Sunday, 3 May 2009

my name is brian and i am ....

...a sex addict?

There is a very good article about this here
. Which has got me thinking.

I think about sex a lot. Sometimes, particularly when physical sex with a partner for whatever reason is not available I look at porn. This has, in the past, been associated with shame and guilt. I have striven to hide it. I had read many arguments that such a taste is abusive and akin to rape. For a long time, I accepted these and therefore felt at war with an important part of myself - my own sexuality. Trying to fight it only made it stronger and, I must confess, potentially more abusive. I say this because the attempted suppression gave rise to feelings of anger and aggression. I was denying an important part of myself and was in great danger of transferring the anger that this caused to the objects of my desire, women.

By and large, however, this anger was directed inwards. At myself as a man. For a long time, I saw my desire as intrinsically abusive - for, after all, I wished to hold and to penetrate - to lose myself in a woman's embrace - to feel her body enfolding me. I wanted to gaze upon a lover - to smell her and to taste her - to celebrate her and to celebrate the desire that arose within me. I wanted to feel totally and completely alive. And this I felt, at a deep level, was wrong.

This conflict stayed with me for a very long time and only began to be resolved in recent years. It may seem paradoxical but the more I have accepted the reality of the Goddess, the more I have accepted my own sexuality as a man and the freer I have felt to express it. Shame is, day by day, becoming less and less strong and I am becoming more and more real - no longer hiding in the shadows but accepting my place in the sun.

And yes, I still think about sex. A lot. And make love as often as I can - glad beyond measure that my body still works as it should. Sometimes, I look at pictures of naked women. Does this, to get back to the start of this posting, make me an addict? I think not, but if I am, then I really do not give a damn. I refuse to continue carrying any bullshit patriarchal shame, even when given a feminist, or psychotherapeutic, gloss.

From the very small beginnings in Akron, Ohio, when the two co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous first met, there has been a huge growth in the addiction industry. It has spread its tentacles into almost every human activity. I myself spent ten years in AA and learned a lot from it. Addiction can kill or seriously impair life- that is a fact. People die from drink and drugs. And addiction can occur in other areas, be they gambling or food. Or sex.

I remember hearing in AA from people who thought that their desire for a couple of whiskies at night was a problem. I could see that they considered it so but could not for the life of me understand why. They could afford it. Neither their health nor their ability to lead a functional life seemed in any to be impaired. So what was the problem?

There is a real desire in our culture to have some sort of pathology. A label. I have felt it myself. When I said, "My name is Brian and I am an alcoholic", I felt part of an in-group - defining myself as something other than the rest of humanity. It was, strangely, a feeling of liberation. I had a disease and was no longer alone but had found a group with whom I could identify. I had, at long last, a label. No longer a simple oddball, I had a diagnosis.

And at that point -when my physical condition was severe - that diagnosis was appropriate. It, literally, saved my life. I was able to grow - to find meaning outside the bottle. I was able to find love for and from another and to build a sense of self worth that had hitherto been absent. I had been, literally, an addict to alcohol.

There is, however, a hell of a lot of nonsense spoken nowadays about dependence. I remember being struck with this when a mother was accused of being "co-dependent" because she wanted to see her only child off at the airport when there was a real chance that the child would decide not to return to the UK. The only word for this is "crap". And dangerous crap.

To love your daughter is not a pathology. And neither is the desire for sex. Human bodies contain receptors which react to external stimuli and create physical and psychological responses. In some people these reactions are stronger than in others. For just as the ability to sing in tune varies from person to person so does a capacity for sexual desire. Some people are perhaps natural celibates and others are like butcher's dogs. This is simply human variety and should be more a cause of celebration than distress. For a very small minority excessive and obsessive desire may create major problems. For such there should be help. Perhaps for them the diagnosis of addiction could be appropriate.

My belief, however, is that the disease model, borrowed from AA, has simply become the latest incarnation of the vile anti-sex doctrines of patriarchal religion. It is anti-life and anti-joy. It is especially pernicious in that it has appropriated much feminist and humanist discourse. It is nevertheless nothing more nor less than Augustinian puritanism. And, as such, is totally contrary to the freedom and joy which, as children of the Goddess, is our birthright.


Haley @ Iridescent Dark said...

Hiya Brian, good to see you back after a while!

A very honest post. It brought to mind something I watched today on Scrubs (juvenile in comparison to the serious issues you are writing about but I think worth a mention).

On the show one of wife and child of one of the docotrs went away for the week, and he was making a big show about the fact he wasn't going to miss them and become lonely. To his surprise, he ended up really missing them, and was actually beating himself up about it, saying things along the lines of "Why do I miss them so much? I was perfectly happy when I was alone before." Then another doctor said to him somethign like "Well, is it so bad that you've become attached to your wife and kid? To miss someone is not to be inable to cope without them, but to be human and care. Is that such a bad thing?"

It's along the lines of what you're saying in my opinion. Sex is a human thing, about connection and warmth and physicality and desire - not about neurosis! And so it is with other things.

Nice post, given me some food for thought.

Brian Charles said...

Thanks, Haley. I have got thoroughly pissed off with the way we are encouraged to pathologise our differences and strive for a world in which strong emotions have been eradicated. It is all too common, I fear, in new age discourse.