Sex Addiction is no Joke
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by our local newspaper, the Plymouth Evening Herald about my Sex and Pornography Addiction practice. Prior to our meeting the paper had run an on-line pre-amble about the fact that there was a Sex Addiction service in Plymouth with more to follow……
When we met, the reporter, rather sheepishly, said that the on-line response had been quite disappointing with comments on their site along the lines of ‘oh I could do with a bit of that’ or ‘here Dave you should go for that it’s right up your street’ or ‘what a great addiction to have’. Unfortunately, this is all too familiar a response when I talk to people about sex addiction.
Whether sex addiction actually exists is for another blog, but all I can say is that in my clients I found devastation, despair, remorse and confusion as to why they continue with their destructive behaviours knowing that, if found out, they jeopardise their relationships, family and in some cases employment. But most of all I find shame. Shame that they feel compelled to live a life that is against their core values.
When I meet their partners they are heartbroken, traumatised at the discovery, filled with bewilderment as to how they could not possibly have realised and their self-esteem is in tatters, knowing that they cannot compare to the women their partners are viewing.
My response to the reporter – ‘sex addiction is no joke’. For me, irrespective of the increasing medical evidence to support its existence, experiencing and hearing what I have from my clients leaves me in no doubt that they no longer feel in control of their sexual behaviour despite its destruction in their lives. Take out the word ‘sex’ and replace it with ‘drugs’ or ‘alcohol’ and you have a definition of addiction.
Sex addiction is not all fun and games
So, I ponder what is funny about someone being addicted to sex. I guess in its simplest understanding we visualise men (in the main but female sex addicts are becoming ever more common) just having loads of great sex and for men delighting at the fact that they might meet a partner who would be addicted to sex. Sex all the time, what a great situation to find yourself in. But visualise this; spending 6 or 7 hours a day searching and seeking internet sites looking for the ‘perfect’ porn or ‘end shot’. The pleasure-seeking chemistry in our brain egging us on, relentless in its search. ‘Vanilla’ porn no longer has the same arousal, so we escalate to different, hard core porn, we become confused as our need for surprise and shock takes us into a dark world that we never thought or could believe we would inhabit; homosexuality, extreme S&M or rape. We are 13 years old. For the next 10, 20 years we continue until ‘real’ women no longer seem to have the same level of stimulus. We suffer from erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation or loss of desire for our partners, our relationships suffer. When single we withdraw into a solitary world, our brain structure is changing and life no longer holds the same pleasures. I’m not laughing.
The men and women I meet are not laughing. They hold their heads low and whisper their acting out behaviour, ‘I have never told anyone this before’, they look up at me checking to see if I will judge them, barely able to make eye contact. No-one knows of their dark secret(s) but in many cases, this is only the beginning, having often suffered physical and/or emotional abuse whilst growing up. They share with me their heart wrenching stories of neglect and the shame that they carry within themselves as a result, rather than reaching for the bottle, they have turned to pornography, chat rooms or prostitutes to anesthetise the feelings that are unbearable.
Sex addiction is not a laughing matter
The partners aren’t laughing either, they have their own journey of recovery to get through. They also feel ashamed and often never tell anyone other than a closest friend or relative. They look like you and me, but when someone makes a joke about sex addiction they have a strained laugh. To tell is too shameful for them, how can they explain that they have decided to stay in the relationship, as a lot of women do.
The reporter is interested to know how I can help. The biggest step I tell her is overcoming the shame and picking up the telephone, they then need to attend their first appointment. Once these two barriers are overcome, the work can begin and you know, sometimes we do laugh. I help them to recall the good times in their lives, before the addiction took over, the happier times of their childhood or just the fact that they are now more able to enjoy life and take pleasure from the simplest things. We often laugh. But we don’t laugh in the face of sex addiction because we know that the journey of recovery is a long one and every day is an important step towards a healthy fulfilling sex life and life.
But not all sex or pornography addicts have suffered trauma. In today’s world of high speed internet access and superhuman stimuli most young men have watched more porn and more extreme porn than their fathers would have watched in a lifetime pre-the internet; opportunity, availability and affordability themselves are creating addiction.
Porn is a multi-billion-dollar industry. The 2016 statistics from one porn site alone, Pornhub, reveal that its videos were watched 92 billion times during 2016, by 64 million daily viewers.
A recent survey by Childline reported that two thirds of those questioned between the age of 11 – 13 had watched porn and it was now the norm for boys as young as 13 to view pornography at least two or three times a week. Girls are almost as likely to have seen porn as boys, but watch it less often. There are also thousands of hits on sex addiction recovery sites every day.
So what point am I making? I guess what I am saying is that our children are at risk, if you are a parent I urge you to check and double check your computer blocking packages, educate them on the dangers of the internet and give them good sex education within the confines of a loving relationship. Teach them to respect women rather than sexualise them. Love and laugh with them.