Sex therapist Dr. Marty Klein has the inside info ...
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who lost his career five years ago because he sexted women he wasn’t married to, has apparently checked into a facility that treats sex addiction.
Here’s what he will learn there:
- He is a sex addict (they never, ever tell anyone, “No, you aren’t”).
- He will always be a sex addict.
- His sexuality isn’t normal (defined as vanilla, predictable, with no regrets).
- He will always be at risk for behaving abnormally with sex (because he’s fundamentally out of control).
- Confessing that he is out of control is central to his recovery.
- He must not masturbate for some period of time (in some programs, for years).
- He must not look at pornography for some period of time (in some programs, never again).
- His fantasies (separate from his behavior) are hurtful to others (even if he never acts them out, or doesn’t even want to act them out).
- Sexually, he is fundamentally different from you and me (assuming we’re not perverts ourselves).
Here’s what he won’t learn there:
- He’s making choices about his sexual behavior whose consequences he regrets.
- There are good reasons he keeps doing this.
- Those reasons may or may not involve sex.
- He can figure out what those reasons are, and what he’s really trying to accomplish with his sexual choices.
- He can grow up and deal with whatever he’s trying to accomplish, which will change his sexual decision-making.
- He can learn how to celebrate his lust, fantasies, and sexuality no matter how kinky (or vanilla) they are.
- Sexual “normality” is culturally determined — by a culture’s most powerful people.
- Unless they are unwanted, intrusive, and repetitive, his sexual fantasies are not dangerous.
In my 35 years as a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Certified Sex Therapist, I have heard about every kind of sexual behavior, every kind of sexual fantasy, every kind of sexual frustration, every kind of sexual decision. Some of these are about sex. Others look like they’re about sex, but they’re about something else. If a psychologist or addiction counselor gets distracted by the sexual content of someone’s story, it can be easy to think that story is about sex.
And frequently, repetitive bad decisions about sex are about other things: an unrelenting power struggle. A fear of growing old. Curiosity about what someone has missed in life. Resentment toward the young and vibrant. Searing loneliness. Agonizing shame. Fear of one’s own fantasies or orientation.
Sex addiction? Let’s look at real addiction — say, to heroin, alcohol, or Oxycontin. What happens when real addicts can’t get their fix? Their body goes into shock — they vomit, sweat, hallucinate, shake — they suffer the torments of hell. What happens when “sex addicts” can’t get their fix? They get crabby. They yell at their kids, they’re sloppy at work, they don’t go to the gym. The very concept of sex addiction is disrespectful to real addiction.
In my 35 years of treating sexual anguish, I’ve never treated a sex addict, because they simply don’t exist. Here’s what does exist:
- People who are depressed, bipolar, OCD, traumatized, mildly autistic or Asperger’s.
- People who yearn for touch, for connection, for approval, for admiration, or for validation, and who are so empty inside that no matter what they do, they soon feel empty again.
- People who are so narcissistic that they see other people only as objects or audience — and are so emotionally blinded that they can’t accurately assess the extent to which other people are interested in their sexuality.
- People who are so terrified of life that they impulsively grab whatever comfort they can, whenever they can, figuring they’ll pay the bill tomorrow. When the bill is way bigger than they want, they express surprise or sorrow, but they don’t learn a lesson that guides them next time.
Americans are incredibly ambivalent about sex.
We love “wardrobe malfunctions” and skin-bearing red carpet gowns, Googling them incessantly — and slut-shaming those very same women. We dress our preteens like beauty queens and male models and then refuse them comprehensive sex education. We love our TV sitcoms and dramas filled with beautiful women, erotic innuendo, and hunky guys who are always clean and in the mood — but we have the strictest laws in the Western world attempting to regulate private sexual relations.
And we love our pornography, but lie and pretend we don’t watch it. The state with the highest per capita use of porn? Utah, of course.
This is exactly the culture that would spawn the bizarre love-child of 1950's morality and sex-denying religion called “sex addiction.”
Guys who go to strip clubs after promising they won’t? Middle-class wives who keep having affairs with working-class guys? Young men who keep watching porn because they’re insecure about women? Middle-aged men who prefer enthusiastic sex workers to resentful wives? Intelligent but clueless and lonely people who use the internet to live out the fantasies we all have, but realize we shouldn’t act out publicly?
I see these people in my office every week, and Anthony Weiner would fit right in. Lonely, desperate, angry, naive, completely lacking in social skills, maybe ignorant about sex — anyone struggling with a few of these while living in a culture that stifles meaningful talk about sex is at risk for the “symptoms” of “sex addiction.” Actually, anyone living in such a culture is at risk.
Here’s proof: Take this very popular online Sexual Addiction Screening Test. There’s a huge chance you’ll score high on it — not because you’re a sex addict, but because it measures shame, guilt, secrecy, experimentation — you know, the core features of sex in America. I urge everyone to take the SAST (although I doubt the sex addiction industry urges everyone to read my work!), because I want everyone to know what the so-called sex addiction experts really believe.
Once someone is involved in sex addiction “treatment,” the best they can hope for is to be in recovery for life, and to keep monitoring their sexuality for signs of “relapse.”
What do these same people get when they go to qualified sex therapists?
They get cured.
Anthony Weiner, drop me a line and I’ll find you a good referral right in your home town. You deserve to be cured rather than in recovery.
Our Expert Dr. Marty Klein has just published his seventh book, 'His Porn, Her Pain: Confronting America’s PornPanic With Honest Talk About Sex.' In honor of the event, we’ll be running several excerpts, and a series of his articles about Pornography in Real Life. Subjects will include couples in conflict about porn, what to do if you’re over-involved with porn, and the question of whether consuming porn leads to anti-social behavior. For more information, visit HisPornHerPain.com.