“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.
We need more divorces. This has been my relational battle cry for over a decade. There is no valor in staying trapped in an institution that no longer meets your desires or supports your growth or happiness. Individuals own psychological health and functioning must come before a rigid failing system of needless agonizing contracted commitment. Contracts are for business ventures, ownership, and vacation rentals. The bond that “marriage” creates often makes “love” and “commitment” tenuous and toxic. Being and staying in a relationship is best born out of interest, fulfillment, and love. Once these qualities have dissipated and are replaced with resentment or resignation, it’s time to reconsider the contract. “Love” and “commitment” should not be slandered and held together by a contract. Have enough integrity to want a partner that wants you, and not one that feels trapped, obligated, or stays under the duress of divorce. Leaving a relationship MUST always be an option, or we are talking about a hostage situation and imprisonment.
I want my clients and friends to have lifelong intimacy, support, and love, but “marriage” is not what builds or sustains this. The individuals own love and commitment do this. Contracted relationships instead erode and deteriorate as it introjects a wall of finite possibilities. Relationships are fluid, ever-changing organisms that do not adhere to social constructions such as contracts, fantasies, or “grand narratives.” The vision of lifetime dyadic synchronicity is both flawed and unrealistic. I cringe when I read articles and books by “experts” that promote “marriage” as the only or ultimate form of intimacy building, reified display of love, or the “healthy” form of relational configuration. Love is about choices and desires. Love is about wanting what’s best for your Other. Love is to take pleasure is seeing your partner happy, and not trapped. M Scott Peck had it right when he discussed the confusion between “love” and “cathexis”. What we often deem to be “love” for our Other is often just our own self interest and seeking of comfort. Your partner is not like your pet, whose life is solely built around always keeping you content and happy with restricted freedoms and autonomy (“cathexis”).
Date, have relationships, even get married if you want to, but the underscoring of commitment and love with a state sanctioned contract should not be needed to “hold it together” long term. This keeps many couples unhealthily tethered, abusively bludgeoning each other due to anxiety and stress about the work required for a divorce. Then add on the cumulative impact of culture, media, religion, and society policing and enforcing the primacy of the “marriage” contract above personal mental health and happiness, and you end up with catatonic immobility; freeze response due to impending death.
In my professional life, I aid many individuals in making their marriages work when the marriage is chosen by all and serving the desires of all involved. Marriage can be a beautiful sustainable venture, but it can also be poor decision making. Marriage is not forever; it is for now. Marriage needs to be renegotiated when desires change.
Cheating is a social construct. That means it’s not real outside of what we make of it. It is something our culture created as a term and concept to describe a behavior. The statistics show it occurs as often as in 60% of all relationships. But cheating doesn’t even come with a universalizable definition. And most couples have never discussed the specifics of what they deem to be “cheating”. This concept has permeated our society for long enough that most people live with it unquestioned as an apotheotic absolute. Monogamy was created, as was marriage, and we all fall into line and agree with these concepts and their assumed boundaries that we ourselves have not even chosen. When someone cheats, nothing actually changes but our own subjective interpretation of the event and of our partner’s character. Individuals are harmed, but only by interpretation and perspective. Humans lie, humans hurt, and humans cannot be trusted implicitly. Relationship, any engagement with an Other, must involve the conscious acceptance of this fact. “Cheating” needs to be downgraded from a relational act of emotional violence, to one form of many relational injuries to be expected from well meaning flawed humans. The sexual context of a behavior need not make it more “heinous”. Law & Order SVU loves this concept, as the show opens stating “sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous”. This sex phobic and sex hating statement exemplifies our cultural struggle to see sex as not being an inherently “special case”. We have colluded with the notion that lying is bad, but sexually themed lying is worse. This conceptual bias manifests with much consensus and support with shelves of “betrayal” books, and entire marital and sex addiction treatment programs existing to heal this “wound”. They both perpetuate the fantasy that within relationship or marriage one can expect no relational or sexual harm, ever. Only singledom comes with this promise. The “cheating industry” sadly does more damage then the act itself, by enforcing the notion of its consequential destruction and pain.
Cheating doesn’t injure. How cheating is conceptualized and dealt with does. How we see and treat “cheating” is an existential choice. The dismantling of this concept would alleviate the bulk of marital discord and misery and save most of them.
“How will I trust my partner again?” is the common question. You can’t. You cannot “trust” that you will never be disappointed, upset, uneasy, insecure, or wounded again. You will be! That is an outcome of being in a relationship with an Other. The acceptance of this can liberate you. I am NOT giving permission to relationally injure your partner by cheating. I am NOT condoning emotionally triggering behaviors. I am providing a much needed critical analysis of a concept that has been erroneously misused to villianize partners, needlessly end marriages, and assassinate the character of people we love. Monogamy, marriage, and relationships are difficult. The problem is often within these institutions and the associated unrealistic expectations carried parasitically within them, and not within the person.
We do have to be able to expect commitments that are made to be upheld. But cheating is a boundary violation, and these do occur often. Boundary violations and relational injuries are expected parts of the cycle of relationships. 21st century technology is creating new grey areas of sexual-relational engagement with others outside our primary relationship that couples are just now learning how to navigate. We are living longer and therefore experiencing longer marriages and periods of monogamy. This allows for more opportunities of struggle and more work to maintain a sustainable sexual life with our partner. Failures are to be expected and need to be “worked through” as normative phases of relationship.