents to a 1998 feature reporting
a median number of ten partners (Mansbach, 242); in a 1999
survey, 20 percent reported at least 20 sex partners. This
last survey stands out with its ambition; it goes beyond
lifetime partners to report that a quarter of respondents
have slept with more than one person in the same night
[Keep in mind the potential slant of a Glamour Magazine survey.]
"A 1999 Glamour survey on orgasms reveals very similar
experiences according to gender. Only 7 percent of women
and 1 percent of men reported that they typically have no
orgasms 'per sexual encounter.'"
MANY more statistics on the page:
This report from the CDC provides statistics on the increase
of sexual activity in young women from 1970 to 1988, which
makes it pertinent to your friend:
"Proportions were calculated for adolescent women in each year
of age from 15 through 19 who reported having had premarital
sexual intercourse by March 1 in 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, and
1988.** For all ages combined for each of these periods, the
proportion of adolescent women who reported having had
premarital sexual intercourse increased steadily (from 28.6%
in 1970 to 51.5% in 1988 (Table 1)). For each 5-year period
from 1970 to 1985, the amount of increase declined (i.e.,
during 1970-1975, 7.8 percentage points; during 1976-1980,
5.6; and during 1981-1985, 2.1). However, from 1985 through
1988, the proportion increased 7.4 points, or approximately
one third of the increase in premarital sexual experience
among adolescent women for the entire period 1970-1988. This
trend persisted even after adjustment for the influence of
changing age composition by comparing age-adjusted proportions.
For each year of age during 1970-1988, the proportion of
adolescent women who reported having had premarital sexual
intercourse increased at least 55% (Table 1). The largest
relative increase occurred among those 15 years of age (from
4.6% in 1970 to 25.6% in 1988). The cumulative absolute
effect of these changes was greatest among women 18 and 19
years of age."
More on the page:
Other cultures also report changes over the years. Here's
a chart from a Finnish report on the number of sex partners
for the years 1971 vs 1992, that shows that, in 1971, 51%
of females of all ages had only 1 sex partner, while 3% had
10 to 18, and 1% had 19 to 49, while in 1992, only 24% had
only 1 partner, 12% had 10 to 18, and 5% had 19 to 49 partners:
Engaging in sex at an earlier age also has a bearing on
the number of partners, per this report from the Heritage
"Finding: Women who begin sexual activity at early ages
have far higher turnover rates among sexual partners
(i.e. number of voluntary sexual partners per year of
sexual activity.) Girls who begin sexual activity at
age 13 or 14 have, on average, 1.2 partners per year
of sex activity. By contrast, women who begin sex
activity at ages 21-22 have 0.3 sex partners per year
of sexual activity. Thus, women who become sexually
active at ages 13-14 have a partner turnover rate four
times higher than those who initiate sex activity in
their early twenties."
While the next study, by Tom Luster and Stephen A. Small,
focuses on the number of sex partners among female
adolescents with a history of sexual abuse, I believe that
the findings are similar to what they would be for any
forms of abuse:
"A survey completed in 1996 of 10,868 adolescent females
from one Midwestern state indicates that 10% had
experienced sexual abuse by an adult or by someone older
than themselves?9% in the past and 1% in an ongoing
situation. Past and current victims of sexual abuse had
had more sexual partners during the past year (2.3 and
1.2, respectively) than their peers who had never been
sexually abused (0.5). Regardless of sexual abuse history,
teenagers whose activities were closely monitored by their
parents, who received high levels of parental support and
whose parents disapproved of teenagers having sex had fewer
sexual partners than other adolescents. Respondents who had
experienced physical abuse in addition to sexual abuse were
at further increased risk of having had multiple sexual
partners. Overall, sexually abused adolescents with a
supportive family had fewer recent partners than those
from a less supportive family environment; family context
had less influence on number of partners among respondents
with no history of sexual abuse."
I hope that provides adequate perspective for you. If not,
let me know.
Additional searches done, via Google:
woman OR female "number of sex partners"
"number of lifetime sex partners"
Clarification of Answer by
11 Dec 2005 21:06 PST
Thanks very much for the 5 stars and the generous tip!
Let me see how I can say this a little differently.
There are two aspects to most compulsions, desire and
resistance, and each of these can have conscious and
unconscious components. Those of which we are aware,
and those of which we aren't.
Both resisted and desired feelings tend to attract
us to (and attract to us) people and situations which
allow us to have experiences which will fulfill both
the conscious desires we acknowledge and the unconscious
feelings we're resisting.
In your friend's case, I'm suggesting that on some
level, either conscious or not, but probably conscious,
she had the desire/need to be touched and held which
is commonly missing from childhood with an alcoholic
Likewise, another factor is the probably unconscious
need to re-experience the pain of being used by
someone who ignores her needs. As a child, she grew
up immersed in an environment controlled by an addict
who cared not a whit for the needs and well-being of
others - this is just how addicts are. They care only
about their substance of choice and the ability it
gives them to ignore and suppress their own pain.
Everyone around them is forced to conspire with them
or face ungodly anger and rage.
Growing up in this environment makes the children of
alcoholics learn to behave just as if they themselves
were alcoholics - doing everything they can to suppress
their own true feelings - while teaching them to be
subservient to the needs of another, for fear of
This well-learned behavior doesn't disappear with
separation from the parents. Neither do the feelings
of being ignored and used by someone focused on their
own selfish needs. The pain of all this gets suppressed
and this supression becomes habitual, but it constantly
seeks to be felt and integrated, and that's a good thing,
as it is the intention of the total organism trying to
become whole again by integrating the disowned aspects
These suppressed or resisted feelings then act with
the same force as desire, attracting us to people and
situations which will stimulate them to rise into
consciousness. Situations in which we can act out our
unexpressed feelings in a way that will help us to
remember them, re-live them, and integrate them.
Casual, meaningless, unsatisfactory, passive sex offers
a way to fulfill both the desire to be held and the need
(based on resisted feelings) to submit to the will of
someone who is focused only on getting their own needs
met (doesn't that sound like the typical male on a one
A simple example might help to illustrate this.
If I'm raised by an angry father, who manages to get his
way most of the time by being angry, and a mother who
learns, as a result, to get her way by submitting or
crying, I will come to believe that anger is power.
The family environment may not reflect reality, but
I won't find that out until I start exerting this
transparent belief in public situations.
I may either adopt anger as desirable, based on the
apparent success of my father's behavior, or I may
resist being like him and become passive and submissive
like my mother.
If I resist anger as bad, I will resist being around
angry people, but strangely, I will attract them into
my life, both by my passive, easily-manipulated-by-anger
nature, and by the fact that, underneath it all, I myself
am seething with unexpressed anger at my abusive father.
I will find myself in what seems like an inordinate number
of situations (especially for someone who tries to avoid
angry people) with people who are inordinately angry, and
who somehow succeed in making me angrier than I thought
This is simply the world reflecting myself back to me.
What really needs to happen is for me to recognize that
the unreasonable degree of anger I feel toward these
people who are unreasonably angry is actually rooted
in my unexpressed, resisted anger toward my father, who
had me believing that if I expressed it toward him as
a child, it would result in the end of my existence.
Once I begin to see this, and am subsequently able to
embrace that buried anger on its own terms rather than
displacing it on those who triggered my awareness of it,
I can begin to experience these resisted feeling for the
very first time, and integrate them into my consciousness
as a real and valuable part of me.
If I succeed in this, I will suddenly and finally be
almost invulnerable to the inordinate anger of others
which used to incapacitate me. Additionally, I will
pleasantly astonished to find that I no longer attract
such people or experiences into my life. They will fade
from my experience like ghosts.
They are no longer of any value to my totality.