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Sex Addiction and Gay Men: When Too Much Sex Is Not Enough
by Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S
Editors note by Debbie Allen: Most of the articles written about sexual addiction focus on heterosexual couples. Robert Weiss very sensitively outlines the key sexual addiction issues for gay men provides some outstanding book recommendations and resources.
When asked several years ago to comment on a set of paparazzi photographs showing him engaged in a 3AM London park public-sex romp, singer George Michael’s immediate retort to the paparazzi at hand was, “Are you gay? No? Well then Fuck Off! Because this is my culture and you don’t understand it.” Unfortunately for Mr. Michaels, this angry response sounds a lot more like the denial of an underlying problem than the reality of life for most gay men today.
While it is true that anonymous, public sex, whether in the shower at the gym, online or a park restroom does provide some gay men with occasional distraction and titillation and also true that furtive, hidden sexual liaisons were endemic to earlier generations of closeted homosexuals, it is questionable whether a major entertainment figure with a previous public sex arrest history, a public long-term primary relationship and the need to avoid bad publicity, can legitimately reference “my gay culture” as the reason for his ongoing illegal sexual exploits. While it is not possible, nor fitting to say without professional evaluation whether or not Mr. Michael is a sex addict, his situation does provide an opportunity to consider how sexual gay men can deny the problem of sexual addiction while reviewing some of its’ warning signs.
Those concerned that the diagnosis of sexual addiction might be “sex negative” or worse, a condemnation of gay men, should note that 75-80% of men who currently seek sexual addiction treatment are heterosexual, the majority of those married with children. These men, whose lives have become caught up in long-held, compulsive patterns of online porn abuse, patronizing prostitutes and multiple affairs, typically seek help after a spouse has stumbled upon their sexual secrets or when their sexual activities have resulted in an arrest, job loss or other personal consequence.
Despite the fact that a greater percentage of gay men suffer from alcoholism, drug addiction and most likely sexual addiction as well, straight men are more likely to seek support for compulsive sexual behavior than gays. As gay male culture is more accepting of sexual promiscuity, it is easier for the gay sex addict to remain in denial about his problem. Without the right to marry and with fewer resources available toward developing healthy ‘families’, gay sex addicts experience fewer consequences for their compulsive sexuality, than straight men; making it less likely they will learn about the issue or their need to get help.
Sex addiction is primarily a men’s issue. Approximately 85% of those presenting for sexual addiction treatment are male, gay straight and bi-sexual men all do suffer from this problem. Some women do also ‘act out’ sexually, but they do so less frequently than men and usually in ways that cause them fewer overt consequences. Sex addiction, like gambling addiction, is a behavioral disorder that is ultimately more driven by anxiety and the person’s need to escape difficult emotional challenges than by orgasm or even the sexual act itself.
Gay sex addicts lose themselves in endless hours and days of searching online for porn and hook-ups or cruising steam rooms, adult bookstores and sex clubs, often spending more time and energy pursuing sex, then they do evolving healthy, intimate lives. While no one is saying that all gay men need to get ‘married’ or live in a way that mirrors the lives of heterosexuals, there are those gay men, and no one really knows how many- who utilize the intensity and emotional power of addictive sex to self-soothe, distract and emotionally medicate themselves in ways that may not even match their own belief systems or values and often bring them emotional, health, relationship and legal problems.
For those gay men who may have a problem with anonymous online hook-ups and porn, sex clubs, prostitutes and the like- or those whose spouses/mates/husbands who are less than pleased with their sexual behavior – the first step toward personal growth is to gain as much knowledge as possible about sexual addiction. A self-evaluation test can be found at www.sexualrecovery.com. Current books on the subject include this author’s, Cruise Control: Understanding Sexual Addiction in Gay Men and a chapter about sexual addiction in Joe Kort’s book, Ten Smart Things Gay Men Can Do To Improve Their Lives. Both books are available online at www.amazon.com. Sexual Compulsives Anonymous ( www.sca-recovery.org ),is a national 12-step sexual addiction program that welcomes gay members, offers helpful support group meetings in many US cities and online. For a skilled therapist’s help, the non-profit organization SASH (The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health ( www.sash.net ) offers a national list of professionals trained in sexual addiction treatment.
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About the Author
Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S, is Founding Director of The Sexual Recovery Institute, Los Angeles and Director of Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch Treatment Center in Nunnelly, Tennessee. A UCLA MSW graduate, Mr. Weiss received extensive post-graduate sexual disorder’s training with addiction author and clinical leader, Dr. Patrick Carnes. Mr. Weiss is author of Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy to Obsession, author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men and co-author of the just released, Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn and Fantasy Addiction in the Internet Age, with Dr. Jennifer Schneider, along with numerous peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters.
Mr. Weiss also provides professional training and program development for the US military and multi-addiction treatment centers around the United States, Europe and Asia. Recent media appearances include ESPN, The Today Show, Oprah Winfrey, Larry King Live and Dateline NBC. In a field with few genuine experts, Mr. Weiss is a specialized, knowledgeable and recognizable provider in the field of intimacy, addiction and sexual disorders.
For more information about Robert Weiss visit www.RobertWeissmsw.com.