Sex Ed in Bed

Not tonight, honey. I’m afraid of being a sex addict.
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

These days, in most any flimsy argument by the religious right, sex addiction seems to follow porno just as much as bestiality follows gay marriage. What’s worse is I often here the addiction / porno connection in all too many queer conversations, too. Mind you, it’s never within the context of factual research. The word “addiction” is more often misused as a veiled condemnation to say, “You are bad, and I am not.”

Let’s face it. Pop culture has expanded the idea of addiction into a household buzzword with such broad finger-pointing that we regularly fear the potential of being addicted to virtually everything. It feels inescapable, like the alcoholic who can’t perceive life beyond his/her experience and therefore believes you are an alcoholic simply because you have a drink, and nothing can convince these bandwaggoners otherwise. Unfortunately, there’s no sexual Geiger Counter to determine a safe space between a healthy sex life and a destructive one. So consider the following concepts I’ve examined to help me gain perspective about addiction and sex.

To begin with, our limited understanding of sex is negatively skewed to a hysterical extreme. Hence, balanced decision-making regarding sex is enormously convoluted, and many of us probably lean toward the side of reticence in general. For example, a large portion of the population still regards sex’s only purpose as procreative. The thought that sex can exist simply for pleasure’s sake seems frivolous, risky and (surprise!) fear based. In reality, we need a certain amount of escape and down time in our lives. Some would even propose that pleasure is the most encouraging factor in a human’s life — sexual or otherwise, and this kind of motivation has nothing to do with addiction. After all, just because a person loves drawing houses, spends his/her life becoming an architect, and now is making a fabulous living at it, doesn’t mean s/he is addicted to the drafting table.

Our understanding of the term, “addiction” can also be skewed because it’s so generalized. Addiction is traditionally a chemical dependency, where the chemical literally forces the body to crave more of it, and consequently, in order to regain health a person may need to completely remove it from his/her life. Sexuality, like food will actually be detrimental to one’s health if completely removed. Besides, suppressing sexuality for fear of being “addicted,” makes as much sense as a gay man marrying a woman to “cure” him of his homosexual desires. Therefore, these kinds of “addictions” are usually called “compulsive behaviors,” and they can be managed, not removed.

Furthermore, the focus of compulsive behavior is often misplaced. I can’t blame food, TV, or sex for my difficulty. The problem is the compulsiveness. Therefore, compulsive behavior can be identifies as my activity of using something to constantly avoid responsibility, particularly my emotional health and well-being.

Ultimately, the most no-nonsense way to determine compulsive behavior is to soberly ask yourself, “Is it a problem?” Is your health suffering? Is your work, relationships or family suffering as a result? If you love spending a considerable amount of time downloading porn and this is the way you gain sexual enjoyment — great! If you have gotten fired from your job because you can’t keep from downloading porn at work — that would pretty much qualify as a real problem.

Certainly, sex and compulsive behavior is far more complex than there is space on this page to cover. Ultimately, my goal is to dispel the fear and negativity that corrupts a healthy sexuality. What legitimate research there actually is on the notion of sexual compulsion leads me to believe that a very small portion of the population truly fits the description. However, I’d guess that most of us are afraid we’re addicted to sex. And baby, a fear of sex addiction can be one enormous mood killer, much less a guaranteed limp noodle. So just because I can cum more easily with my own hand instead of my partner’s doesn’t mean I have a masturbation addiction, or even a problem. It just means (Oh! golly gee whiz!) we get to practice more! Remember the question is not, “Do I think I’m a sex addict?” but, “Do I actually have a problem?”

I am dumbfounded at Christians whose God is love. Yet they live such a life of fear — paralyzed from doing anything that could be perceived as bad, petrified to even make an innocent mistake — that they barely live at all. Isn’t that a sin? Don’t give the fear of sex any further power by labeling it “addiction.” The problem is not sex or even compulsive behavior. The problem is fear, and that’s what we should avoid — compulsive fear.

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