“Unbearable Penis” Use of the Penis and Sex Addiction as the Crystallization of a Sex Negative CulturePosted: October 8, 2013
…The psychopathologies that develop within a culture (such as sex addiction), far from being anomalies or aberrations, are characteristic expressions of that culture, as the crystallization…of much that is wrong with it (such as sex phobia).
Whose penis is this? Your partner or wife, medicine, psychology, religion, and job all claim ownership over it. The male sex addict is a constellation of socio-economic-psycho-relational-sexual factors that combine to produce a “man” who is colonized by the male relational-work industrial complex. The hegemony of work, family, partner, keeps him feeling depleted and trapped, his extensive and consistent sexuality shamed.
The characteristics of “healthy” sex are covert attempts to police and control sexuality. Why is “healthy” sex that which is situated within committed relationships? And why always with a partner? Neither truly legitimize sexual behavior. If our current models of “marriage” and “relationships” were truly “healthy” then they would not have a 60-70% failure rate, as shown with rates of cheating, divorce, and marital dissatisfaction. These symbols of failure are not due to the individual’s internal pathology. That lazy analysis is for the naïve. These high rates demonstrate they are a statistical norm. Failure can be an expected sign of “health.” There needs to be more options and better templates for relational functioning (standby for this in my book out next year, wink wink). The conception of the sexually addicted as indicator of a special type (psycho or bio) that distinguishes the sexually addicted man from “healthy” man is erroneous, as we are all on the spectrum and continuum with differing degrees of struggle with cultural-sexual distress. We all will at times struggle with sexual-relational compulsivity, sexual boundaries, and sexual-relational drives.
What is “healthy” sex? Undefinable. Sex is far too complex, diverse, multi-faceted, historically based, and relationally embedded. Most “disorders” are created by traditional, white, hetero, cisgendered, married, high socio-econ males. I know I do not want my father determining what is “healthy” sexually for me. Morals and values cannot help you either, as these too follow current socio-cultural trends and socially constructed norms and fears. “Healthy” is subjective and relativistic. There is no universal standard. Sex has undergone a bifurcation leaving sex unrelated in most cases from procreation or “relationship”. Evolutionary psychological theorizing is no longer relevant for understanding human sexuality. Thank you Internet for expanding the uses and experiences of sex far beyond what I can catalogue.
The “sex addict” is a “healthy” “self” attempting to find balance and relief and return to a “natural” and functional homeostasis. The “sex addict” is a symptom of our sex negative and phobic culture. Overregulated, over contained, and over shamed. Watch five hours of a baseball game and you are healthy, five hours of porn and you are an “addict”. The hegemony of the sex addict “treatment” perpetuates the toxic label of “addict”. This sex negative cultural pathology is forced onto the psyche of “healthy” men (most diagnoses “sex addicts” are men), then further traumatizing “clients” into sexual-relational 12-step programs where non-academics and professionals maintain a closed system of sexual “health” mythology. The “sex addict” is understandably trying to live in a postmarriage, postmonogamy, postmedical-model world.
Porn actors, sex addict, strippers are all counter balances to our primitive and sexually anorexic culture. They would just be actors, individuals, and dancers if we had a sexually healthy culture. They would seamlessly be integrated into our society, without requiring caveats, distinct labels, or pejorative “warnings”.
“Sex addicts” do not need treatment programs as the real problem is with the “erotophobes.” This extreme mental disorder, run by fear and anxiety about sexuality, dominates most literature, media, and cultural understandings of sexuality. There are various neurological studies, full of brain scans, showing how under-activated and diseased the brains of this clinical population are. They obsessively and compulsively create sex addiction literature, write books about avoiding pornography, over dramatize the impact of sex upon youth, and create diagnoses with no reliability, validity, or useful operational definitions.
If a partner or friend shames, judges, or objectifies your sexuality, please immediately diagnose them as an “erotophobe” and get them help. I’m sure there will soon be a 12-step program for this mentally ill group.
The mental health field has the simple goal of working to improve the lives of those suffering from various mental disorders. They often fail, and this is due to their insistence on maintaining DSM diagnoses, social values, and pop culture disorders. Often “mental disorders” are social creations and attempts at social control to extinguish behaviors that scare, upset, offend, or do not follow “moral” codes. Institutions such as the psychology field, pill pushing psychiatrists, and certified pseudo specialists exacerbate client issues by keeping them bound and held hostage within shaming and pathologizing narratives, identities, and diagnoses.
During my early clinical training with therapists untrained in sex therapy and sexology, I had the oppurtunity to witness firsthand the integrity violations enacted upon naïve clients seeking alleviation of their sexual distress. Clients arrive to therapy anxious and mentally exhausted looking to the “expert” to help them stabilize, explore, and hopefully heal themselves. The specialist’s own sex phobia sadly leaks into the equation from the very first therapeutic meeting with the client. A therapist’s discomforts with non-normative sexual behaviors or their own chaotic history with sex is the lens through which they analyze their client’s sex lives. Shaming assessments, demobilizing labels, and misunderstandings about sexuality abound and add further injury to an already uncomfortable client. The problem is that there is no “healthy” or “right” way to be sexual or to run ones relational life. I don’t patronize my clients by forcing them into a prefixed structure that determines a one-size-fits-all paradigm of health. As adults we are all challenged to decide for ourselves what is ‘right”, “healthy”, and “functional”. If an “expert” claims to know, run! What is “healthy” will change and be different for different people, at different times, within different relationships.
Let me provide a clinical case study to illustrate my point of shaming and misdirection. A female client came in to work with me on what an “expert” diagnosed as a sex addiction and intimacy disorder. This woman had been told that her consistent sexual engagements with men other then her husband was an “addiction” and that her lack of interest in sex with her husband was an “intimacy disorder”. Please note that neither of these “diagnoses” have operational definitions or exist in any diagnostic manual. This does not mean they do not exist, but it does mean that they are wide-open for misunderstanding and misinterpretation and often directed by the clinician’s own anxieties about sex. This woman, due to her diagnosis of “sex addict” and “intimacy disordered,” felt shamed and broken, because even with attendance at 12 step meetings and “therapy” she was still not able to develop desire to have sex with her husband.
The most poignant theme that arose in our work was the acknowledgment of a lack of sexual attraction for her partner that had existed from the beginning of their relationship. The woman’s sexual behavior with other men was her attempt, albeit a poor choice of all the available options, to have a pleasing sex life after having chosen the relational option of monogamy and commitment with a man she wasn’t sexually attracted to. She was not a sex addict and there was absolutely no “intimacy disorder.” She was fully capable of tolerating and being interested in intimacy, on both physical and psychological levels, as evidenced by her behaviors both with her committed partner and outside sexual partners. It is expected for an individual to avoid sexual contact, and possibly affection and physical closeness, from a partner that they are not attracted to, aroused by, or feeling chemistry towards. This woman had followed culturally misguided notions of sex not being as important as psychological or emotional intimacy; sex as a small portion of a relationship. How erroneous this concept is. Sex is as important, and I believe more important, than other levels of intimacy. Sex and our sexuality are ALWAYS with us. Its what we wear, how we walk, eye contact we make, what we say and the way we say it. We are always utilizing our “erotic capital”.
I tell my clients to seek partners that they connect to both sexually and emotionally. We need both, especially during times when one level is lacking. If we are not connecting or feeling close emotionally, it’s the attraction and sexual arousal that hold us close and together. Without it we have nothing to keep us within the relationship. Does sexual interest and arousal slowly drop off as our relationships extend in the future, sure. Is this due to our obsession with monogamy and our attempts to sustain monogamy and commitment for longer periods of time then ever before as we live longer, probably.
All the sensate focus exercises, 12 step sex addiction meetings, and couples therapy will not and cannot create sexual interest, arousal, or chemistry. Thankfully this is beyond conscious control. This is one part of “nature” and “biology” that we have yet been able to vandalize. This case study may serve as warning for many when deciding on making commitments or as a source of freedom for others who thought they were disordered. Let it speak to how the mental health field is often too comfortable utilizing questionable labels and concepts, and how important sexual interest, desire, and chemistry are if one chooses the option of monogamy.