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Sex Addiction, or Too Much of a Good Thing?

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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

Dr Dick’s Sex Positive Doctrine

No podcast today; instead there’s this…

Have you ever wondered about the term, sex positive? If you’re like me you see it all over the place, especially on sex-related sites. I confess I use it way more often than I should. It’s become one of those industry buzzwords that has, over time, become so fuzzy around the edges that it’s now virtually meaningless. In fact, if the truth be known, I believe the term sex positive has been taken over by the sex Taliban who have made it a cover for their strict code of political correctness. Oddly enough, this is the very antithesis of its original meaning.

If you want to shame someone in the sex field—be it a sex worker, blogger or adult product manufacturer—you label that person as sex-negative. You may not know anything about that person other than you were offended by something they did, said or made. But still, you hurl the epithet as if you were exorcising a heretic. This is a very powerful tool for keeping people in my industry in line. But I’ve begun to wonder, who is setting themselves up as the arbiter of what is and what is not sex positive? I have to ask: What is the agenda? I mean, could compulsory ideological purity of some artificial standards of thought or behavior be “positive” anything? I say, no!

Like all good ideas that have gone bad due to overuse—or worse, sloppy use—the sex positive concept once had meaning that was life-affirming and enriching. Sex positive has been in the lexicon at least since the mid-1950s. It frequently appears in journals and research papers to describe a movement that examines and advocates for all the other beneficial aspects of sex beyond reproduction.

I’ve been using the term since 1981 when I opened my practice in Clinical Sexology and Sexual Health Care. The opening words of my mission statement read: “I affirm the fundamental goodness of sexuality in human life, both as a personal need and as an interpersonal bond.” Way back then, I was flush with my quixotic pursuit to stand steadfast against all the cultural pressures to negate or denigrate sexuality and pleasure. I dedicated myself to spreading the gospel that healthy attitudes toward sex not only affect a person’s sex life, but his/her ability to relate well with others.

This came relatively easy for me, because I’d learned something very important about evangelization in my life as a Catholic priest. (Another quixotic pursuit, but we’ll have to save the details of that misadventure for another time.) One of the first things one learns in seminary is how to proselytize, to sow the seeds of a creed, and then nurture them taking root by endless repetition of the articles of faith. Of course there is a downside to this, too. Repetition fosters mindlessness, stifles creative thought, and worse makes things boring.

But the creed statements of the world’s three great monotheistic religions are masterful works of theological art.

Barukh ata Adonai Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam!
Allaahu Akbar!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and the of the Holy Spirit!

Each contains the most profound kernel of religious truth the believer needs to know, but all are easy enough for a child to learn. And like I said, the secret is in the repetition. For the true devotee, these creedal statements are uttered dozens of times a day and to great effect.

Early on in my career as a sexologist, I decided to put the principles I learned in the Church into disseminating my new belief system. First, keep the message simple! I settled on: “Sex is Good—and Good Sex is Even Better.” This has been my mantra for decades. It contains everything you need to know about being sex positive, but it’s easy enough for a child to learn. Even now, I close each of my podcasts with this same article of faith. To this day it soothes me to hear myself say these words. And it comforts me in the same way blessing myself did in my priestly days.

Despite my apprehensions, I continue to be an apostle of the sex positive doctrine. I know that even though my industry has corrupted the concept, others have yet to hear the good news. And there’s something almost spiritual about seeing someone grasp the idea for the first time. Let me tell you about one such instance. Some while ago I was asked to offer a workshop for a group of doctors on the topic: Health Care Concerns Of Sexually Diverse Populations. Unfortunately, just a handful of doctors attended the workshop—which was pretty disconcerting, considering all the work I’d put into the presentation. I guess that’s why kinksters and pervs, as well as your run-of-the-mill queer folk, are often frustrated in their search for sensitive and lifestyle-attuned healing and helping professionals.

Since the group of doctors attending was so small, I decided to ask them to pull their chairs in a circle so that our time together could be a bit more informal and intimate. Frankly, I’ve never found it easy talking to doctors about sex; and discussing kinky sex was surely going to be very tricky. So, I decided to start off as gently as I could. My opening remarks included the phrases “sex positive” and “kink positive.”

Sitting as close to my audience as I was, I could see at once that these fundamental concepts weren’t registering with them. I was astonished. Here was a group of physicians, each with a large urban practice. Could they really be this out of touch? I quickly checked in with them to see if my perception was correct. I was right! None of them had heard the term, sex positive. The two who hazarded a guess at its meaning thought it had something to do with being HIV+. I had my work cut out for me.

I decided to share my creed with them. “Sex is Good—and Good Sex is Even Better.” I asked them repeat it with me as if I were teaching a catechism to children. Surprisingly, they did so without resistance. After we repeated the mantra a couple more times, I exposed them to the sex positive doctrine unencumbered by political correctness.

  • Sex Is Good! Sex is a positive force in human development; the pursuit of pleasure, including sexual pleasure, is at the very foundation of a harmonious society.
  • And Good Sex Is Even Better! The individual makes that determination. For example, what I decide is good sex for me, may be boring sex to someone else. And their good sex may be hair-raising to me. In other words, consensual sexual expression is a basic human right regardless of the form that expression takes. And it’s not appropriate for me, or anyone else, to call into question someone else’s consensual affectional choices.
  • Sex Is Good! Everyone has a right to clear, unambiguous sexual health information. It must be presented in a nonjudgmental way, particularly from his or her health care providers. And sexual health encompasses a lot more then just disease prevention, and contraception.
  • And Good Sex Is Even Better! The focus is on the affirmative aspects of sexuality, like sexual pleasure. Sexual wellbeing is more than simply being able to perform. It also means taking responsibility for one’s eroticism as an integral part of one’s personality and involvement with others.
  • Sex Is Good! Each person is unique and that must be respected. Our aim as healing and helping professionals is to provide information and guidance that will help the individual approach his/her unique sexuality in a realistic and responsible manner. This will foster his/her independent growth, personal integrity, as well as provide a more joyful experience of living.
  • And Good Sex Is Even Better! Between the extremes of total sexual repression and relentless sexual pursuit, a person can find that unique place, where he/she is free to live a life of self-respect, enjoyment and love.

Finally I told them they ought to think creatively how they could adapt this concept to their own practice. It was up to each of them to make this creed their own. As it turned out, this primer was just the thing to open my planned discussion of health of kinksters.

In a way this experience was a bit of a spiritual reawakening for me, too. Despite my misgivings about the contamination of the sex positive doctrine by malicious people bent on using it as a weapon against those they disagree with. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to watch these sex positive novices hear, and then embrace, the message for the first time. It was nothing short of a religious experience.

Sex Advice With An Edge — Podcast #68 — 06/23/08

Hey sex fans,

We return all hearty and healthy after last week’s unintentional hiatus (Damned computers!) to bring you a really terrific show. I have a big steamy load of Q&A for ya, so stay tuned. Oh, and this is also Gay Pride week here in the Jet City, so a special shot out to all my fellow queers and dykes. Be Out! Be Proud Ya’ll!

  • Dion is a wee bit andropausal, don’t ‘cha know!
  • A’s man has somethin’ growin’ on his dick. Is that why she’s hurtin’?
  • Bob is just out of the slammer, and lost his wood with a HOT chick.
  • Frankie can’t cum with her hubby.
  • Mike is a nervous wreck about his tiny willie and short fuse.
  • G. Ryder had a little accident and now he’s worried

Finally, Sex In The News!

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. 😉Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

I wanna take a moment to alert you to a new feature here on DrDickSexAdvice.com. It’s my PRODUCT REVIEW page. That’s right sex fans, now you can see what’s hot and what’s not in the world of adult products.From time to time I will be posting reviews of all kinds of adult related goodies — sex toys for sure, but also condoms, lubes, fetish gear as well as educational and enrichment videos.

DON’T MISS A SINGLE ONE!

Look for the Product Reviews tab right there at the top of DrDickSexAdvice.com.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Access Instructional Media.

Sex Advice With An Edge — Podcast #67 — 06/09/08


Hey sex fans,rb003.jpg

I have a fantastic show for you today. We have a real mixed bag — a little interview, some swell Q&A and even a toy review. How sweet is that?

  • Robert Black checks in with all the hilarious dish from the 2008 Masturbate-a-thon!
  • Mike’s a virgin. But he still drips something.
  • Dave is clueless about glory holes!
  • Josh has the kind that points downward!

Finally, a Sex Toy Review!

BE THERE, OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s dr dick’s toll free podcast voicemail. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question? Perhaps you have a comment. Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you just wanna talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give dr dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY !

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section — just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I don’t want you to miss even one episode.

I wanna take a moment to alert you to a new feature here on Dr Dick’s Sex Advice. It’s my PRODUCT REVIEW page. That’s right sex fans, now you can see what hot and what’s not in the world of adult products.

From time to time I will be posting reviews of all kinds of adult related goodies — sex toys for sure, but also condoms, lubes, fetish gear as well as educational and enrichment videos. DON’T MISS A SINGLE ONE!

Look for the Product Reviews tab at the top of the page.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

drdicksstockroom.jpg

Sex Advice With An Edge — Podcast #44 — 12/17/07

Hey sex fans,

Today is my last podcast for the year. As we all know, next Monday is Christmas Eve, the following Monday, of course, is New Years Eve. So I’m gonna take a little well deserved break, don’t cha know. I’ll be back with a new podcast on the first Monday of the New Year, January 7th.

I have a really fun show for you today. Since this is the end of the year and all, I thought it would be cool to do something different. Let’s consider this our holiday party podcast. Instead of me answering a slew of questions, like usual, I’m just gonna wing it, go with the flow and be my own charming self. I know you are gonna enjoy what I have in store for you. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

BE THERE, OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s dr dick’s toll free podcast voicemail. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question? No time to write? Give dr dick a call at (866) 422-5680. Again, the TOLL FREE voicemail number is (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY !

Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll fine me in the health section under the subheading — Sexuality. Or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice With An Edge. And don’t forget to subscribe. I don’t want you to miss even one episode.

Say, would you like to become a sponsor for one or more of my weekly sex advice podcasts? As you know, I plug a product or service at the beginning and end of each show. Each podcast has its own posting on my site along with the name of the podcast sponsor and a banner for the product or service.

The beauty part about this unique opportunity is that once a sponsor’s ad is included in a particular podcast that sponsor is embedded there forever.

Your sponsorship also underscores your social conscience. Your marketing dollars will not only got to promote your product, but you will be doing so while helping to disseminate badly needed sex education and sexual enrichment messages. Simply put, ya just can’t get a better bang for your advertising buck!

For further information, contact me at: dr_dick@drdicksexadvice.com

Today’s podcast is once again bought to you by: Eden Fantasys.