I empathized with her difficulty. Heterosexism—believing that a heterosexual orientation is superior, romantically and sexually, to all others—is hard to overcome. We’re taught this erroneous belief from early childhood, and its imprint remains unless we work hard to challenge it.
2) Abusive Users also drink or use drugs recreationally, can control their intake, and can start and stop when they choose. For the most part, they can predict how much they will consume. But at times, these individuals’ use is out of control. They cannot predict the results and suffer negative consequences such as DUI citations (or if not given a ticket, being stopped for poor driving), blackouts, verbal and physical fights with family, friends or partners, and risking sexually transmitted diseases—to name a few.
The surprising truth is that sexual addiction isn’t about sex at all. Sexual compulsives behave sexually, but the underlying reason for their behavior has to do with their “acting out” something else inside such as sexual trauma or other forms of childhood abuse or neglect. To determine whether they’re truly sex addicts and sexually acting out (SAO), many factors need to be considered.
I ask heterosexual men and women alike to take the sexual addiction screening tests that can be found in Patrick Carne’s books, Out of the Shadows and Don’t Call It Love. For gay men, I suggest taking the test in my own book 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives and for women, I recommend taking the test in Charlotte Kasl’s book Women, Sex and Addiction; A Search for Love and Power. While these tests are anecdotal and not research-based, they open a dialogue about one’s sexual behavior. If they point to possible addiction, then we start to examine what we refer to as one’s “sexually acting out” (SAO) behaviors.
2. Severe consequences as a result of out-of-control sexual behavior: If you’re single and don’t have frequent contact with family and friends, then repercussions of your out-of-control sexual behavior may not occur as easily. If you hide your sexual behavior from your partner and others you’re close to, this too can result in your remaining unaware of your addiction. However, anyone with sexual addiction frequently incurs legal, medical, and relational consequences. These may include arrests at public restrooms, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), overindulging to the point of physical injury (ie: sores on one’s genitals), and a partner threatening to leave.
6. Sexual obsession and fantasy are your chief strategies for coping : Obsession doesn’t mean thinking about sex every minute of the day—but of course, it can. It can take on the following forms: planning time for acting out sexually; ensuring that you'll have enough money to spend on SAO; lying and covering up your escapades; recovering from the effects of SAO; worrying about an STD or if you’ve passed it onto a partner; or not using up your libido so there’s none left for your partner.
These magazines were designed for guys like me, attracted to other guys! I got lost in reading about a man who was sexually focused on another man's body and genitals. That was me! My heart was pounding like I was having a panic attack, worried that I would be caught. My genitals felt like they were on fire. I camouflaged the Honcho inside another bigger, thicker magazine, bought the outer magazine, got on my bike and rode home, feeling exhilarated.
Pornography can be a source of recreational pleasure use and a rite of passage into gay manhood, but also a source of pain that interferes with one's life. Sam, 55 years old, was referred to me by another therapist who knew I specialize in gay issues and sexual addiction. Heterosexually married, with two grown children, he wanted to stop his compulsive use of pornography. He didn't identify himself as gay. He believed he must have been sexually abused as a child (but had no memory of anything close to that overtly or covertly), causing him to act out his sexual compulsive behavior. For years he had been using and abusing gay porn. Now, since the invention of the Internet, he was spending hours going to gay sites for images of men with other men. Seeing naked men alone wasn't satisfying. He needed to see images of men engaged with other men sexually, in any way.
Providing therapy to gay clients, I never minimize the lack of nonsexual ritual and initiation we have had to endure. Our society lacks of images of men, particularly gay men, touching and expressing affection. Gay porn reconciles this lack, if only through sexuality. The heterosexually married gay man, like Sam, who lacks the courage to go to a gay bar or support group finds porn the easiest, safest way to explore his homosexuality. The closeted man, who fears being hated and marginalized if he comes out publicly, can find some comfort, knowing that no one will judge him in a bookstore, X-rated movie theater, or privacy of his own home.
Having pornography as one's initiation into gay manhood can feed into a man's feeling that being gay is forbidden and underground. Going to a "dirty" bookstore and sneaking around can make someone feel shameful, but also add to the excitement. During sexual excitement, an internal chemical in our bodies is activated called phenylethylamine, (PEA for short) that parallels amphetamines. Research finds that it is also released when two people first fall in love, most strongly in the presence of the romantic partner. It's also responsible for the sexually excitement men get in the presence of a paraphilia. During the release of this molecular structure in our bodies, we feel excitement, ecstasy, and euphoria. The higher the fear, risk and danger involved, the stronger the "hit" of PEA. It makes sense that this would increase the sexiness of porn and potentially hook gay men.
A recent client told me he was sexually acting out online, on porn sites and gay sex chatrooms. A guy he was instant-messaging sent him his pic, while my client sent him his. They discovered they knew each other from a gay social group they both belonged to. My client said he felt "exposed." This reduced the fear, risk and danger of talking to someone he didn't know. Suddenly the secrecy and forbiddance were gone-and he lost his interest for sexual acting out for the rest of the night.
Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., has written extensively on the subject. In fact, he coined the term in the subtitle of his landmark book, Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, 1 which helped a great many men identify behaviors that were causing them distress. Carnes's book didn't address gay men in particular, but his more recent Don't Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction, includes examples of gay men and their sexual behaviors. Eli Coleman, Ph.D., affiliated with the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School, has written extensively on sexually compulsive behavior.2 He believes that what he calls sexual compulsivity is "driven by anxiety reduction mechanisms, rather than by sexual desire."
John Money, Ph.D., refers to "lovemaps" which, in your childhood, were created by your caretakers and the society and culture you were raised in. Healthy lovemaps evolve within a community or society that encourages affectionate caregiving and recognizes sex as natural, with no taboo or stigmatization. Money sees sexually compulsive behavior as the result of a lovemap "vandalized" through physical, emotional and sexual abuse, where children have suffered post-traumatic stress and injured their self-esteem, personal boundaries, and sense of trust.
I've found these three pioneering models to be effective in helping sexually compulsive gay men. The best approach may be different for different clients, though some benefit from a mixture of all three. For one, the addiction model may offer a behavioral and cognitive path to recovery. For another, whose behavior is an anxiety-reducing form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), medication can help. Finally, viewing the behavior as a vandalized lovemap suggests inquiry into childhood and early abuse: "Who were your caretakers? How did you develop your concepts of love and intimacy?"
Ultimately, his father wasn't able-or interested-to talk about John's feelings and validate them. At first, this was devastating. John came back to individual and group therapy, crying and angry about his father's responses. But in group, he was less and less preoccupied with the bodybuilder and stopped asking for more time with me. His compulsion to act out sexually subsided. He went for longer and longer periods without using porn. Ultimately he met another man and began dating. While his interest in porn was still there, it no longer ruled his life.
Some men actually have aversions to gay sex and gay porn. They are either asexual or, as Patrick Carnes calls it, sexually anorexic. They show little to no interest in sex, and if the subject is addressed, it is repulsive to them. At times they have sexual binges but afterward, they are disgusted. Tony was a 38-year-old gay man who came to see me, struggling with being gay. He was in a five-year sexless relationship with another man, and bothered by the lack of sex and intimacy with his partner. He was sexual with himself occasionally and used pornography while masturbating, but afterward would feel ashamed and disgusted with himself.
In dealing with his sexual anorexia, I asked that he bring in some of his porn that he had at home. My thoughts were to begin a pathway of him bringing what and who he was from underground. At first, Tony was vehemently against this It took approximately one year of exploring and talking about this before he was willing to do it. He worried that I was trying to "get off" on his stash of porn, or that the group would do the same. I checked out if the group would support him and witness his sexuality. It was important that no one make fun of him or judge him harshly rather to witness and establish a "rite of passage" into what he enjoyed sexually. Everyone agreed, and we created a "sacred space" around it to ritualize it. Shaking, sweating, riddled with anxiety, Tony brought in his porn magazines and showed us what turned him on the most. This was his work for a while, as he came in and showed us the images he enjoyed. 2b1af7f3a8