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I started to reply to a comment in my earlier post about this, but decided it's worth expanding into a general post.

My skepticism about sex addiction is not so much about whether it exists, or is even possible, but more about whether it's a useful way to address unhealthy sexual activity.  Certainly it's possible to become psychologically dependent to an unhealthy degree on just about anything: cocaine, cards, cocks, chamomile or cardamom.  In principle, a person could become obsessively focused on any one of these things to the extent of obstructing their ability to lead a normal life.

But that doesn't mean that it's helpful to frame the issue as an "addiction."  Let's remember here that sex, unlike narcotics or gambling, is not just an ordinary part of every day life, but for many people is a crucial part of their lives.  When an entire recovery industry -- complete with twelve-step programs, self-help books, licensed counsellors and three-day seminars -- springs up to treat an "addiction" to one of the most natural and fundamental things a person can do, it starts to smell suspicious.  It is even harder to take seriously when you consider that sex is the one thing that an average American is most likely to feel guilt and shame about anyway.  It cannot be hard to persuade someone with a high sex drive who feels periodic guilt and shame about it that they have a psychological addiction that requires professional treatment.

It's clear that the traditional trappings of addiction treatment -- the twelve-step programs, psychological reconditioning, and the like -- have been instrumental in helping people cope with chemical addictions to alcohol, nicotine or narcotics.  But there is a critical component to those programs that is not present in treating, say, sex addiction or overeating: the addict learns that they can never again indulge their addiction without risking a relapse.  As far as I can tell, sex addicts are not taught that they must remain celibate for the rest of their lives; nor have I been able to learn why the sex addiction industry omits this step.  Maybe because they know it wouldn't work.  But if so, that brings me back to my original question: does it make sense to talk about unhealthy sexual focus as an "addiction" at all?

What I understand about sex addiction as people describe it -- that it is characterized by compulsive sexual activity and an inability to form intimate emotional relationships -- makes it sound like the underlying problem faced by sex addicts is not so much an unhealthy dependency on sexual activity as some kind of emotional disconnection that leads them to substitute sexual intimacy for an emotional one.  In other words, it is not that they are addicted to sex so much as confused about what it is and how to use it.  That above all suggests that "sex addiction" is an entirely wrong and counterproductive way to frame a real problem.
topaz: (Dutch Apple Nun)
.... is that it always seems to get promoted by people like this guy:
"Anyone who is married to Christie Brinkley and has to masturbate at all is probably a sex addict," said Doug Weiss, a licensed psychologist and the executive director of the Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado. ... "The fact that a man would spend money on women who are probably less beautiful and less wonderful than his own wife is often an indication of a sex addiction," said Weiss, who has not treated Cook or Brinkley.
Really!  Having to masturbate at all makes you a sex addict?  And does that only apply to men who are married to supermodels, or is it forgivable to resort to the sin of onanism if you have the misfortune to be married to an actual human being?

Kudos to ABC News for managing to find the person who must be the most sexually neurotic and immature soi-disant "sex counsellor" in the country for a sound bite on why people masturbate.  Is Lou Wildmon no longer returning their calls or something?
topaz: (cartoon)
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Au Bon Pain moves into racy pastry.
Originally uploaded by qwrrty.

This is, I am not making this up, a "Dutch Apple Nun."

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In more or less chronological order:

Massachusetts
New York
Connecticut
Illinois
Wisconsin
New Jersey
Texas
California (I think)
Tennessee

U.S.
Scotland
England

And I believe that's it. I'm just not that well traveled when all is said and done.

April 2012

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