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Sex Addiction, or Too Much of a Good Thing?

This last post of 2010 will start with a declaration. One of my famous “Thus Sayeth Dr. Dick” sorta things, if you please.

Ready?

I categorically reject the concept of sexual addiction that has been floating around in the popular culture for the last 20 years or so.

And yes, I know this will rankle a bunch of you, but you’ll just have to get over it. You see, there is no such thing as a sexual addiction. Period!

Nowadays people bandy about the term addiction as if it can be applied to any and all obsessive behaviors. I have an addiction to chocolate; I’m addicted to shopping; I’m addicted to video games; I’m addicted to porn—or, I’m a sex addict. NONSENSE!

That being said, I hasten to add that I do believe there are sexual obsessions and compulsive sexual behaviors, plenty of ’em in fact. However, obsessions and compulsions are not addictions, and addictions, while they may involve irresistible impulses, are not the same thing as compulsions. Get it? Got it? Good!

I want to be absolutely clear about this. An addiction is a very specific condition. It denotes a dual dependency, physical as well as a psychological.

  • A physical dependency occurs when a substance is habitually used to a point where the body becomes reliant on its effects. The substance must be used constantly, because if it is withheld, it will trigger symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Psychological dependency occurs when the substance habitually used creates an emotional reliance on its effects. There is no functioning without it. Its absence produces intense cravings, which if not fed will trigger symptoms of withdrawal.

Check it out. With the help of my handy-dandy dictionary, a good place to start in discussions of this sort, I discovered these three very distinct definitions:

Addiction: The need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. Broadly: persistent use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. A state of physiological and psychological dependence on a drug.

Compulsive: Driven by an irresistible inner force to do something; i.e., a compulsive liar.

Obsession: A persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling.

See? Different words. Different meanings. Not a particularly complex notion to grasp, right?

And listen, just because a bunch of yahoo afternoon talks show hosts and even a load of my esteemed professional colleagues banter these words about like they were interchangeable doesn’t make it so. In fact, we do ourselves a huge disservice by muddling these very specific concepts into a jumble. My fellow therapists should be the first to recognize this because finding help for an addiction or an intervention for an obsessive/compulsive disorder will be as specific as the problem itself.

One thing is for certain: identifying one of the things, as the other will complicate the problem solving. It’s like going to the doctor with a headache, and when the doc asks where does it hurt, you point to your stomach. It just won’t do.

Hi Dr. Dick,
I recently found out my boyfriend has been cheating on me. He wants me to forgive him, but he keeps on doing the same thing over and over again. He’s like addicted to sex or something. I love him very much, but I feel dirty just by being around him and knowing what he’s doing. It also makes me feel stupid putting up with all of this and at the same time I still love him, please give me some advice. Thank You.
— Darlene

Before we turn our attention to your boyfriend’s behavior, let me make a quick observation about you. You’re a big fat ball of contradictions, huh? How can you say that you love the person that makes you feel dirty and stupid? You’re deceiving yourself about at least one of those feelings. And if I had to guess, I’d say what you’ve got with your man ain’t love—it’s an obsession.

Your boyfriend probably has you figured out by now, and he knows that you will tolerate his misbehavior, which gives him tacit permission to do whatever he feels like doing. From where I sit, you’re the real sap. If you’re really serious about reining in your wayward BF, you’d better come up with a clear, unambiguous message about what you will and will not tolerate. Until you do precisely that, he’ll just think that he can roam wherever he wants and whenever he wants.

If the two of you are supposed to be living in a sexually exclusive relationship, and he’s taking his business elsewhere, then he’s got a problem, too. However, I caution you against thinking that his sexual behaviors are an addiction. Because they’re not.  And thinking they are will not help you find the solution to the problems you folks are having.

There are root causes for his behavior, just like there are root causes for your behavior. To get to the bottom of all of this, each of you will need to invest a good deal of time and energy with a qualified therapist. One can only hope that there’s a big enough bank of goodwill between the two of you to carry the day because overcoming your obsession and his compulsions will demand all of your emotional resources.

Dear Dr. Dick,
I have been in a relationship for five years now and truly love my partner, however I can never seem to get enough sex. I am 30 and he is 29, but I constantly find myself in the chat rooms lookin’ for younger guys to have sex with. It’s more than just a hobby—it’s a habit! I’ve actually lost jobs because he’d be out of town and I’d spend almost every waking hour on the PC with a cocktail looking for sex, not caring about anything else. It’s like I’m addicted to sex. He knows I have played around (I actually have talked him into three-ways a few times), but he has no idea how extreme it’s become. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m not unhappy with him. I just can’t seem to stop wanting sex with younger guys. Any suggestions?
— Brian

It’s interesting that you should tell me about your compulsive sexual behavior in the same breath that you tell me of your love for your partner. As you’ve probably guessed already, there isn’t really much of a connection between the two. Love and sex are two very different things. Sometimes they go together, but not always or even often for that matter.

It appears to me that you’ve really got two problems happening simultaneously: First, your compulsive prowling of the internet for sex (complicated, I might add, by your alcohol consumption). Second, the deception you’re practicing on your partner. Let’s deal with each of these in turn.

Your particular sexual activity, like any compulsive behavior (overeating, excessive shopping, etc.), is more than just a bad habit. It’s a serious psychological dysfunction. Take it from me: breaking this behavior pattern will be nearly impossible without some professional help. If the problem is as serious as you say, then you’d better seek help right away. This sort of thing, if left untreated, will not only destroy your relationship, it will ruin your life. When you seek that professional help, I encourage you to include information about your alcohol consumption. If there is an addiction in all of this, it’s the alcohol, not the sex. And in your case, the addiction may be fueling the compulsion.

Now, regarding your relationship. It’s imperative that you come clean with your partner about your sexual obsessions and compulsions, as well as your probable alcohol addiction. Not only will you feel better about not lying to him anymore, you’re going to need his support in overcoming the difficult obstacles you face. I suggest that you attend to this right away. There’s not a moment to lose.

Good Luck

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Name: Sofia
Gender:
Age: 54
Location: Arizona
You are sick Dr DICK! I believe that porn is a sign of weakness in men and women. They cannot control their need and put their personal relationship in harm. Its degrading towards women and it gives off the wrong message to men about women. Porn is very harmful in peoples daily lives. Relationships come to an end because of men’s porn addiction. Men have lost families, wives, girlfriends etc. because of porn. Men find themselves defending it so much that they end up losing the people in their lives who do not agree with it (wives, GF, BF, etc.) What does porn leave them? Nothing! Lonely nights with no one by their side and a PC full of nasty images. Porn leaves men lonely and pathetic. Men are destroying their lives to make a porn filmmakers more wealthy. What a great exchange.

So nice of you to drop by, Sofia, and thank you for being so solicitous about my health. Yes, I was sick; I had a little cold there for a couple of days, but now I’m better.

Oh wait, you’re saying I’m sick because I don’t share your repressive opinion about porn. I get it; you’re another moral crusader who needs to denigrate those who don’t share your beliefs. What’s up with that?

Ya know the thing is, darling, I actually agree with you; a lot of porn is harmful and exploitative. It also can be very disruptive to people’s lives and can cause serious damage to otherwise healthy relationships. I mean how difficult was it for you to come up with that critique? Taking pot shots at porn in this sex-negative culture is like shooting fish in a barrel. Get over yourself, girlfriend.

And ya know what else, ma’am, all the things you accuse porn of being — harmful and exploitative, disruptive, damaging to otherwise healthy relationships — you could say about organized religion, the fast food industry, our government, the credit card industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry, the war machine and it’s horrific profiteers, like Halaburton. And the list goes on and on.

Hell, everything humans touch has the potential for becoming harmful and exploitative; it’s in our nature.  We can just as easily fuck things up as make them up-lifting and life-affirming. Even your own tirade is harmful and disruptive to those of us who are and have been trying to make a difference in the adult entertainment industry. Trust me, you would have made a better case if you said you wanted to help change the status quo in porn, not just point out its inherent flaws.

And what’s all this; “Porn leaves men lonely and pathetic”? What, are you saying you’re the alternative? Perhaps, if you weren’t so bitchy, condescending and mean-spirited the men in your life wouldn’t need to turn to porn. Your abrasive personality and moral rectitude would drive the pope to porn.

Oh, and have a nice day!

Name: Phillip
Gender:
Age: 31
Location: Austin, Texas
Dr. D, I’ve never had a problem with my sex life up until now. My wife and I have been very happy with our physical relationship. But, about 8 months ago, in a very vivid nightmare, I dreamed we were making love and when I came, the ejaculate was blood. I came blood. Everything in the dream stood still as I watched, almost as a third person, as my life flowed out of me. I woke in a sweat, and we’ve not made love since. We’ve talked about the dream, tried to be intimate, but I’m simply not able to enjoy the contact anymore. This is someone about whom I care deeply and with whom I am deeply in love. I’m considering professional help but would like your take. Thanks, Phillip in Austin

Interesting! Here is yet another instance of how one’s psyche can override one’s eroticism.

Trust me, Phillip, this is nothing to toy with; you are spot on thinking this is a matter for a professional. Like an earthquake, this vivid dream has jarred you out of your happy, healthy sex life with your wife. And like anyone who has survived an earthquake, or a similar natural disaster, you need to put your life together again as quickly as possible. I encourage you to seek a sex-positive therapist to help you break the spell of this nightmare.

To that end; I suppose you know that I offer counseling and therapy to all who visit Dr Dick’s Sex Advice, right? Thanks to the wonders of the internet and phone, my practice is not limited to the Seattle area. In fact, I have had remote clients from all over the world. Here’s what you do; look for the tab in the header that reads: Therapy Available.  You will find all the information you need to make an educated decision about joining me for some counseling.

Regardless if you choose to work with me or someone else, closer to home, the object here is to get on this ASAP. The longer you let this thing hang out there the more perverse it will become.

Good Luck ya’ll

Who’s up next?

Name: Sofia
Gender:
Age: 54
Location: Arizona
You are sick Dr DICK! I believe that porn is a sign of weakness in men and women. They cannot control their need and put their personal relationship in harm. Its degrading towards women and it gives off the wrong message to men about women. Porn is very harmful in peoples daily lives. Relationships come to an end because of men’s porn addiction. Men have lost families, wives, girlfriends etc. because of porn. Men find themselves defending it so much that they end up losing the people in their lives who do not agree with it (wives, GF, BF, etc.) What does porn leave them? Nothing! Lonely nights with no one by their side and a PC full of nasty images. Porn leaves men lonely and pathetic. Men are destroying their lives to make a porn filmmaker more wealthy. What a great exchange.

So nice of you to drop by, Sofia, and thank you for being so solicitous about my health. Yes, I was sick, I had a little cold there for a couple of days, but I’m much better now.

Oh wait, you’re saying I’m sick because I don’t share your repressive opinion about pornography. I get it; you’re another moral crusader who needs to denigrate those who don’t share your beliefs. What is up with that?

Ya know the thing is, darlin’, I actually share many of your concerns — a lot of porn is harmful and exploitative. It also can be very disruptive to people’s lives and can cause serious damage to otherwise healthy relationships. I mean how difficult was it for you to come up with that critique? Taking pot shots at porn in this sex-negative culture is like shooting fish in a barrel. Get over yourself, girlfriend.

And ya know what else, ma’am, all the things you accuse porn of — being harmful and exploitative, disruptive, damaging to otherwise healthy relationships — you could say about the worst aspects of organized religion, the fast food industry, our government, the credit card industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry, the war machine and it’s horrific profiteers, like Halliburton. And what about BP and the damage it is wreaking families, an entire way of life and on a whole ecosystem in the Golf of Mexico? The list goes on and on.

Hell, everything humans touch has the potential for becoming harmful and exploitative; it’s the nature of the beast. Even your own tirade is harmful to and disruptive to those of us who are trying to make a difference in the adult entertainment industry. Trust me, you would have made a better case if you said you wanted to help change the status quo in porn, not just point out its inherent flaws.

And what’s all this; “Porn leaves men lonely and pathetic”? Are you suggesting that you are the alternative? Perhaps, if you weren’t so bitchy and condescending your men wouldn’t turn to porn. Your abrasive personality and moral rectitude would drive the pope to porn.

Oh, and have a nice day! NEXT!

Name: Suzanne
Gender:
Age: 25
Location: Auckland
Should a woman fake an orgasm to keep her partner happy?

Brilliant idea, Susanne! Rather than help your ineffectual lover overcome his inadequacy with the truth and a little tutorial on how to make you cum — lie to monkey about his sexual prowess.

I see nothing wrong with that! Other than when you’re done fuckin’ him, or he’s done fuckin’ you, the next unlucky woman he happens upon will have twice the work. She’ll not only have to tell him the truth — that he sucks as a lover — but she’ll also have to contend with his inflated ego. Thanks to you and the deception you practice, he’ll be convinced that he’s a fabulous lover when, of course, he’s a Neanderthal.

What could be wrong with that, Susanne? D’oh!

Name: Emily
Gender:
Age: 28
Location: Texas
How much should I tell my new partner about my sex life with my exes?

How about just enough to get his dick hard?

Hell, I don’t know! Some guys get off on hearing all the gory details of the sexual exploits of their partners, albeit, it’s a relatively small number of guys. Just keep in mind that most men prefer the bliss that is ignorance.

If you’ve been around the block a time…or six, maybe you best keep that to yourself till you find out how much the new guy can stomach.

Good Luck

Name: Phillip
Gender:
Age: 31
Location: Austin, Texas
Dr. D, I’ve never had a problem with my sex life up until now. My wife and I have been very happy with our physical relationship. But, about 8 months ago, in a very vivid nightmare, I dreamed we were making love and when I came, the ejaculate was blood. I came blood. Everything in the dream stood still as I watched, almost like a third person, as my life flowed out of me. I woke in a sweat, and we’ve not made love since. We’ve talked about the dream, tried to be intimate, but I’m simply not able to enjoy the contact anymore. This is someone about whom I care deeply and with whom I am deeply in love. Considering professional help but would like your take.

Interesting! Yet another case of how one’s psyche can override one’s eroticism.

This is nothing to be toyed with, Phillip. Like an earthquake, this vivid dream has jarred you out of your happy, healthy sex life with your wife. And like anyone who has survived an earthquake, or a similar natural disaster, you need to put your life back together again as quickly as possible. I encourage you to seek a sex-positive therapist to help you break the spell of this nightmare.

The longer you let this thing hang out there the more perverse it will become.

Good Luck

Name: Lorenzo
Gender:
Age: 33
Location: Italy
I can only get off by squeezing my cock with my thighs. I have done this for as long as I’ve masturbated. I only found out years later that you should use your hand. But this does not work for me. Is this normal or common?

Lorenzo, what you report is neither normal nor common. But do you really care about “normal” and “common” if this technique works for you? And what the fuck is normal anyhow — statistical normalcy? I think we can forget that being the arbiter of things sexual.

Apparently your masturbation technique isn’t any less effective than those who employ a more “common” practice — like using one’s hand.

Basically, there aren’t a whole lot of “shoulds” when it comes to the style one employs to squeeze one off — and in your case, I mean that literally. If squeezing your cock with your thighs works for you — SWELL, knock yourself out!

Since you don’t report that this method of getting off is getting in the way of your partnered sex, I think you should leave well enough alone and enjoy your uniqueness.

Good Luck

Name: Sam
Gender:
Age: 22
Location: London, UK
Dear Dr. Dick, I am a young gay guy, and when I masturbate I am able to achieve orgasm and ejaculate; but when I am with another guy I do not cum. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great time during sex, but my partner doesn’t get me off. This is not a person-specific thing — this has been happening to me since I was 16.
Call it “delayed ejaculation”, if you will; but it’s more like “non-existent ejaculation”! The weird thing is, I don’t mind myself; the foreplay and sex is totally hot and I’m as happy as a clam with that as it is. But my partners have always been frustrated and disappointed, as if ejaculation is the official mark of success to show the culmination of a great fuck. So they keep trying until they get tired, which I guess is inevitable.
Is this something I should be worried about if I’m otherwise okay with sex? Or should my partner be less concerned about the orgasm and just realize that it doesn’t bother me. Many thanks and kudos for such an informative site.

Hey Sam, thanks for your kind words about the site, they’re much appreciated.

As to the issue you present, it’s not particularly uncommon. Many people are unable to, or choose not to, get off in partnered sex. And there are several very common reasons why. Without going into detail about that, let me just ask one thing. Are you able to masturbate yourself to orgasm when you are with a partner, like you can do when you are alone? If so, maybe you could incorporate that into your sex play your partner.

It’s true what you say about some people thinking a sexual encounter is only “successful” if both partners shoot. That’s nonsense, as both you and I well know. There’s no necessary connection between an ejaculation and sexual satisfaction, just like there’s no necessary connection between an ejaculation and an orgasm. If you cave to that way of thinking you won’t help your misguided partners and you will be adding a good deal of performance anxiety to your sex encounters. And nobody wants that! Stick to your guns, Sam!

Good Luck

Clearing The Deck

Time to clean out the dr dick sex advice anonymous submission in-box. I wish I could have used some of these questions in my podcast. But I can only do that if you use the toll-free voicemail phone number to call in your submissions, people!

If you want to be in one of my podcasts, use the Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection!

Name: Sofia
Gender:
Age: 54
Location: Arizona
You are sick Dr DICK! I believe that porn is a sign of weakness in men and women. They cannot control their need and put their personal relationship in harm. Its degrading towards women and it gives off the wrong message to men about women. Porn is very harmfull in peoples daily lives.Relationships come to an end because of mens porn addiction. Men have lost families, wives, girlfriends etc. because of porn. Men find themselves defending it so much that they end up losing the people in their lives who do not agree with it (wives, GF, BF, ect.) What does porn leave them? Nothing! Lonely nights with no one by their side and a PC full of nasty images. Porn leaves men lonely and pathetic. Men are destroying their lives to make a porn film maker more wealthy. What a great exchange.

love-dr.jpg

So nice of you to drop by, Sofia, and thank you for being so solicitous about my health. Yes, I was sick, I had a little cold there for a couple of days, but now I’m better.

Oh wait, you’re saying I’m sick because I don’t share your repressive opinion about porn. I get it; you’re another moral crusader who needs to denigrate those who don’t share your beliefs. What’s up with that?

Ya know the thing is, darling, I actually believe, as you do — that a lot of porn is harmful and exploitative. It also can be very disruptive to people’s lives and can cause serious damage to otherwise healthy relationships. I mean how difficult was it for you to come up with that critique? Taking pot shots at porn in this sex-negative culture is like shooting fish in a barrel. Get over yourself, girlfriend.

And ya know what else, ma’am, all the things you accuse porn of — being harmful and exploitative, disruptive, damaging to relationships — you could say about organized religion, the fast food industry, our government, the credit card industry, the big oil companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the medical industry, the war machine and it’s horrific profiteers, like Halaburton. And the list goes on and on. Hell, everything humans touch has the potential for becoming harmful and exploitative; it’s human nature. Even your own tirade is harmful to and disruptive to those of us who are trying to make a difference in the adult entertainment industry. Trust me, you would have made a better case if you said you wanted to help change the status quo in porn, not just point out its inherent flaws.

And what’s all this; “Porn leaves men lonely and pathetic”? What, are you saying you’re the alternative? Perhaps, if you weren’t so bitchy and condescending your men wouldn’t need to turn to porn. Your abrasive personality and moral rectitude would even drive the pope to porn.

Oh, and have a nice day!

Name: suzanne
Gender:
Age: 25
Location: Auckland
Should a woman fake an orgasm to keep her partner happy?

Brilliant idea, Susanne! Rather than help your ineffectual lover overcome his female_ontop.jpginadequacy with the truth and a little tutorial on how to make you cum — lie to the monkey about his sexual prowess.

I see nothing wrong with that! Other than when you’re done fuckin’ him, or he’s done fuckin’ you, the next unlucky woman he happens upon will have twice the work. She’ll not only have to tell him the truth — that he sucks as a lover — but she’ll also have to contend with his ego. Thanks to you and your deception, he’ll be convinced that he’s a fabulous lover when, of course, he’s not.

What could be wrong with that, Susanne? D’oh!

Name: emily
Gender:
Age: 28
Location: Texas
How much should I tell my new partner about my sex life with my exes?

How about just enough to get his dick hard?

Hell, I don’t know! Some guys get off on hearing the gory details of the sexual exploits of their partners, albeit it’s a relatively small number of guys. Just keep in mind that most men would prefer the bliss that is ignorance.

If you’ve been around the block a time or six, maybe you best keep that to yourself till you find out how much the new guy can stomach.

Good Luck

Name: Phillip
Gender:
Age: 31
Location: Austin, Texas
Dr. D, I’ve never had a problem with my sex life up until now. My wife and I have been very happy with our physical relationship. But, about 8 months ago, in a very vivid nightmare, I dreamed we were making love and when I came, the ejaculate was blood. I came blood. Everything in the dream stood still as I watched, almost third person, as my life flowed out of me. I woke in a sweat, and we’ve not made love since. We’ve talked about the dream, tried to be intimate, but I’m simply not able to enjoy the contact anymore. This is someone about whom I care deeply and with whom I am deeply in love. Considering professional help but would like your take. Thanks, Phillip in Austin

Interesting! Yet another case of how one’s psyche can override one’s eroticism.

This is nothing to be toyed with, Phillip. Like an earthquake, this vivid dream has jolted you out of your happy, healthy sex life with your wife. And like anyone who has survived an earthquake, or a similar natural disaster, you need to put your life together again as quickly as possible. I encourage you to seek a sex-positive therapist to help you break the spell of this nightmare.

The longer you let this thing hang out there the more perverse it will become.

Good Luck

Name: Mike
Gender:
Age: 33
Location:
I can only get off by squeezing my cock with my thighs. I have done this for as long as I’ve masturbated. I only found out years later that you should use your hand. But this does not work for me. Is this normal or common?

Mike, what you report is neither normal nor common. But do you really care about “normal” and “common” if it works for you? Apparently your masturbation technique isn’t any less effective than those who employ a more common practice — like using one’s hand.

Basically, there aren’t a whole lot of “shoulds” when it comes to style of masturbation. If squeezing your cock with your thighs works for you — SWELL, pup, knock yourself out!

Since you don’t report that this method of getting off is getting in the way of your partnered sex, I think you should leave well enough alone and enjoy your uniqueness.

Good Luck

Name: Sam
Gender:
Age: 22
Location: London, UK
Dear Dr. Dick, I am a young gay guy, and when I masturbate I am able to achieve orgasm and ejaculate; but when I am with another guy I do not cum. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great time during sex, but my partner doesn’t get me off. This is not a person-specific thing — this has been happening to me since I was 16.
Call it “delayed ejaculation”, if you will; but it’s more like “non-existent ejaculation”! The weird thing is, I don’t mind myself; the foreplay and sex is totally hot and I’m as happy as a clam with that as it is. But my partners have always been frustrated and disappointed, as if ejaculation is the official mark of success to show the culmination of a great fuck. So they keep trying until they get tired, which I guess is inevitable.
Is this something I should be worried about if I’m otherwise okay with sex. Or should my partner be less concerned about the orgasm and just realize that it doesn’t bother me. Many thanks, and kudos for such an informative site.

Hey Sam,

Thanks for your kind words about the site, they’re much appreciated.male_fuck19.jpg

As to the issue you present, it’s not particularly uncommon. Many people aren’t able to, or choose not to get off in partnered sex. And there are several common reasons why. Without going into detail about that, let me just ask one thing. Are you able to masturbate yourself to orgasm when you are with a partner, like you can do when you are alone? If so, maybe you could incorporate that into your sex play with a partner.

It’s true what you say about some people thinking a sexual encounter is only “successful” if both partners cum. That’s nonsense, as you well know. There’s no necessary connection between an ejaculation and sexual satisfaction. If you cave into that way of thinking you won’t help your misguided partners and you will certainly add a good deal of performance anxiety to your sex encounters. And nobody wants that! Stick to your guns, Sam!

Good Luck

The Naughty & The Nice

Just in time for the holidays, here’s my Naughty and Nice list.

NICE

NAUGHTY

NICELY NAUGHTY

Happy Holidays!

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