Is Sex Addiction Real?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because what better way to deal with being addicted to sex than hanging out with a roomful of people also addicted to sex.
By Eugene S. Robinson
“Our meetings might attract the kind of people who …”
“Who might need the meetings?”
“Who are predatory and not so serious about recovery yet.”
You see, it had been decided that we should attend a meeting since there has been a raft of recent reports out giving a nod to sex addiction (SA) being a real “malady” and not just something to say when you’ve been busted doing something you shouldn’t be doing. (Again. Maybe by the police this time.) So on considering famous sufferers — David Duchovny, Tiger Woods, Russell Brand et al. and ad sexy infinitum — and the fact that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is about to declare sex addiction a real mental condition, we figured it was about time.
And the voice on the phone’s explanation covered the caution with which anyone claiming to be a sex addict in need of a meeting is viewed by sex addicts who are in meetings. Unlike your garden-variety Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, SA meetings require that you, you know, DO things to get in. Or rather: You just can’t walk in and get your mack on. Which was really the hope/deal/expectation. So with the summary vetting completed and the completely unhelpful and unwholesome motivation for being there in place, a meeting was attended.
Cue the Joke’s On You Music.
Not a roomful of beautiful people always, or at all, but mostly older, out-of-shape, pasty guys with tales of furtively delivered bathroom blow jobs. After three or four tales of thwarted homosexual woe (at least they were in the blow job ARENA) and an attempt to ease toward the exit, a 20-year old woman looking for all the world like a McDonald’s employee raised her hand: “My name is Stephanie. And I’m a sex addict …”
Right. A 20-year-old sex addict. She wanted to have sex more than once a night and her boyfriend called her a nympho? Oy.
But as her story spooled out “I was working at McDonald’s…”, unbelievable, yet true, it turned into a Penthouse Forum rant of epic proportions and involved group sex by the fryer, customers jumping over the counter, raiding the registers, stealing the food and subsequently, since this was all in view of the public, joining in, taking photos, celebrating the joy of lives well lived. All behind the register at a fast-food restaurant. Oh yeah, and the security cameras caught it all.
So, people were fired, and shame, shame and calumny. Here, in total, is the essence of sex addiction: the thing you can’t stop doing even if you know that the price for doing it is exceedingly high and will result in life disruptions that can’t possibly sometimes even be paid for. But still, whether there is a difference between sex being something you really like and something that qualifies as addiction can’t just hinge on something as simple as job loss, angry partners and getting beaten up by them, can it?
They were having lots of fun, but me? Not so much.
“I think what makes it an addiction is that something fun has stopped being fun.” The speaker is Henry. Henry’s a handsome 40-year-old and pegs his “moment of clarity” to when a prostitute asked him to climb into the back seat of his car, and when he did she took off running with his pants, wallet and car keys.
Henry chased her, and when he saw some cops he ran up to them and asked for help. Pants-less.
“They were very helpful,” he said from the sidewalk in front of his new job: bouncer at a strip club. Maybe not the wisest choice for someone in recovery, but you know …
“And after I got a new key for my hotel room, my car rental and a towel, they gave me a ticket for public lewdness, soliciting a prostitute and disturbing the peace. They were having lots of fun, but me? Not so much.”
So he sought help because even though The Fun Thing had ceased being fun he couldn’t stop chasing it even though all the signs that he should were there. In fact, despite widespread debate over whether it has a real basis in biological functioning or is an offshoot of obsessive compulsive disorders, nearly 12 million Americans are claiming some kind of sex addiction, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.
But I wasn’t really there for all of that. I was there for the thrill of living through other people’s mania, to give me some respite from dealing with my own for even five minutes, under the guise of writing this very article. And the meetings didn’t disappoint, and — from the guy whose penchant for prostitutes came close to costing him upward of $10,000 a month, which subsequently caused him to make some questionable decisions involving felonies, to a woman who funneled her addiction into a very profitable four years in a massage parlor and used the money to start a record label until her boyfriend caught on — they thrilled. With? The sheer unbridled joy and enthusiasm for life, and while at some point it does cease being fun right before it gets there, there’s a feeling that seems to approach the feeling of flying. And this shines on the faces of everyone there.
Which is to say, it was great. It’s an addiction in and of itself. And I’ll be back next week.