Sex Addiction???

Bill Clinton, John Edwards, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a never ending list of men, men who have lost control. Do they feel more entitled than other men? Probably the media taking advantage of their public positions. We all know men and women who lose control.

Loss of memory, any women public figures to be added to this list?

Does sex addiction exist? No more than being addicted to having fun.

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The diagnosis of “sex addiction” has become popular with both lay people and professionals in recent years. But it is a destructive and irresponsible one that should be discontinued. In 21 years as a marriage counselor & sex therapist, I’ve never seen a single case in which the label “sex addiction” was clinically useful. That’s because there is no such thing. What we clinicians do frequently see includes:

* Poor decision-making: Even the healthiest people occasionally behave sexually in ways which later they regret.

* Poor impulse control: This, too, we all experience to one degree or another with money, food, TV, gossip, etc. Most of the time it is simply inconvenient; sometimes it gets out of hand.

* Obsessive-compulsive behavior: A small number of people think, feel, and do things that they don’t want to do. Whether it’s exhibitionism or hand washing, they are driven: the more they try to stop, the worse they feel, and the more they have to do it.

* Psychotic or sociopathic personalities: This small group of people has impaired reality-testing, and typically behaves with complete disregard for even the most basic social conventions.

Addictionologists now call all of these behaviors, when sexuality is the vehicle, symptoms of the same poorly-defined disease–“sex addiction.” Supposedly, “sex addicts” can’t control themselves; they cannot be cured, they can only “recover.”

But I say that, except for a handful of truly disturbed people, all of us have the ability to control our sexual energy. For the vast majority of people, “being out of control” sexually is a metaphor, a metaphor we clinicians see every day in countless non-sexual forms. It’s more accurate to say, instead, that for many people, controlling sexual urges is difficult or emotionally painful. Relinquishing our power–FEELING out of control–is a classic defense to reduce this pain. By encouraging people to admit that they ARE powerless, they are prevented from examining how they’ve come to FEEL powerless–and what they can do about that feeling.

Saying that people are powerless over sex, the fundamental definition of “sex addiction,” undermines them. It robs people of the tools they need to understand or (if they wish) change their lives. And it relieves people of the responsibility for developing an adult sexuality, one that involves subtleties, choices, and strong feelings such as fear, anxiety, anger, joy, and passion.

The concept of “sex addiction” is a set of moral beliefs disguised as science, as reflected in these fundamental concepts of “sex addiction” training programs and Sexaholics Anonymous:

  • Sex is most healthy in committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationships
  • There are “obvious” limits to healthy sexual expression (for example, masturbation more than once a day)
  • Choosing to use sex to feel better about yourself or to escape from problems is unhealthy.

The concept of “sex addiction” really rests upon the assumption that sex is dangerous. There’s the sense that we frail humans are vulnerable to the Devil’s temptations of pornography, masturbation, “promiscuity,” and extramarital affairs, and that if we yield, we become “addicted.”

The “sex addiction” movement is also dangerous in the way it supports the anti-sexuality forces in this country. “Sex addiction” is the Right’s newest justification for eliminating sex education, birth control clinics, gay/lesbian rights, and books like “The Color Purple” from school libraries. We should not be colluding with this destructive, life-denying force.

If mass murderer Ted Bundy had announced that watching Bill Cosby reruns had motivated his awful crimes, he would have been dismissed as a deranged sociopath. Instead, Bundy proclaimed that his “pornography addiction” made him do it, and many Right-wing feminists and conservatives treated this as the conclusion of a thoughtful social scientist. Why?

Virtually no one in the field of sexology believes in the concept of “sex addiction.” All clinicians and thoughtful people should reject any model suggesting that men and women must spend their lives 1) fearing sexuality’s destructive power; 2) being powerless about sexuality; 3) lacking the tools to relax and let sex take over when appropriate. In these terrible anti-sex times, one of our most important tasks is to reaffirm that sex, though complex, is precious, not dangerous.

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