Sex Ed in Bed
Sexual Shame and Crystal Meth
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

IWait a minute. Something is not adding up. I’ve been reading the different studies focusing on sexual shame and crystal meth — which by the way are few. In fact, Dr. David Wohlsifer states in his study on the subject, “Little is mentioned about sexual issues beyond identifying crystal users as suffering from a sexual addiction and being sexually compulsive. The literature [research] is devoid of suggestions or efforts aimed at helping develop healthy sexual beliefs and a meaningful and healthy sex life as well as address the issues of sexual trauma that may have occurred during crystal use.” Almost every treatment program helping people stop using crystal also requires them to be sexually abstinent. It’s clear that sex can be so dramatically enhanced by crystal it’s very hard to pull the two apart. But all too often sexual activity gets stigmatized as being part of the destructive chemical itself, and as a sexologist, I begin to recognize something out of whack in the approach to helping meth users recover. Since the relapse rate for crystal users is as high as 90 percent (Sanello, 2005) I figure some of these treatment facilities might be willing to consider some alternative approaches to recovery, especially from a sexological point of view.

While reading through the research another kind of treatment kept popping into my head. Often times, the most successful “ex-gays” (if you can call that success) are people who (for lack of a better term) have an addictive personality, i.e. people who abuse alcohol, drugs, and other substances. Therefore, when they find Jesus and use religion to “come clean” from their substance abuse, they corral their gayness in with their addictions and get the idea that being straight goes along with being “on the wagon.” So, conversely for them gay equals destructive behavior. Is this reality? Of course not. Jesus might help people get off the booze, but being gay is not a chemical addiction. Yet, both this “treatment” to cure gayness and the treatment to recover from meth categorize sexuality as just part of the addiction. I think we are missing how this kind of sex-negativity actually contributes significantly to the problem.

Turning again to Dr. Wohlsifer’s study, he found that his gay subjects had many shame-based beliefs about their sexuality prior to their initial use of crystal and that the use of the drug eradicated those feelings of shame. It created for the user a kind of “alternate sexual reality,” one where he felt sexy, horny, confident, adventurous, uninhibited, and affectionate with a sense of belonging and camaraderie with the other men he had sex with. With that kind of shame-free sexual euphoria (and the addictive chemical begging for more), of course he would feel compelled to take meth over and over again to regain that euphoria.

This may be the biggest clue to defusing the epidemic. As Dr. Wohlsifer put it, “If each man in this study had someone, before they initially used crystal, help them work through the sexual shame they felt, it can be hypothesized from their comments that they might not have resorted to the drug. They might have developed healthier sexual beliefs about themselves and acted in ways less destructive.”

This is not the first time our community has confused sexuality and self-destruction. In the early 80’s the queer community really did not know if AIDS would kill every gay man on the planet. There was a sense that our quickly dwindling “gay species” could actually die out! Therefore, every person, especially our sex partners had to survive. In essence, we insisted that sex be a positive experience for everyone by developing cutting edge education despite the challenges. It was important then and it’s important now that we insist our healthy sexuality does not take the blame for irresponsible behavior.

I know that sex is not the only reason why people use crystal, but re-shaming a recovering user by telling them, “Just say no to sex,” could certainly set the stage for a relapse. “To respond to the community health problems that crystal use presents, it is essential to understand that crystal use is a mechanism that eradicates sexual shame.” So let’s provide ways for recovering users to stimulate a positive sexuality — one without shame. I am preparing to focus on this need by providing information, workshops, and consultations specifically for the recovery community. Who’s with me? Let’s try to eradicate shame before the drug is used as a temporary and destructive fix. Hell! I’m here to promote healthy sexuality whatever your challenges are with addiction.

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