I want to share this article by Dr. Marty Klein, who continues to hold the line against the “sex addiction” bogosity.
I don’t treat sex addiction. The concept is superficial. It isn’t clearly defined or clinically validated, and it’s completely pathology-oriented. It presents no healthy model of non-monogamy, pornography use, or stuff like S/M. Some programs eliminate masturbation, which is inhumane, naïve, and crazy.
Oh, I observe people with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and a few other exotic states. That accounts for some of what laypeople call “sex addiction.”
What I mostly see instead of “sex addicts” is people who are neurotic or narcissistic. They can’t quite believe that the normal rules of life (“tell the truth,” “all behavior has consequences”) apply to them. They make promises they intend to keep—but then they want relief from frustration, or loneliness, or anxiety so much, they are unwilling to keep their promises, even promises to themselves. And some “sex addicts” just can’t come to terms with having one, relatively brief, life. They want several lives, so they can have everything.
Solid sane stuff. But, to be honest, my attention was more captured by the dude who featured in the intro to Dr. Klein’s piece:
Before he even sat down, my new patient blurted out why he had come. “My wife says I’m a sex addict, and she demands I get treated immediately,” he said.
No further than this did I read, before two pertinent memes with a common soul began warring within my breast. In the order they burst into my mind, they were 1) DTMFA! followed briskly by 2) “Run away! Run away!”
Lest there be any mistake, my sympathies are with this dude. There’s a frequent belief, among monogamy-minded wives, that their wifely prerogatives include not just the right to demand their husband’s exclusive sexual attention, but also the right to demand his lack of sexual attention — to, if they so choose, stop having sex with him while simultaneously expecting him to remain faithful and even refrain from porn and masturbation. It’s selfish, unrealistic, and disturbingly common. (And, yes, sometimes you can flip the genders and get the same story — not as often, but it happens.)
I myself am with the comedian who once said “I’m a pretty good dog, when you get down to it. But if you don’t scratch me once in a while, it’s going to be hard to keep me on the porch.”
So, back to our protagonist. It’s a lead pipe cinch that he’s guilty of some sort of sexual misconduct, if his wife claims he’s a sex addict. So, what turns out to be his special flavory of dickery?
Well, getting handjobs at massage parlors, which I myself consider a bit inappropriate for a married man. So, no “Husband of The Year” award for him. But the context? Exactly as I suspected upon reading the opening sentence:
The poor guy looked like a lot of Silicon Valley engineers: light blue button-down shirt, khaki pants, shoes that desperately needed a shine. He had started going to a massage parlor a few months after his baby was born. After about eight or nine desultory hand jobs in the course of a year, he’d confessed to his wife.
I told him I might work with him, but why did he need this specific approach?
“Because Maria said that either I’m a sex addict and I couldn’t help it and I need treatment, or I’m just a selfish bastard and she wants a divorce.”
He wanted to keep his marriage and kid. To do so, he had to admit he had a disease and get it treated. He was desperate. He would do anything. I told him I might be able to help him deal with the power struggle in his marriage, and help him stop avoiding conflict (his wife happily abandoned him when she had the much-wanted baby, then unilaterally invited her mother to move in with them for a year—and he couldn’t confront her because “I love her so much”). I said I could probably help him feel better about himself, and help him feel less guilty about masturbating.
But I couldn’t treat his sex addiction because I didn’t believe he had such an ailment. In tears, he left. The town’s best-known sex therapist had failed him.
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