- We need labels that help us move beyond “sex addiction” and “porn addiction.”
- Other labels are important because “addiction” is limiting.
- Two important issues are intimacy and authenticity.
- Acknowledging the nature of your behavior is as important step toward freedom.
3 Labels Better Than “Sex Addiction”
I have the privilege to be part of lives of so many people. And for many, I am the guy they come to to talk about sex – a part of us that, for many, is such a broken part of ourselves, and indeed of our society. Just look around and you see the brokenness.
And that brokenness is having an impact.
Today I want to talk about that brokenness and help you label that brokenness. Better yet, I want to give you some additional labels for that brokenness to help you become the best possible version of yourself. My hope is that this will help you look at your problems from a multifaceted perspective versus just what you might simply be reading about online.
Today we’re going to talk about three labels that are better than the label of sex addiction and porn addiction.
This discussion is important because
- if you are struggling with compulsive sexual behavior
- if you are struggling with problematic sexual behavior
- if you are struggling with your sexuality in any compulsive way
…then someone has labeled you a sex addict or a porn addict.
That’s the lens through which you probably found me. You probably Googled one or both of those two terms and found me. Now, those terms are helpful in that they let us know we’re not alone. It tells us that there may be a path to help us recover and move on to a better life, not just stop doing the ‘the thing.’
The ultimate goal has to be creating healthy sexuality. This discussion is an important part of that process because there are serious limitations of the sex and porn addiction labels.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has rejected repeatedly the inclusion of sex addiction and porn addiction into the DSM, which is the Bible of mental health disorders. It’s not a conspiracy to suppress this medical condition; it’s that the science is not there and there are problems with using the label “addiction” – problems we’ll discuss below.
The labels “sex addiction” and “porn addiction” label is limiting. Those labels are not going to get us as far as we need to go. It may help us by providing some tools to stop doing ‘the thing,’ but we can do better than that.
So let’s jump in and talk about 3 labels that I think are better.
Every client I have ever worked with – and I can include myself – compulsively uses/used pornography, compulsively acting out sexually instead of connecting with his partner.
I’ve mentioned before the TED Talk by Johann Hari called Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong in which he says “The opposite of addition isn’t sobriety – it’s connection.”
By looking at the connection and the breach around one’s ability to communicate love, intimacy, and sexual drive to another person, some of you can gain incredible insight. You might be able to fill in some of those blanks.
Look at your behavior; instead of the focusing on what you are doing, focus what you’re not doing. If you’re not going to your partner, if you’re not directing your behavior there, ask yourself that hard question – why? Why might it not flow organically in that direction?
It could be because you have an intimacy disorder.
There is a relationship dynamic in every single case that I have ever worked on. This isn’t blaming the partner. Let me make that clear. But, there are always complicated relationship dynamics in play. To believe otherwise, by crap you read on the internet, is to your detriment – both as the partner and as the person acting out.
The sex addiction label blurs those dynamics. In fact, this is one of the places where the label has the most impact, negative impact, is in the relationship context, creating this one-up-one-down power dynamic where the entire relationship is seen through the lens of the addiction and that virtually is almost always flawed in my experience.
What does all of this mean? It means that your compulsive sex and porn use might be a symptom of a lack of connection with self and others. What’s the remedy? Connection! A deeper connection with self, deeper connections with others (particularly your partner if you are not single) and developing a sexual authenticity that you may have never had before.
Sexual authenticity disorder
This is another lens through which you can examine your behavior to help you better understand yourself and find your path to healthy sexuality and a great life.
This term came from Galen Fous, a kink guy author and counselor who I thought was so out there with his kinkoid desires and fetishes. I knew that his work would be seen, by some in my audience, as too triggering or disgusting. Here is a link to his website, which might be triggering for some of you because he is a sex positive kink author and counselor; but it’s important to share because of his significant contribution to creating authentic sexuality and our overlapping goals of helping other become the best version of themselves. What I’ve learned is that we all have different aspects of our sexuality, and what people do in their bedrooms, if it’s consensual, if it’s authentic, is none of our business.
Sexual authenticity disorder is the deep-seeded fear of revealing, or another discovering, the hidden aspects of your sexuality.
Think about that darker part of your sexuality. Think about where your pornography use has gone. If that darker part of your sexuality doesn’t flow in the context of your relationship you’ve got a sexual authenticity disorder. The individual afflicted with sexual authenticity disorder was never allowed honest discussion or encouragement about their natural sexual desires if did not conform to the range of sexuality expected by their culture.
What are the symptoms of sexual authenticity disorder?
- Secretive expressions of your true desires;
- Physical restrictions in the throat when trying to speak about your sexuality;
- avoidance of eye contact and other body-centric analogs of the emotional fear;
- dropping into a deep level of shame, fear, and guilt after the secretive expression.
For example, I have a dominant component to my sexuality. That wasn’t something I could express with my partner; it was dirty and disgusting and there was shame around it.
I wanted to give her a spanking.
I wanted to be a little firm.
Is that my dark side? Is that my disgusting side? Is that the part of me corrupted by pornography?
No, man. That’s fucking me! That’s me!
It doesn’t mean I’ve got to do everything that I see, but to ignore that part of me, to not allow that part of me to flow, it created a terrible amount of resentment with my wife who was open, who was willing, who wanted to share and commit.
I stole that from us.
I stole that exploration.
I concluded that that wasn’t for her. Or I was too afraid to bring that into the relationship. I did not have the courage.
So guys, when your partner asks you, “Do you like that?” Stop lying! Be honest with who you are. Be honest with what flips your switch. Recognize that’s got to flow. You’ve got to channel that. You keep stuffing that down, you’re going to keep struggling with the sex addiction. You’re going to keep struggling with the porn addiction.
That’s cure: Sexual honesty. Understanding your innate authentic sexual themes of expression, healing past traumas that have embedded shame, fear, and judgement about your sexual desires, and learning to be empowered, mindful, and present when expressing your sexuality.
Prepare Yourself for the Third One
Before I tell you the third one, remember – I’m a proponent of blunt speak. I think that there’s no way that you can take this third element out of the equation when talking about our selfish, despicable behavior and that third characterization or label is asshole.
What do I mean by that?
Nobody wakes up in the morning and says,
“You know what? I’m going to fuck my vows. I’m just going to really, really screw things up. I’m just going to be an asshole today. I’m going to disrespect my partner in a profound way. I’m going to lie about shit that I should never lie about and then project it onto her because I’m too much of a testicle to have the courage to say what’s going on in my life and when I’m struggling.”
I remember thinking, early on in my recovery, that I have a disease.
It felt a little good to say that. It felt a little good because it kind of was an excuse.
It definitely was an excuse.
Now I’ve come to question the disease approach and I ask, “Can you have full autonomy, full agency, AND a sex or porn disease at the same time? I don’t think so. I don’t think those two can coexist.
I got to a place where the mistakes kept happening, the screw-ups kept happening and I just had to, once and for all, look at myself in the mirror.
That was refreshing to this day.
I was a fucking asshole. I jeopardized my job. I was picking up street walkers in my car. I could get arrested, expose my family.
Who does that?
An asshole, that’s who!
- Lying to my wife.
- Stealing money.
- Using drugs.
- Spending thousands at strip clubs.
I think it’s a powerful realization to recognize that you’ve certainly engaged in asshole-like behaviors.
I think it’s important to step outside of the disease model, to step outside of the brokenness, because there are a lot of broken people who don’t lie and cheat on their wives.
Garbage in, garbage out, my friends!
I had to decide, if I’m not going to be an asshole, then what am I going to be? What is the best version of myself? What does that look like? What does that feel like? How does that smell?
I know. I know now because I touch that space once a day, once every other day, a few times a day. It often happens in my one-on-one coaching sessions where I am just helping guys accelerate their recovery. I know that I’ve touched the best version of myself and it’s NOT an asshole.
It’s someone who is kind, loving, empathetic, who puts other people first.
And that’s what I want for you, to find and become the best version of you.
And I think moving beyond the “sex addiction” and “porn addiction” labels can help you do that.
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