The other day the comments on “Pain Shopping” got off on a tangent about sex addiction. Gee, I’ve been wanting to discuss that for awhile.
Apparently, the lovely blameshifting term “pain shopping” comes from sex addiction therapists.
Thanks guys. Here’s a term back-atcha: “Bullshit.”
The sex addiction model goes: if you’re partnered with a serial cheater, hey, you just need to reframe that. It’s not that they don’t want to keep in their pants, it’s that they’re helpless in the face of their addiction. It’s going to take a Higher Power and a lot of 12-step to stay faithful to you. So, just wait patiently for the poor sausage to detox.
See, they’re coping with their pain through their drug of choice, sex. There are probably some complicated FOO issues going on. The skein will take some time and expense to untangle. Relapse is likely. Understandable even. Stay the course, chumps, because your addict needs you!
Fact is, your average hopium-filled chump will cling to a diagnosis like “sex addiction,” because now this senseless fucking around has a name. It’s a condition. Better yet, it’s a condition that requires your support. (Chumps are great at support! This is our wheelhouse!)
So why am I skeptical of sex addiction?
1) It seems like a handy label to absolve cheaters from responsibility. Hey, I’m not an asshole, I have a disease. Addiction is a disease! (Actually, even addiction isn’t considered a brain disease by a lot of prominent neuroscientists.)
Our brains learn to like pleasure. The more you reinforce pleasure, the more the brain learns to wire itself that way. But it’s not a disease. Marc Lewis, PhD a developmental neuroscientist explains it thus:
In fact, each highly rewarding experience builds its own network of synapses in and around the nucleus accumbens (NAC), and that network sends a signal to the midbrain: I’m anticipating x, so send up some dopamine, right now! That’s the case with romantic love, Paris, and heroin. During and after each of these experiences, that network of synapses gets strengthened: so the “specialization” of dopamine uptake is further increased. London just doesn’t do it for you anymore. It’s got to be Paris. Pot, wine, music…they don’t turn your crank so much; but cocaine sure does. Physical changes in the brain are its only way to learn, to remember, and to develop. But we wouldn’t want to call learning a disease.
2) Unlike addiction to drugs or alcohol, no one gets the delirium tremors if they don’t get laid. You’re not going to go through withdrawal. You might be a moody son-of-a-bitch, but you’re certainly not going to go into cardiac arrest if you quit fucking hookers.
3) Similar to the Reconciliation Industrial Complex (RIC), there seems to be a money-making therapy business built around “sex addiction.” What they both have in common? Keeping chumps chumpy.
It’s the way a diagnosis of sex addiction is used to somehow absolve men and women (though mostly men) of all responsibility for their actions that is, in my opinion, the most malign feature of the sex addiction industry. Many of the true believers reject all the science and research that confronts their theories and work desperately to find ways to justify foolish, self-destructive choices and sexual behaviours. They blame these choices on neurochemicals, porn, a history of sexual abuse and myriad other factors, all of which can help us to understand how and why people make the choices they do, but none of which, ultimately, takes away control or personal responsibility.
Yes, let’s talk about that personal responsibility. A cheater who calls themselves a “sex addict” may have a host of real mental conditions that require years of therapy. I’m not saying they don’t — I’m questioning why the hell chumps should stick around while they work that out? As I’ve said about sex addiction on this blog before, it doesn’t matter what flavor of fucked up it is — GET AWAY FROM IT. It’s either okay with you that your partner fucks around on you or it’s not. There is no middle path of supporting them while they learn how not to fuck around on you. That’s just another form of cake eating.
And dear God, do you want a partner that needs a monogamy 12-step? Don’t you deserve better than a partner who must do the Serenity Prayer to be faithful to you?
IMO, people fuck around because THEY LIKE IT. (Addicts get high for the same reason. It feels good. It works.) What do sex addicts have in common with other addicts? They’ll lie and manipulate to get their fix.
I think you all have better things to do with your life than wait for a “sex addict” to get sober.