One of America’s major websites is running a front page article today about “sex addiction.”
The primary expert featured in the story is… me. That’s only fair, since I’ve spent years challenging the very concept.
No reasonable person can deny that some people are involved with sex (e.g., via pornography, prostitutes, affairs, romance novels, anonymous pickups) in an unhealthy way. But the concept of “sex addiction” is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Why does it matter what you call it? Well, “frigidity” was a well-known diagnostic category for a long time. When physicians diagnosed a woman as “frigid,” they had treatments for it. Same thing with “nymphomania” (that’s a woman who wants sex one more time than her partner).
When “homosexuality” was known as a psychiatric diagnosis, clinicians knew what to do about it. And just a century ago, being possessed by the devil was another well-known medical diagnosis, with corresponding treatment options.
The “treatment” for “sex addiction” is sobriety. It starts with people admitting that they’re “addicts,” that they have a “disease,” over which they’re “powerless.” Not that they FEEL powerless—they ARE powerless. When people have to admit that they’re powerless over their sexuality in order to make better decisions about it, there’s something wrong.
The “sex addiction” issue raises important questions: Is sex dangerous? Is it a public health problem? Can it poison us?
Even in a society in which some individuals make bad decisions about their sexuality, hurting themselves or others, the answer should still be NO. Because if the problem is sex, the solution is obviously to have less of it: less experimentation, less talking about it, less fantasizing about it, less using it to explore the universe and the meaning of being human.
And America doesn’t need less of that—we need MORE of that. We need more of that in a safe, sane, mature environment. So America needs more sex education, more celebration of contraception, more professional training in sexuality.
And less repressing of erotic options: nude beaches, strip clubs, pay-for-porn in hotel rooms, emergency contraception, sex-toy stores.
By the way, this has nothing to do with rapists or child molesters. Rapists and child molesters never go to “sex addicts anonymous,” and the groups aren’t set up to treat these psychologically disturbed people anyway.
Are you a “sex addict”? Take the test. Created by Patrick Carnes, the inventor of “sex addiction” (who admits he has no training in human sexuality), it asks 25 true-false questions. If you’re a typical American, you’ll score very high—maybe even as a “sex addict.”
You a “sex addict?” Hahaha! But this isn’t a harmless parlor game. If YOU’RE supposedly a “sex addict,” what does that mean about the concept? Or about our society, which has adopted this new disease so enthusiastically?
People who masturbate too much, look at too much porn, or cheat on their husbands aren’t “addicts.” They just don’t like the consequences of their decisions. They may be impulsive, or angry, or lonely. We know how to help people like that. Let’s not make sex the problem—there’s too many people in government, religion, and the media who are thrilled to have one more reason to strangle it. To strangle YOUR sex life.