Actor David Duchovny's recent treatment for sex addiction sparked a flurry of debate on blog sites, in therapy offices, and at dinner tables about what makes a sex addict?
One 20-ish male student challenged me: "Come on a sex addict? All guys my age are horny dogs!"
After bleating out a nervous cry, I sought confirmation in the sacred text of sex addiction, Out of the Shadows, by Patrick Carnes: "The sexual experience becomes the reason for being--the primary relationship for the addict."
My studly student was not to be dissuaded: "Exactly my point," he says, "what guy my age is not consumed by sex?"
I soldiered on. "Sex addiction means that the addict is a slave to sex."
That really got him going. "Who doesn't want to be a slave to sex? You can hold me captive to sex for life!"
I persisted. "The addict is out of control, experiences shame and self loathing, loses relationships, engages in risky behavior, gets arrested."
"Gets arrested for having artery-popping sex?" he guffaws.
I wanted to fire back a litany of scenarios that would likely end in arrest or jail time but I stopped myself. Had I continued, I would have become his mother, or my mother, or the mother I am to my sons.
In our "feel good" culture everything is exposed, tapping voyeuristic/exhibitionistic tendencies within us. Anything outrageous, funny or provocative is worth sensationalizing. At a premiere screening of the film, Choke, audience members were given out goody bags. The movie is about a sex addict's struggle to overcome sex addiction. Contained in the bags were sex toys. Reportedly, when asked about the appropriateness of such a hand out, distributors replied, "It's funny, provocative, like the movie," and the sex toy was "just a joke." As professionals, how can we expect our clients to out grow a mass culture that suffers from arrested development, enslaved by a sexed-up media that is stuck in permanent adolescence?
An alcoholic must resist buying booze, or a drug addict refrains from procuring drugs, but how can a sex addict not expose himself to sex? To de-sexify his environment, the addict could never use a cell phone, or boot up a computer, or click on a TV, or watch music videos, or drive by breast-augmented billboards. In our sex-obsessed society how impossible is it for a sex addict to ever recover when everything at his finger tips are triggers?
Often sex addicts are victims of childhood abuse, first sexualized in the family, further corrupted by the street culture, then desensitized by pop culture. In the context of mass sexualization, the addict becomes the constant container for humanity's projected sexual impulses. The compromised addict is the one most vulnerable to "wear the projection." He becomes the sex soldier and wages his war, and we, as part of a smug society, exonerate ourselves while we excoriate him for being the "debauched addict." We write him off as being debased, while we enable him with our insatiable appetite for a sexualized culture -- "projective identification" and the family projection process rippling through intergenerational time and societal space.'
Now getting back to my sex-obsessed, 'overly testosteroned' student ... if I had told him any of this, I would have lost him at "arrested development."
Instead, when he insists that there is no such thing as a sex-addict, I'll rely on this tidbit of psycho-education. "You know you're an addict when the sex is no longer satisfying. The suffering it causes you and your loved ones is anything but funny, and the chaos that ensues is tragic.
Case in Point: Congressman Wiener!