Sexual Content is Everywhere…
With easy access to MA (mature) material on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, I have begun noticing myself not so easily phased by sexually explicit material that once elicited a cringe or embarrassment. After shows like House of Cards, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Veep, my sexual-content-threshold has risen.
We become desensitized to the exposure given the frequency with which the content is entering our brains (the ability to binge-watch may be to blame here). But when you really stop to pay attention, you begin realizing that we are coming into contact with mass amounts of sexual content (as are our children…but that’s for another time).
We can all think of plenty TV shows that joke about masturbation and pornography, movies and shows that display lengthy sex scenes, and ads in magazines or commercials with women in suggestive poses. Such rampant exposure to sexual material, much of which may be unsolicited, can make it difficult to determine if our sexual thoughts and behaviors are “normal,” or if we have crossed over into addiction territory.
A sexual addiction, though a process addiction, functions much like any other addiction. Below outlines four core criteria to identify a sexual addiction:
Overly Obsessed with Sex
“Addicts’ lives come to revolve around fantasizing, planning to act out, engaging in the behavior itself, hiding, and recovering from the behavior” (Ferree, 31). The addiction consumes the addict’s mind.
Example: When a man or women are so fixated on the next time he or she will be able to look at porn, that the person is unable to focus at home or at work. When a person can think of little else than his or her next sexual encounter throughout the day and night.
Compulsive Sexual Behaviors
The person can’t stop fantasizing or acting out sexually, regardless of how desperately he or she wants to. A compulsion is the feeling that, “No matter how hard I try, I just can’t stop.”
“Today’s media might make us question the legitimacy of this [sexual] addiction, or at the very least make us blind to it. But it’s very real.”
Example: The man who had every intention of going straight home after work, even planned to call his wife on his drive home as a deterrent and then finds himself parked outside the strip club.
Continuing Even Though It Harmfully Interferes with Life
“Persisting in a behavior in the face of detrimental consequences is one of the clearest observable signs of an addiction” (Ferree, 32).
Example: A woman loses her third job after she is caught having sex at work; yet, she continues to search for her next sexual partner.
Increase of Sexual Tolerance and Withdrawal
One must act out more and more, or in more extreme circumstances, to get the same chemical (dopamine, adrenaline, catecholamine) “high.” Many sex addicts report experiencing symptoms of withdrawal when first committing to sobriety.
Example: A few months ago, a woman spent hours each day online in chat rooms having sexual conversations with men; today, she is meeting these men in person for sexual encounters.
Sexual Addictions Are Real!
Many of these examples may sound extreme, and of course, there is a spectrum. But sexual addictions are real.
A man with a sex addiction is not just formulating an excuse to have more sex. And sexual addictions are not limited to men; there are many, if not just as many women who are struggling. Today’s media might make us question the legitimacy of this addiction, or at the very least make us blind to it. But it’s very real.
If you are questioning your own thoughts or behaviors, you can visit LoveAddiction.com and complete a 27-item questionnaire to self-assess. A quick questionnaire, however, is just that, and I strongly recommend meeting with a therapist for a full evaluation if you have questions or concerns.