Sexaholics Anonymous: has a rigid “bottom line.” Their “white book” makes abundantly clear that, “for the sexaholic, any form of sex with one’s self or with partners other than the spouse is progressively addictive and destructive.” Lest that not be rigid enough, there’s a footnote to clarify just what a “spouse” is: “In SA’s sobriety definition, the term “spouse” refers to one’s partner in a marriage between a man and a woman.” SA is the fellowship that serves the largest number of people coming from orthodox religious backgrounds, and although utterly non-religious, the language it uses, and in particular, its identification of “lust” as the “problem,” makes it a particularly welcoming place for religious believers in the conservative, American sense.
Just in case you missed it in the above because the language was fuzzy, in SA, you can’t be sober if you masturbate, you can’t be sober if you have sex with your same-sex spouse, you can’t be sober if you have spousally permitted extramarital sex, and you can’t be sober if you fuck your opposite-sex spouse in a way that’s “lustful.”
There was a time when I had a political analysis of all this, but over months and years, it has all dropped away. I genuinely believe that, while there are lots of places that are harmful (and hateful) in their message that “homosexuality can be cured,” SA is different: it is a place that is without moral judgment. It exists simply to serve people for whom their particular definition of sobriety is helpful. There’s a thin line here, because a) many of these people are themselves homophobic or hateful toward gay people, and b) in structuring itself in this way, SA can’t possibly help people who accept their homosexuality but nonetheless suffer from compulsive sexuality. Nonetheless, I am convinced that while this all is true, the organization genuinely isn’t homophobic – it’s just rigid, and rigid in a way that serves the interests of its core constituency. It exists primarily to serve people for whom these definitions work. (I have met a number of lovely men who told me they “suffer from same-sex attraction.” While I may well believe that homosexuality is not something that can, or should, be cured, I can say that it is definitively true that this formulation was true for the people who spoke it to me.)
Sexual Recovery Anonymous is almost exactly the same as SA, with one difference: they’re prepared to admit the possibility of a sobriety in a long-term, committed, but unmarried, opposite-sex relationship. So no help for the gays….
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Sex Addicts Anonymous both have somewhat more flexible bottom lines, developed in partnership with one’s sponsor, and neither has an institutional view on either masturbation or homosexuality.
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous was started by a few gay guys with a problem. It is the fellowship with the greatest acceptance of homosexuality (in New York, meetings are often 75% gay), and, perhaps consequently, that comes closest to providing a space in which sex-positive thinking can survive. In SCA, you develop a “recovery plan,” in which you identify behaviors in which you must not engage, behaviors which should be approached with caution, behaviors which are fine, and behaviors which are salutary. This is similar to the approach of SAA.