Jun 302014
 

On three recent occasions, people have described me as “an admitted sex addict,” or some variant of that. Close readers of this blog know that my thinking on sex addiction, and on my relationship to it, is more nuanced (or muddied, or, muddled, or self-deceived) than that.

I recently had an exchange with another blogger in which I fleshed out some of my thoughts on this question. She sent me an advance copy of a post she was about to put up, and we went from there. This first passage is from the draft post she sent (and the cover note she sent accompanying it). Further thoughts will follow in a subsequent post.

 

Blogger: [from her cover note to me] My “issue” is that I THINK about sex ALL THE TIME. Although I don’t have much sex (not from lack of trying).  But it is constantly on my brain.  I’m concerned if this may be some form of sex addiction.

[from the draft post she sent] I think about sex A LOT.  I mean like ALL THE TIME.  When I get up in the morning, I run to my tablet to read all your wonderful blogs, check out Tumblr, check my email at all my various addresses to see if I’ve received a message from the hot new guy.  When I get home from work, the same thing.  When I’m not reading blogs, I’m reading sex forums (ourhotwives.org, etc).  I’m constantly in chat rooms talking with guys at night. (sexy chat, anyone?)  Usually it’s the same 2 or 3 guys that I’ve been chatting with for awhile…or the hot new guy  They aren’t geographically close and we are actually “friends”.  I talk with other bloggers on occasion too and I really enjoy those relationships…. This can’t be “normal”– whatever that is.  I feel like a horny 17 year old boy.  Is this a sexual addiction?  I’m not acting on it.  But am I a sex addict of a sort?  Does everyone (in the sex blogosphere?  I know the real world doesn’t do this) think about sex this much?  I mean this isn’t interrupting my work or other aspects of my life.  I do my job and do it well.  But even there Sex is never far off my brain!  I masturbate regularly and that does ease some of the “pressure”. Is this a result of living in a  sexually repressed (Bible belt) culture yet constantly being bombarded with sexual imagery?

 

N: 1) You ask a lot of questions aimed at understanding “why” you are thinking about sex all the time. As if a) there’s something wrong with it, and b) somehow, if you learn the “reason,” you’ll stop. I’m not sure either is right, outside of your head.

2) You also are concerned with “normal.” I assure you – there’s no “normal” when it comes to sex, and whatever normal there is, no one knows what it is, because no one tells the truth. It is certainly not uncommon to think about sex like you are.

3) What do you mean by “sex addict”? What’s your question? If the answer were “yes,” then what? If it were “no,” then what? Are you looking for a diagnosis? A treatment? Because there is no treatment, so the diagnosis is useless. Except in as much as it feels good to have a label for yourself.

You say “it started two years ago.” What started then? What happened then that you associate with its starting? 

 

Blogger: I really don’t know why this “thinking about sex all the time” switch turned on.  No, this is not a bad thing..at ALL  And it def won’t stop.   I’m more curious to know if others think the same way I do.

I honestly don’t know if I’m a sex addict or a variation of sorts.  I guess I contacted you because you’ve self-identified as a sex addict.  And was curious about your experience.

 

N:

Thanks. For what it’s worth, read all of what I write about “sex addiction.” I don’t self-identify as a sex addict. I try hard to be clear that I don’t really believe sex addiction is a thing, while at the same time, not trying to in any way distance myself from “other” addicts.

I think the word “addiction” is, mostly, unhelpful in relationship to sex. Particularly, for example, in your case. Your problem isn’t that you’re “addicted” to sex. It’s not even clear that you have a problem. To the extent you have one, your problem is that you think about sex more than you would like to. Or, said differently, you would like to think about sex less than you do. Either one of those two halves could be adjusted and you’d have no problem: If you were o.k. with thinking about sex as much as you do, that’d be fine; or if you thought about sex less, that’d be fine. “Sex addiction” privileges one of those two solutions over the other, but for many people, in many circumstances, the bigger problem isn’t the role sex plays in their lives (mental or otherwise), but the stories they tell themselves about the role sex plays in their lives.

What’s nice about the twelve steps is they have a pretty clear measure of whether one is “an addict” – being out of control, and having an unmanageable life. If those things are true, then, surely, one is, if not an addict, way out of control. THAT was true of me. But the metaphor of addiction often implies abstinence or some such as a solution, and THAT didn’t work for me, doesn’t work for me.

I’ve changed my relationship to sex, sure. I have less sex today than I did at the peak of my “acting out.” But I’m nowhere near “abstinent,” or “sober” – at least in the terms of SA, the fellowship I participated in most regularly.

In terms of SAA? Or SCA (two other fellowships which helped me)? I am. I don’t engage in compulsive (sexual) behavior (though I do write compulsively now). 

Sorry – lots of words on a simple subject, I suppose. But I’m skeptical about the utility of characterizing your situation as “sex addiction.” I mean, what would it give you, how would it change how you see yourself, if you declared yourself an addict? And if you didn’t?

Say something! (I just did....)