Are you a sex addict?
According to the National Association of Sexual Addiction Problems, about 14 million adults are. That’s 1 out of 17 adult Americans. In assessing your addiction status, consider just some of the following questions posed to potential “sexaholics” by Sex Addicts Anonymous (SA):
Do you ...
— Look at sexually arousing materials in the media?
— Feel guilt and shame after having sex?
— Find yourself in need of a variety of sexual activities in realizing sexual excitement and relief?
— Risk the chance of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection when intimate?
— Feel shame about your body or sexuality to the point you avoid intimacy?
Do you find yourself answering, “Well, yes, that does describe me?!”? If it’s any comfort, that makes most of us. Yet, according to SA, you could be a sex addict. All of us could be.
There’s just one problem with this. It’s a crock.
While you may not see anything wrong with your sex life, other people do. Medical and counseling professionals and members of the clergy — with no background in sexuality — are being aggressively trained to identify and deal with a supposed issue cleverly labeled “sex addiction.”
Their goal: to make a disease of your sex life. Moralistic and misinformed, they’re out to judge you. They’re telling you what should be sexually acceptable for you. After all, in their book, sex is dangerous. If you don’t fit their vision of sexual “wholesomeness,” then you’ve got a problem.
According to this movement, a sex addict is typically someone who is frequently fantasizing or doing sexual things, even despite a dislike for such. This person’s sexual behaviors are considered out of control ... . for example, masturbating more than once a day. A sex addict is also one whose sexual behaviors fail to mirror his or her highest possible self.
Besides being absolutely ridiculous, there are a number of reasons why the concept of sex addiction is nothing more than a fabrication.
First, a basic issue with sex addiction is the term itself. The word “addiction” is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). This handbook for mental health professionals uses the term “dependence” instead.
Second, an addiction, such as to alcohol or tobacco, is a physiological dependence. Deprived of a fix, an addict has physiological reactions, like increased heart rate or the sweats. Physiological changes take place — changes that a "sex addict" does not experience when denied sex. Thus, the addiction label is quite deceptive.
Third, who has the right to set the standards as far as what’s “frequent” or “out of control”? We’re all sexually unique when it comes to what we do and how often. Yet this movement seems to think that we can put a fixed number on our sexual activity. Unbelievably, they also see it as their right to enforce cookie-cutter criteria when it comes to sexual pursuits.
Lastly, another major issue with sex addiction is that it denies the “dark” side of healthy sexuality. This includes the major desire components of sex, such as:
— The “bad” fantasies people have;
— The ability to enjoy sex without being in love;
— The lust for power during sexual exchanges;
— The wanton sexual expectations people have from time to time.
What’s infuriating is that there is nothing wrong with these components of healthy sexuality, as long as the interaction between two lovers is informed and consensual.
But, despite being hogwash, sex addiction is catching on, thanks to its evangelists’ Jerry Springer-worthy stories.
Often in recovery themselves, self-proclaimed addictionologists love generalizing their own problems to all. Playing upon one’s sexual ignorance, they dish out the sordid details of how sex hijacked their lives, making them steal, do drugs and visit prostitutes. Engrossed and mortified, the public buys it — even though there's no data supporting that this can happen to just anyone.
Falling victim to the movement are those with the greatest shame around sex. In distancing themselves from their sex guilt, they embrace their sex addiction “diagnosis.” They’re not at fault for their sexual impulses and desires. Something else is – their addiction! The safety of this powerlessness becomes their crutch. Now they can say, “That’s my addiction talking.” You know what I’m talking about. We’ve seen this happen too many times with major public figures.
The thing is, humans do have the ability to control how they express their sexual impulses, including not doing so. Being out of control isn’t the issue for most “sex addicts.” It’s being in control that’s causing pain.
The ultimate price of this sex addiction ploy is that a person’s true “dilemma” with his or her sexuality and sex life fails to be properly assessed. In trivializing one’s sexual desires, the need for real therapy becomes a tragically missed opportunity.
Yes, there are a handful of cases where someone does have a problem – when their sexual activities are deemed more important than their relationships, work, finances, etc. But these situations are rare. And the issue isn’t sex; it’s something else.
In the Know Sex News …
— Lack of STI detection amongst MSM population. Health officials are expressing concern over the many cases of sexually transmitted infections not being detected in the U.S. amongst men who have sex with men (MSM). This population is not being tested annually as advised, with some healthcare workers failing to follow screening recommendations. Up to one-fourth of gonorrheal throat infections, for example, are being missed.
— Diminished sexual satisfaction in postmenopausal women not clearly associated with cardiovascular disease. A study, published in The American Journal of Medicine, which followed sexually active women ages 50-79 for 8-12 years, found that there was no association between sexual dissatisfaction and the development of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack or stroke.
— Major HIV prevention strategy being overlooked. As reported by the Guttmacher Institute, contraceptive services make for fewer unplanned births and HIV-infected infants. Yet the prevention of unintended pregnancy among HIV-positive women is failing to get the attention it deserves. With women of reproductive age comprising over half of the worldwide 33 million individuals living with HIV, public health experts are recommending that HIV-related services integrate voluntary contraceptive services into programs in an effort to combat AIDS.
Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source, Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hand Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."