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.