Sunday, April 11, 2010

Internet and the Proliferation of Compulsive Sexual Gazing & Engagement

Another point that needs discussing is the issues regarding Online Sexual Addiction [OSA] and the use of pornography. Paul Joannides in his wonderful text – The Guide to Getting it on – has a very healthy and thoughtful discussion regarding OSA. Pictures of naked people engaged in various sexual acts has been around since the dawn of time and is not likely to ever go away. What we need to learn is a healthy way to educate our children and adolescents on the proper use of our bodies and stop setting it up so that it becomes something so forbidden that we find ourselves desperately seeking out these images in ways that can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviors. It only becomes a problem if we make it that way and we have certainly gone out of our way to make it such, so much so that a whole field of therapy and counseling has been established to help those afflicted in order to find relief from the distressing effects of looking at too many digitized images of naked people engaged in anything sexual.

I recently read an interesting article where Raymond Lawrence an Episcopal cleric takes on the subject of sexual addiction and claims it to be nothing short of another attempt of Western Christianity Religious belief systems to control ones’ sexual pleasure, which given their history – is destined to fail – “Sex is not an addictive substance. It’s a human interaction on which the survival of the species is dependent. It is also possibly the most pleasurable and sought after activity known to humankind, and arguably an experience no one should be deprived of. Most normal people consider more rather than less sexual pleasure to be a major objective in life.” As I reflected on his comment, I was also struck by the fact that so many people are struggling with this in their relationships and truly do need help…but help with what?

If one were not in a relationship, would it still be a problem? You could easily answer “yes” if it impacts ones’ employment or finances or any legal ramifications if what one seeks is judicially wrong. However, most people I see in my practice are there because of their relationship being in trouble – in other words they got caught. As absurd as this may sound, what if you compare this situation to someone who takes exercise to the extreme? One could get in the same problems at work, with money and legally if one decided to ‘break in’ and steal the use of equipment. Would we tend to call extreme excessive exercise addiction or as some believe ‘compulsive behaviors’? Since addiction appears to be coupled with substances like cocaine, heroin, and alcohol maybe we should/need to rethink the use of the word addiction. Should we consider whether or not addiction is the best avenue to take when trying to describe and understand one’s need/consuming desire to seek out and engage in sexually explicit encounters?


  1. Dr. John,

    One thing I help my clients understand is *anything* can become compulsive, unhealthy, or even addictive.

    An easy way to draw the line is to look if the action is negatively affecting your life in some way (relationships, work, family, social life, health, etc.) If you recognize it is, but you continue to participate in the act, isn't that really telling?

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

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