Are people really addicted to sex?
Dr. David Ley doesn’t think so. And I completely agree and disagree.
In his new book, the Myth of Sex Addiction, Ley argues that the sex addict label mischaracterizes male sexuality, “as dangerous and unhealthy and destroys our ability to hold people accountable for their behaviors.”
Too many people, especially famous folks, jump on the sex addiction band wagon to justify their sexual transgressions. Sex addiction is the new problem to plague the rich and rich and famous. David Duchovny, Charlie Sheen, and Tiger Woods are some of the people Dr. Ley has pointed to as examples.
I agree that these individuals may not be addicts, but I do believe they are suffering from an equally important issue.
Many people claiming to be sex addicts are seriously adverse to intimacy. And their aversion leads them to have secret sex exchanges that cause problems for themselves and those they love.
Let’s face it,intimacy is scary–especially to powerful people. (I hate to stereotype, but indulge me for a moment. Please.)
Intimacy opens up the heart, exposes the soul, and breeds vulnerability. Society does not encourage or reward vulnerable men (or women). And those who choose non-intimate sexual relationships achieve immediate gratification without risking their (perceived) power.
However, none of this suggests that sex addicts don’t exist. Although the condition isn’t included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), (the bible for mental health professionals), the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health estimates that 3 to 5 percent of the US population, approximately 9 million people may meet the criteria for sex addiction.
WebMD offers a detailed description of a sex addict: “a person who has an unusually intense sex drive or an obsession with sex. Sex and the thought of sex tend to dominate the sex addict’s thinking, making it difficult to work or engage in healthy personal relationships.”
Addiction is characterized by lack of control over a behavior (or substance) that brings an instant reward despite negative long-term effects, and physiological dependence. The evidence of sex addiction lies in the significant number of people who cannot stop themselves from engaging in sex behaviors that bring short-term satisfaction but cause negative consequences overall. Sex addiction affects both men and women, and in most instances represents an unfulfilled yearning for intimacy.
According to licensed counselor Rob Jackson, “sex addiction is never really about sex, but about a hungry heart that craves intimacy.”
Communication, trust, and vulnerability are the cornerstones of intimacy. The popularity of celebrities claiming to be sex addicts demonstrates significant lapses in honest communication between partners about sexual desires.
I bet that some of the celebrities whose sex adventures have made the news actually do want to have sex with different partners but do not feel comfortable expressing that preference to their Sig O (or anyone else). Hence, the big headlines.
Communicating such desires makes a person vulnerable to rejection and demonstrates true intimacy. But repressing desires, even if they don’t fit into society’s traditional mold of acceptable sex behaviors, diminishes intimacy. And if you can’t share your sex fantasies with your Sig O, you’re eventually going to end up sharing them with someone else.
And Hello! It’s the fair thing to do. Whether someone is a sex addict, or just a popular person who likes to have lots of sex, it’s only right that potential lovers know the deal. That’s why intimacy is important.
The most effective strategy to help someone with un-expressed or unfulfilled sex desires is to build the capacity to be raw, open, and vulnerable. That’s what intimacy is and it’s scary stuff. Intimacy takes time to develop, especially among those who are used to wearing a powerful mask that shields emotions. But intimacy leads to more satisfying sexual relationships. And sex without intimacy leads to ….headlines.
Everyone is unique with different preferences. People prefer different foods, different smells, different games, and different types of sex. Intimacy empowers people to express their preferences and make informed decisions about their relationships.
Maybe Tiger Woods isn’t a sex addict, but a man without the skills to tell his wife that he prefers sex with multiple women. Since he didn’t express his desires, he robbed her of the right to make an informed decision about her relationship. There are many women who would agree to be with a man who has multiple lovers. But his ex-wife wasn’t one of them. If they had open and honest communication about their sexual desires earlier in their relationship, potential differences would have emerged and much drama could have been avoided.
Problems at work are a common and classic sign of addiction. During the time that Tiger was sexually involved with multiple partners, he was doing great on the job. He wasn’t missing games showing up late, or losing.
Ever since he’s been labeled a sex addict, Tiger can’t seem to win. So perhaps there more than a few reasons to reject the term of sex addict, especially in his case. Now that some of his preferences are out in the open, I’m confident that he’ll be able to have an intimate relationship with someone that understands that monogamy is not really his game.
Beginning in May, the Sex in South Beach School of Sensual Satisfaction will offer workshops to help improve your intimate communication skills. Registration opens soon. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive school updates.
Are you coming to the party? The Sex in South Beach launch party is April 21, 2012! Singing, belly-dancing, burlesque, and cocktails! To get on the list, email us at email@example.com.