The White Book Says..
In our book Sexaholics Anonymous (also known as The White Book), there is an entire section on Mixed Meetings, which discusses who should be allowed into our meetings. This section is appropriately titled "Mixed Meetings" [see The White Book, pages 178-179--quoted below, for those who’d like to read it].
Our small local group started out with only men, and we met for a long time without anyone bringing up the issue of welcoming women. It seemed to me there would be no issue, however, because our literature says "the only requirement for membership is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober," and that SA "is a fellowship of men and women...." But when we had our first woman contact our group, it immediately became a concern for some in the group, so we had a group conscience meeting about it.
We reviewed all the SA approved literature that we could find, particularly the section on “Mixed Meetings” mentioned above, and we simply reached the conclusion that others before us had already discovered that mixed meetings are a good thing. We agreed to accept that collective wisdom, and the woman was welcomed to come to our meetings. Since then, we have been joined by only one other woman, who was traveling through our area. But we are now always open to any and all who "desire to stop lusting and become sexually sober."
SA and AA also tell me this in Tradition Four: "Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or Sexaholics Anonymous as a whole." So I'm not here to tell other groups what conclusion they should reach. But I would suggest that accepting the collective wisdom of those who came before us is likely to be a very good basis for making tough decisions for any SA group.
Grateful Recovering Lust Addict, sober since 2009
P.S. Something I really appreciate about Sexaholics Anonymous is that we have a collection of approved literature that includes an amazing wealth of AA literature as well. Our approved literature was agreed upon by recovering Sexaholics long before I showed up, but I have learned over the years that those who came before me in sobriety and recovery actually knew what they were doing. I'm grateful for their collective wisdom.
Following is quoted from “Mixed Meetings” in the SA White Book:
In new groups, the question sometimes arises as to whether meetings should be mixed, with both women and men. Less frequently, questions arise about mixing those from different lifestyles or mixing singles and marrieds. It is understandable that some of us experience initial discomfort at attending mixed meetings; sexaholism is the misconnection with other bodies and spirits. For some, the objects of our lust or resentment are sitting right there next to us, and we can imbibe and get drunk without so much as batting an eyelash! (That's why we avoid inappropriate attire in meetings, out of consideration for others.)
What we tend to forget is that our drug is not really "out there" in another person, but within our own hearts and minds. It is this fact that makes our program so all-encompassing, regardless of whether we're in a meeting, outside on the street, or in a closet praying. Our problems are lust, misplaced dependency, and defective attitudes. What better place to work on overcoming temptation than the sanctuary of a meeting where temptations may be present? This is where we can bring temptation to the light, talk about it, and work through it without having to lust, sexualize, or go into dependency, anger, or rebellion. The meeting is the crucible in which our recovery can be safely tested and purified.
Considering what we are, reason might seem to indicate that we segregate to "protect" ourselves or so that we might have greater freedom "expressing our unique problems and concerns." We have found the very opposite to be true: In the long run, it has proven better for us to be together. The only exception to this seems to be with those who have not surrendered lust and are still acting out in some manner. Having such persons present in meetings where they make sexual or other improper moves on members is a threat to individual recovery and group unity. If such cases arise—and there have been very few—the group should discuss the matter in a business meeting and deal with it at the group conscience level. The group learns from such experiences.
We benefit from seeing reflections of the problem and recovery from other points of view. For example, after the initial fear of having a woman member come into an all-male group, men typically have testified to its value, saying they would not have it otherwise. Likewise, when women work through their fear of such a situation, they too recognize the value of meeting together. We all have the same problem. When we disclose the thoughts and intents of our hearts in surrender, we identify with one another at depth. Our common problem is not sexual at all; it is spiritual. We identify at the level of feelings: guilt, shame, remorse, loneliness, resentment, anger, rage, fear.... On the other hand, we are careful not to be a temptation to others in the way we talk about our sexual acting-out. As susceptible as we are to suggestion, our lust can get carried away into realms never before imagined. This is why we can quietly raise our hands if descriptions are getting too graphic or suggestive. The meeting should not be a place where our lust horizons are being broadened.
After any initial discomfort from mixed meetings, members come to see their benefit. Most people come into SA to stop lusting and become s-ually sober. When we are united by this common commitment to sobriety and recovery, any uneasiness that may arise can be worked out. Such a process seems to be a necessary part, of our recovery, freedom, and growth.