There’s a song from the Spanish group Vetusta Morla, the refrain of which is: “Disguising, Seducing, Becoming Handsome For You.” Nothing seems more appropriate to explain the dilemma of the character of a Sexual 3. This is a personality type category to which I belong, at least until some stronger evidence from my own inner journey proves me otherwise; a personality completely dependent on the approval of others, whose structure is based on being tooeager to please, an extreme concern for charisma, beauty and appearance, and a neurotic need to be wanted.
Here is my story: the painful discovery of how my life was nothing but a big lie that I built up because of the hunger for love and the thirst for applause, and especially, the need to be admired. It is a story of how, over the years, I became a product for sale and how my personality presented itself through a joy and enthusiasm that hid a great sadness, an apparent security and optimism that hid tremendous insecurity and shyness, and a seductive exterior that covered a large feeling of unworthiness. Mine is a personality that is vulnerable to compliments and has at a deeper level a wall of ice covered over by a falsity whose purpose it is to disguise a great fragility and vulnerability.
What is the Sexual 3 like?
When the E3 is described, the picture that is usually erroneously painted of this Enneatype is just the Social subtype, when in fact the other two subtypes are quite different from this depiction. It is precisely why many Threes do not identify themselves as such at the beginning of their way into the Enneagram.
Let’s review the most characteristic features of this subtype:
The Most Emotional Three: A 3 Who May Look Like A 2
The first obstacle that we encounter for identification is that, as happens with many subtypes, the Sexual-3 is a 3 who may look like a 2 and so doubt often arises as to whether this person is a 2 or a 3, as they seem to have characteristics of both types; what adds to the confusion is that the Social 2 is a 2 who seems 3-ish. This is due, among other things, to the fact that the Sexual 3 is the most emotional of the 3s (with the Social being the most action-oriented and the self-preservation the most intellectual). This is a 3 that shows more emotion (although in reality they have no idea what emotions they are really feeling) and has many more polarities than the other two subtypes of Vanity.
Sexual 3s are warmer, more fearful and more insecure than the Social and Self-Preservation variants of this type. They may even get to have the complex of being silly and hollow. Men of this subtype may look stronger and more secure than women, and can occasionally give the image of an 8or counter phobic 6, or even a 7but inside they are insecure.
Emotional distress can make them somewhat inefficient, but if they can use their charm or manipulation, they can usually prevent others from knowing their true situation.
Disconnection: the most characteristic trait. “Nice House, But Nobody’s Home”
Sexual 3s belong to what I call the “Conflicted Sexuals,” those sexual subtypes in which the energy of the sexual instinct goes against certain Enneatypes’ retentive drive. In the case of the Sexual 3, the conflict is generated because, as Sexuals, we long for intimacy, but as E3s, we fear and reject it; this is what leads to the typical Sexual 3 quality of seeming “off”, giving them a sense of an emotional, sexual and physical disconnection where the body is there, but the mind and feelings (not to mention the soul) have put up the sign of “Out to Lunch”. In this area we notice its strong connection to E9: the sexual subtype is the most “9-ish” of the 3s.
This disconnection also occurs in splitting their “luminous” side from their “dark side”. We Sexual 3s have a hard time showing the ugly of our lives, let alone connecting with our shadows. It also causes us problems with differentiating bad from evil, in the sense that many Sexual 3s are prone to engage into abusive relationships, putting “light” in the darkness of their abusers and thus becoming a “Person / Object”.
In time, this leads to a situation in which we lose all connection with our sense of inner truth, not being able to maintain contact with ourselves or others. Thus is created the “emptiness” of the Sexual 3, a kind of internal Freezing that all Sexual 3s know we have deep inside, but we prefer not to see, as this would be detrimental to our misleading self-image of charismatic, loving and above all, excitingly desirable person with whom everyone wants to hang out.
“Legally Blondes”: Sex Appeal, Desire Of Being The Object Of Desire and Passion For The Appearance.
Although they do not say it out loud, every Sexual 3’s deep desire is to be a “Hollywood Star” … or if nothing else, at least, an Alcorcon Star. The place doesn’t matter, all that matters is that one is wanted and admired.
According to Claudio Naranjo, the Satellite Passion that defines this subtype is Sex Appeal or attractiveness. The whole strategy is about being looked at. For Sexual 3s the most important thing is being attractive. (The Question Of the Sexual 2 would be: “Do You Still love me?” The Sexual 3 would ask: “Do you still like me?”). I think the real passion of Sexual 3s is charisma, understood as the ability of certain people to motivate and excite the admiration of their followers through a supposed quality of “personal magnetism” and through an amalgamation of different traits of personality that complement each other well.
The Sexual subtype of 3s is characterized by a strong desire to be desired, and it’s not just about being sexually desirable, but a general desire to be valued and loved by anyone significant, including intimate partners, family, friends, and even work relationships. Like the Social 3, the Sexual 3 also wants to be chosen as “Employee of the Month”, but the motivation is very different from the Social 3. For the Social 3 this is a step towards the unbridled pursuit of prestige and status, whereas for the Sexual Three, it is more a symbol that one is “desired”, either by your boss, your group of friends, your family or by the old woman that is sweeping the sidewalk; not to be liked equals death. Men and women of this type tend to cultivate personal qualities that they believe will interest others.
The emphasis is put on “the packaging”. In the pathological extreme, we can do anything in order to be liked or wanted.
While the emphasis is on the physical, not necessarily all Sexual 3s have perfect bodies (obviously, you can not fight genetics), but even if they do not, they will know how to hide their flaws cleverly and highlight their qualities. They can suffer greatly if they do not have the ideal physical image of the moment. Sometimes they delude themselves into thinking that they do not do this to attract others.
We give the impression of being perpetually adolescent and young, men with “ boys looks “ and women with a charming naivete, and an enthusiasm and optimism that sometimes can be confused with Sevens.
For us it is terrible to age, and, especially for women of our subtype, getting older is unbearable. We must do anything to stay young and attractive. In this trait of looking much younger, we can be confused with Self-Pres 2s, but the difference lies in the fact that the Self-Pres 2 wants to be “forever a child” to keep the privileges of childhood while the Sexual 3 wants to be “forever young” to be “eternally attractive.” Another difference that Claudio Naranjo points out among these two subtypes is that Self-Pres 2s are rather less eroticized, while the Sexual 3 in contrast, are very sexual, but totally unconnected to our pleasure.
The Barbie doll is the prototype of the female Sexual 3. For men the model is the “Cowboy,” but as I always say, we are “Cowboys with Hair Mousse”; there can be something “suspicious” about this cowboy image that doesn’t fit the usual archetype. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the best example of a Sexual 3 we see in fiction is the charismatic Elle Woods, the star of “Legally Blonde” .
Person-Object: Look But Don’t Touch
With a childlike and narcissistic need to seek constant praise that consists of “doing” to get applause from others and the crazy idea that you have to be nice, good and perfect to be loved, we Sexual 3s present a chronic frustration because of our need to live only for the eyes of others. In our eagerness to please, we become a “Person/Object”, and part of becoming an “object” is that we often feel used by others. This is a very common feeling for us, generated in large part by our “constant doing so others will applaud”, and our fear of direct confrontation. We fear confronting others mostly because we risk being seen in an unfavorable light. Compounding this is our difficulty in discerning the good from the bad in people because of the blindness of vanity and a dash of naivete.
For people with this subtype what was usually lacking in childhood was the look of the father or the mother’s eye. This creates a need for parental regard and a search for what was missing. We were young children who were “very visible”, emphasizing how cute we were and from one day to the other, for some reason, we were left without that look. In many biographies of sexual threes one can read that we were “a kind of nice object that the parents showed to the world”. When you lack that sense of parental pride in your essential attractiveness, you develop a strategy that emphasizes the body, the physical, the physicality of “what you see”. The problem comes with the hypertrophy of that passion.
If Sexuals 2s aim to instigate an overwhelming passion worthy of a Danielle Steele novel, Sexual 3s are more like “look at me and do not touch me,” the sexualinstrument isdeviant: I draw you but I have no real sexual interest. The Sexual energy is blocked, the orgasm is visual, nothing more is needed.
Some, especially women, tend to live for a partner — all they do is meet the other’s needs, give pleasure, fake orgasms, and feel no pleasure. If they are not partnered, they would seek sexual conquests to dispel the fear of not being attractive. This fear distresses us very much.
“Happily Ever After” (or the obsession of finding an ideal and perfect love)
Despite our dedicated effort to find the love of our life, which as good goal-oriented 3s we are very focused on, as this becomes a goal or objective to be met, the Sexual 3s desires more the image of a perfect relationship than the substance of a real one, especially if intimacy means risking being vulnerable or needy, or being rejected for not meeting the needs of the other person.
The passion of deceit manifests itself here in fooling ourselves that love is the answer, that we should become the form of the ideal of our loved one in order to be loved, and that ultimately we are that image. In our insecurity, we can become very jealous.