October 26, 2012

Sexual Addiction: Is it real?

This week I attended a presentation by Dr. David Ley, the author of the controversial new book The Myth of Sexual Addiction. There’s also a video of the entire 2 hour presentation available.

I have rather strong feelings about sexual addiction. I think it’s a farce. While I do see (and work with) men who make poor decisions around their sexual expression, my experience has been that those who consider themselves sexual addicts usually have some other condition or influence that’s impacting their sexual choices.

I think it’s important to look at the issues that contribute to the bad decisions rather than pathologize sexual expression. Most of the men I have worked with who are concerned about sexual addiction share a few characteristics. They’re having lots of sex, but that sex is entirely unfulfilling. They’re often suffering from guilt and shame from outside influences. Usually this comes from family or religious history. Unfulfilling sex combined with shame is a viscous combination.

I remembered a classic (lay) definition of sexual addiction as someone who has more sex than you do. Dr. Ley offered a similar definition of a sexual addict is someone who has more sex than his or her therapist.

Actually there are about 50 questions to assess sexual addiction. If six of these questions are answered yes then supposedly you’re a sexual addict. Well, most people would answer yes to more than six of these questions and the vast majority of queer men would easily say yes to more than six.

So, what these assessments do is to pathologize alternative sexual behavior. Behavior that, while not practiced by most, is entirely safe and consensual and harmful to no one. Rather than attempting to make people feel guilty for their sexual desires and sexual expression, we should focus on providing accurate non-judgmental information and let people make their own decisions about what’s best for each.

To me healthy sexual expression has nothing to do with frequency or number of partners or where or how or even if one chooses to engage in sex. Rather it’s about satisfaction and fulfillment in a way that is open and honest with all partners and doesn’t harm anyone else. To me that’s what’s really important. If we could just focus on these three areas – fulfillment, honesty and do no harm – I think we’d be in a much happier society.


3 Comments on “Sexual Addiction: Is it real?

Tim warner
November 26, 2012 at 3:20 am

Thanks Ed. I agree and I think your perspective needs to be more widely presented in this discussion wherever possible. I read Patrick Carnes in about 1988 and it puit me on the path of “seeking help for my “sexually addictive” behavior.

It’s only been in the pasts 3–4 yrs that i have reconnected with my sexuality. I almost see my early adult-hood in which i was very promiscuous as a true expression of who i am; almost like a vocation. I know that my love for cock, men, masturbation, and pleasing the cocks of men is a profound piece of who I am. .I remain however celibate since 1992. Having entirely stopping masturbating in about 1996, i didn’t start again until 2010. And durin the interim years i went through therapy, ex-gay residential programs, 12 step groups and eventually monastic life.

Now at 62, I hunger for the things which are a deep part of my heart, i.e. relating with men sexually. But it’s accompanied by great guilt and a sense of having failed myself, others who know me, my family, and God. I love masturbation, but I also am so deeply craving to givce sexual pleasure through oral sex and massage (and who knows what else) to other men. Like I said, it’s an irresistible vocation.

That’s all for now! Thank you Ed.

November 26, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’ve found that when I connect my sexuality and my spirituality the feelings of guilt really do go away. Of course, making that connection can be hard to do consistently.

tim warner
November 27, 2012 at 3:01 am

Thanks Ed, for yr reply. I have often take your comments to heart over the past few years as I make my own break through the walls of denial and repression. In particular your thoughtful and uninhibited approach to masturbation, your discovery and unleashing of the inner beast, and your thoughts and writings on acceptance of our physical appearance , our less than “porn star/model” perfection, have all been truly helpful and beneficial to me personally.

I see you as a great example of an honest man who pioneers the way into self acceptance and self expression for guys who have heretofore been inauthentic or paralytically conflicted. Even though I am not a client of yours, per se, you are a huge influence and encouragement to me. Thank you Ed.



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