I’ve been reading a few books on sex and sexuality recently. And it got me thinking about sex addiction. I’ve never understood it. And as I started thinking about it more, it made even less sense.
Psychology Today defines addiction as:
Addiction is a condition in which a person engages in use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.
Essentially your brain gets you hooked on doing things. It releases hormones, most notably dopamine, to make you feel a sense of reward and enjoyment so you want to do it again.
This happens for things that help to keep us alive and our species alive – eating, drinking, sex, sleeping.
It also happens for things like sugar, alcohol, gambling, and all kinds of drugs.
The way I see it, detrimental consequences from an addiction fall into one of two categories: physical, or social.
We’ve all heard stories and seen the Jeremy Kyle shows of people becoming alcoholics and drug addicts and their families falling apart (social consequences), and if you look at the people on those shows who’ve fallen into the addictions you can often see the physical consequences in discoloured skin and teeth, missing teeth, and haggard and sullen looks. And higher rates of drug and alcohol addiction can often result in physical harm coming to others.
In the case of sex, though, what are the detrimental consequences?
Sex is undeniably good for us, so there are no physical consequences to ourselves or others. Unless the sex becomes non-consensual, which is undeniably wrong.
So what about the social consequences? Well, the interesting thing is – we decide the social consequences. As a society, as individuals, and as partners.
One Rule For One
Opinions and views and openness around sex have clearly changed and progressed in the last century.
But some things are still really weird. If you’re a woman reading this; you’ll know the double standard between men and women of how socially acceptable it is to be sexual. We’ve all heard a shit joke along the lines of:
“If a key opens a lot of locks, it’s a master key. If a lock can be opened by a lot of keys, it’s a shit lock.”
Implying men should be proud of their sexual prowess in conquering many vagina castles with their dick as their sword. And women should be ashamed of allowing so many men to enter their precious, delicate castle.
(Load of bullshit by the way but that’s a topic for another blog.)
That idea is slowly changing now, and more people are starting to understand that women are just as sexual as men if not moreso. Men get one orgasm and they’re done (unless they’ve learned to extend it through Tantric practices), women can go for hours, orgasm after orgasm after orgasm. What a mad idea around female sexuality we allowed ourselves to be convinced of over the years.
One other double standard that’s still sticking around though is the one that sex addiction only seems to become a problem with when it’s in place.
If you’re single, you can go ahead and fuck whoever you want, whenever you want. Go on, enjoy yourself, you’re single. Have 3 people a week, 3 people a day, 3 people at the same time if you like.
Until you get into a relationship. Then all that has to stop. And you can only be sexual with this person you’ve signed an unwritten, sex-restricting contract with.
And if you break that contract, boy will there be consequences. There’ll be arguments, tears, threats from brothers, fathers and uncles, bin bags full of clothes thrown out of windows, maybe even your children taken away from you.
All because you had sex with someone just like you used to before you didn’t sign that contract.
Talk about double standards. No wonder we dream of being in a relationship when we’re single, and dream of being single when we’re in a relationship.
Who Showed You How To Do That?
Having your children taken off you sounds a bit excessive. I thought that was reserved for abusive and neglective parents. Not for having sex. You know, that thing that made the children exist in the first place.
So why do we react this way when we find out our partner has fucked someone else?
Put simply, because that’s what you believe you should do.
But we’re taught our beliefs by the people around us as we grow up. Our parents, grandparents, teachers, our religion, whatever authority figure it might be. Even soap operas and movies.
But what if they’re wrong?
What if you’re not a sex addict because you wanted to have sex with someone else? What if it’s just a normal thing to want to do that’s undeniably natural.
Like, oh I don’t know, being gay or wanting to be friends with someone with a different skin colour to you.
Seriously, think about all the insane shit we’ve done until very recently for SO LONG, just because we were told that’s what we were supposed to do.
“You’re a boy, you shouldn’t like other boys.”
“You’re white, you shouldn’t talk to black people.”
“You’re in a relationship, you shouldn’t have sex with other people.”
What if this is one of those things? What if the rules we’ve been taught about relationships are wrong?
The Intimacy-Sex Equation
One of the “key” things were taught about strong relationships is that they’re all about intimacy. And that’s right, they are.
But when I said relationships, I didn’t mean boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and wives as you may have assumed.
I meant all of them. For any relationship to be strong and treasured – there has to be intimacy. The issue is that we often confuse the meaning of intimacy and sexual intimacy, and use them interchangeably.
Here’s Google’s definition of intimacy:
Intimacy, noun – close familiarity or friendship.
So yeah while we do become intimate with our “partners”, we’re also intimate with our friends. With our parents. With our siblings. With our barista when they know our orders.
And because of this confusion we end up building and believing the following equation of sorts on relationships:
“If there’s enough intimacy in the relationship, you wouldn’t want sex outside the relationship.”
Which is what always comes up when somebody “cheats”. As the cheater, or the sex addict, or the relationship-phobe, you’re told that you have intimacy issues. That you struggle to be intimate with your partners, or that you struggle to create intimacy, or allow yourself to be intimate. Because if you COULD be intimate, you wouldn’t want to have sex with anyone else.
Only problem is that that doesn’t make any sense.
Let’s play with the equation and see if it makes sense with other things we do in relationships.
“If there’s enough intimacy in the relationship, you wouldn’t want conversation outside the relationship.”
Now that sounds like nonsense because then you’d both become recluses and cut off all contact with the outside world.
“If there’s enough intimacy in the relationship, you wouldn’t want cooking outside the relationship.”
Everyone loves date night out at a restaurant, because it actually HELPS the intimacy between us.
Even if you use the same word in both parts of the equation it gets weird.
“If there’s enough conversation in the relationship, you wouldn’t want conversation outside the relationship.”
“If there’s enough cooking in the relationship, you wouldn’t want cooking outside the relationship.”
“If there’s enough intimacy in the relationship, you wouldn’t want intimacy outside the relationship.”
“If there’s enough sex in the relationship, you wouldn’t want sex outside the relationship.”
In the case of conversation, again you’d both become weird recluses.
In the case of cooking, you’d never let anybody cook for you, which is also a bit weird.
In the case of intimacy, you’d remove all other relationships from your life. Now it’s getting really weird and people are starting to seriously worry about you and your partner as though you’re joining a cult.
In the case of sex: no matter who you and your partner are, youll never be 100% sexually compatible. There will always be things you want to do or try that they’re not into. And there will always be things they want to do or try that you’re not into.
Why do we feel the need to intervene (in their best interests) when someone starts to become reclusive as a result of a new relationship? Or takes on weird new eating habits? Or pushes away their friends and family? But take it as completely normal, and even insist, that someone stops wanting to have sex the way they did before this new person came along?
More double standards I guess.
Got You Thinking?
I think that’ll do for now. My aim for this blog wasn’t to talk to you into a new way of living because the current way doesn’t make sense to me.
My aim was for you to question it too.
If you think it still makes sense – cool, crack on.
If some part of you is intrigued though, if some small part thinks I might be talking some sense, if you’re questioning what you’ve always believed to whatever extent – stay tuned.
Equation idea from Neil Strauss in his book “The Truth”.