It might seem strange that an ex-Buddhist nun and a prostitute would share similar views about sexuality. But that is precisely what happened as I read a recent Huffington post article, Sexuality vs. Sensuality: The Steady Decline of Affection in America, written from the unique vantage point of Bethany St. James, a self-proclaimed legal prostitute. As I read her post, I felt myself agreeing as she pointed to the "unrealistic and unromanticized version of physical pleasure" portrayed in much of today's porn and how we seem to be losing touch with the true pleasure available in connecting intimately though our sexuality. Our overly sexualized, advertised version of reality seems to have taken over connected, intimate sensuality.
It has been said that the nature of our sexual expression, how we relate sexually has never changed so much in such a short time. The ease of access of porn on the Internet, its graphic and impersonal nature, has created an exponential increase in the number of individuals who are reporting a loss of control, a loss of pleasure, and a preoccupation or obsession with their sexual passions. So much so, that there seems to be an explosion of acting out sexually, sexual compulsion, porn addiction, sex addiction. What surprised me is that even in Ms. St. James' world this change is evident. Her article said that her clients are now with more frequency looking for companionship, for the "Girl Friend Experience," for affection and tenderness.
Ms. St. James' post caught the attention of Anderson Cooper's talk show, Anderson. My husband, George, was invited to be a part of a conversation about the article on the show with Ms. St. James. Since my husband works with sex addicts and I counsel the wives and partners, we have a front row seat for the devastation that women experience when their partner is sexual with someone outside the relationship. One of my clients (whose husband had become entangled in a very destructive relationship with a prostitute) was also invited to add her viewpoint to the mix of the conversation on Anderson by representing the wife's role, reactions, and feelings in situations where husbands seek sex outside of the marriage.
When a disconnect happens inside a relationship (often due to the stresses and distractions of our ordinary lives) many times the ease of sexual escape both virtual and real can seem to be the path of least resistance. As a rule, the couples my husband and I see are actually longing to learn how to connect intimately, but have not had the kind of modeling needed to create a vulnerable, connected, emotionally and physically intimate bond. The way sex is portrayed in the media and certainly in Internet porn only seems to be adding to and escalating the confusion.