Wednesday, October 9, 2013

A Few Thoughts on Sex Addiction and Monogamy

Let me start out this post by saying that there are many things I find problematic about the whole idea of sex "addiction." It's not that I think it's impossible that someones relationship to sex or pornography couldn't cause them to do things that ruin their lives; it's more that I think if our society had a more healthy relationship with sex overall that these actions would be a lot less likely to ruin lives. Most researchers and health professionals agree that the release of oxytocin created by orgasm and partner sex is good for the immune system, depression and other mental wellness issues, and for the happiness of the partners in a relationship with that relationship. So sex is a good thing then, right? Well, apparently not always. Not if you use it excessively to deal with your issues, because we live in a puritanical culture that doesn't believe in anyone experiencing too much happiness or contentment with life.

We also live in a society where everyone seems to think they're a mental health expert who can diagnose anyone with an addiction because they enjoy doing something, anything, frequently. It's not just alcohol, drugs or sex; people in our society aren't safe from accusations of addiction to the Internet, video game, television, food, exercise, you-name-it. You can really be addicted to anything. However, I feel the stigma that comes along with sex addiction the most, having been accused of it several times. My favorite was when a nurse who was drawing my blood for tests associate with taking accutane asked me where I worked, and when I told her I worked for a porn company she gave me a card for her churches sex and pornography addiction recovery group. I cannot stress enough that I told this relative stranger that this was my work and her response was to inform me that I have an addiction. This is what I mean by everyone thinking their an expert.

What really breaks my heart more than anything, though, is when I see people who are in a committed monogamous relationship begin to accuse their partner of having a sex or porn addiction simply because they cheated or had sex outside of the relationship or because they watch porn once or twice a week. Not only is this very likely an inaccurate diagnosis in most cases; it is a manipulative technique to gain control over a person you were never meant to have control over in the first place. Just because you are in a committed relationship with someone does not mean you possess them. A person is never another person's property, no matter what you agreed to in your vows.

I wish that instead of defaulting to committed monogamy- and assuming that one of the partners in the committed relationship must have a "problem" or "addiction" if they would risk ruining their relationships over a little sex- people would just talk about their sexual needs before committing. I wish people could be more honest with themselves and then with each other about the fact they are very unlikely to be able to remain committed to one sexual partner for the rest of their lives. Or that they are very unlikely to not look at some sexually stimulating material on the Internet every so often for the purpose sexual pleasure.  On the flip side of that, I wish more people could be honest about how sexual desire in a relationship can die out, and it may perhaps be OK to remain committed to one person while gaining sexual pleasure through another.

When we start to own our sexual needs and accept the fact that it is healthy to have these needs- to release our oxytocin in safe, consensual environments- it becomes far less likely that someone can accuse us of having an unhealthy, addictive relationship with sex. Is sex addiction real? Only if you allow someone to manipulate you into thinking it is not your basic human right to have consensual sex and enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. I personally believe that you can have an unhealthy relationship with sex in either direction: by having it too much, or too little. And I believe that what constitutes "too much" or "too little" is completely dependent on the individual: two people could be having the same amount of sex, and one is having far to much (for him), while the other is having far too little (for her). So I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that there's no such thing as a dangerously harmful amount of sex.

    That said, It's also worth adding to the points you made above that sexual addiction is, thus far, not a medical diagnosis. Neither the DSM-IV nor the DSM-V (the official lists of psychological disorders in the american medial community) recognize sexual addiction as a mental disorder: although frequent sexual activity is sometimes a symptom of other disorders (ex: manic periods of bipolar disorder), so called "nymphomania", "hypersexuality", or "sexual addiction" is not, in and of itself, considered a disorder. The term "sexual addiction", thus, has no more medical weight than does the term "sinful": they're purely societal terms.