When I first heard the term “predatory flirting” in connection with sex addiction symptoms I was taken aback. Predatory sounds like something criminal, but flirting seemed so normal and harmless. But the term describes a symptom, a behavior, which is characteristic of certain sex addicts.
Who engages in predatory flirting?
One type of sex addict, dubbed the Seduction Role addict by Patrick Carnes, is particularly likely to engage in a lot of flirting. The seduction addict gets his “fix” by getting women interested in him sexually or romantically. The seduction is everything. One seduction sex addict told me that the real high was the first kiss. After that he would begin to lose interest and start looking for the next conquest.
The related concept in describing sex addiction symptoms is “intriguing.” Like flirting, intriguing is a way to create a feeling of private, personal intensity. It is a way of establishing through some subtle means such as coded comments, private jokes or pointed eye contact, that you and the other person share a connection that no one else is a part of.
Other sex addicts whose preferred behavior is serial affairs have flirting and intriguing as sex addiction symptoms. They may use flirtation as a way to line up their sexual supply. They follow through with the sexual liaison but can only take things so far. A real relationship is frightening and overwhelming. The addict will find a way to end things and move on to the next affair. Many serial seducers are married and are investing most of their sexuality in their secret life.
Sex addicts who are addicted to romantic seduction and affairs are driven by the need to constantly re-establish their attractiveness to the opposite sex. They are as insecure as most other kinds of sex addicts and often feel that their sexual attractiveness is all they have to offer. They fear that if they do not hook people sexually then there will be no reason for people to be around them.
What does predatory flirting look like?
Normal flirting is a casual and tentative way of initiating contact that may become romantic. It is the first step in a possible courtship and lets someone know that we are potentially interested. It involves saying things that are more personal, intense, suggestive or flattering than we would say to just anyone and then if there is a response, following up with real attempts to get to know the person better.
Smoke and mirrors
When it is predatory, flirting is intense but not sincere. It is designed to capture the person’s interest and attraction but it is not backed up by any genuine interest. Rather it is just a habitual way that the addict approaches anyone in a broad category of target people. It is almost automatic, a default position which represents the addict’s safest way of relating.
If you know the seduction sex addict well and you observe them flirting, you will see that they are rather indiscriminate in who they flirt with. They want to captivate everyone, from the waitress to their mother-in-law. Also, they will begin flirting right away with someone who is attractive looking even if they don’t know them and will never see them again.
Another feature of the seduction addict’s predatory flirting is that it is eminently deniable. It is throwing out a lure while and the same time pretending that there is no such thing going on. It is suggestive of something but it is hard to pin down, and this vagueness is frequently a part of predatory flirting.
One type of predatory flirting involves being over-attentive or caring toward a woman. This suggests that the addict has a real interest in her and also that he is a caring and generally good guy. This may be a consciously seductive scheme or not. But often the woman will get interested in this “nice” guy and approach him back only to be told that she has misinterpreted the situation.
Intensity without intention
The predatory flirter will throw out seemingly suggestive comments designed to create a feeling of connection with not other intention than to get the woman’s attention on him. I observed a seduction addict I know run into a woman whom he had seen once before somewhere. She remarked that it was a coincidence to which he responded: “There are no coincidences.” It is the initial stage of the empty seduction, the attempt to create a feeling of intensity without intention.
Why is this process predatory?
The addict’s lack of intention or ability to follow through in establishing a relationship with his target women are not just sex addiction symptoms in the abstract. What the behavior means is that he is being exploitive and insincere. He is using his ability to hook the woman into thinking he is interested in her when in fact he is using her to get an addictive hit, to make himself feel attractive.
This kind of seductiveness and compulsive flirting is a distortion of what flirting is really for. It is a symptom of a problem that underlies most sex addiction: deep insecurity and the fear of intimacy. Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource