By Brian Alexander
Hello. My name is Brian and I am a sex addict.
It never occurred to me that I might be addicted to love. But then Marty Klein, a sex therapist in Palo Alto, Calif., and author of the book "America’s War on Sex," asked me to take a Web screening test created by Patrick Carnes, the best-known popularizer of the "sex addict" idea.
I answered all the questions as honestly as I could, but some seemed awfully vague — "Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?" — or rather commonplace — "Have you subscribed to or regularly purchased or rented sexually explicit materials (magazines, videos, books or online pornography)?" But then Carnes’ definition of sex addiction itself can be vague: "Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones and one's work environment."
There’s something wrong with craving sex day and night? Thinking about people you’ve just met in sordid sexual scenarios is atypical? Well if making sex and thinking about making sex constantly are wrong, then we don’t want to be right. We’re a little surprised that they made no mention of the technical terms for it: nymphomania for women and satyriasis for men (sometimes also called penile dementia). Those are some great terms. The online test for sexual addiction is a little heavy-handed. You have to wonder about who made that test. Did they use themselves as the standard? ‘My wife and I do it once every fortnight, any more and you’re a pervert. And forget about trying it standing up or in the shower, we’re pretty sure that it’s not even possible unless you’re an ingenious sex fiend.’ This could be the rub with all psychology, we suppose. Whose standards are you supposed to conform to? And is something only really a ‘problem’ when it affects your work life, family life, or social life?
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