CW: Addiction, Sexual Assault, Sex… in general. This article is about sex.
I have always had a negative relationship with sex. I discovered masturbating early, around six or seven years old. I would use masturbating combined with my active imagination and constant daydreaming as a way to escape the loneliness and isolation I felt not only at home, but at school as well.
TV, movies and books would feed my daydreams and expand my mind. Being a child of divorce, I never really had an example of a healthy romantic or sexual relationship growing up.
My parents never gave me the sex talk so I had no idea which way was up when it came to sex, aside from what I learned from TV and movies. Combine that with numerous instances of sexual assault over the course of several years and my predisposition to addiction, it left me completely incapable of forming any solid and meaningful relationship, sexual or not.
I found myself completely lost. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted because I was so used to putting on this facade for everyone. I used sex to feel powerful, to self medicate, and to feel in control.
I was a complete intimacy anorexic. I wanted to be loved but was not willing to love anyone. I wanted to be ADORED. I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else I could get whoever I wanted to absolutely adore me— which in turn caused me to act like something I am not.
I stopped taking care of myself and my mental health was at an all time low. I finally hit my rock bottom and accepted that I had a problem. I didn’t “just like having sex a lot” because I wasn’t even enjoying the sex I was having. I would immediately become detached during sexual situations and most of the time, wish it would be over. And that brings me to my first point:
Sex addiction is more than just wanting sex all the time
I have interacted with other sex addicts. While we may have some similarities, we are not all the same. Our addictions manifest themselves in different ways.
We aren’t all kinky nymphomaniacs. There are porn addicts, love addicts, sex addicts who act out with prostitutes, sex addicts who act out in public displays, sex addicts that act out solely through excessive masturbation, the list goes on and on.
Sex addiction should never be used to excuse heinous actions such as assault, and anyone who does do that does not represent sex addicts as a whole. It should also be said that just because someone does enjoy sex a lot, doesn’t mean they are a sex addict.
Being “sober” in sex addiction terms isn’t as simple as not having sex.
Our addictions manifest themselves in different ways and intimacy and wanting love in any form are basic human desires, being sober means something different to each person in recovery.
There are sex addicts who have found that they cannot have sex at all without going into unhealthy habits. For others, they may take some time away from sex and/or masturbation and porn until they are able to form healthy relationships.
At the end of the day, our recovery is our own personal journey to figure out who we are and what we like and how we want to be treated sexually and intimately.
You can be a sex addict and be sexually assaulted/harassed
This goes back to my first point about this misconception of sex addicts that we want sex all the time. That may be true for some, but not for all.
Even if someone does want sex all the time, it doesn’t invalidate the need for consent.
When I tell you I’m a sex addict, I’m not hitting on you or being “cute” so please stop acting like it’s a pick up line.
When I or anyone else tells you about their sex addiction, we are trying to establish boundaries. We are taking a step to improve ourselves and the way we interact with people. Please respect that.
When you think it’s a pick up line or a way of flirting, it can be uncomfortable because I shared something very personal and your response was basically to ignore what I’m telling you, which to me is a HUGE red flag.
It is possible to be sex and kink positive and be “sober”
I believe that sobriety means maintaining a positive and healthy relationship with sex, whatever that looks like.
Prior to my recovery, I was having sex I didn’t particularly enjoy. So when I went into recovery and took a break from sex, I didn’t know what I was into. Seriously.
I was so used to doing whatever the other person wanted, I didn’t even know what I wanted. I didn’t even know if I wanted sex at all.
I identify as aromantic and polyamorous and it took awhile for me to realize that. I’ve also realized I’m a more dominant/switch naturally. In my recovery I’ve encountered other people who are polyamorous and it made me see that I didn’t have to adhere to heteronormative standards of relationships to be sober.
Sobriety can be kink and sex positive as long as it is healthy and consensual. You should embrace your kink and shouldn’t feel ashamed. That’s necessary to developing a healthy relationship with sex.
My advice for those in recovery or those seeking help is to allow yourself to feel. Feel your feelings. When you spend so much time trying to run away from them or suppress them, you can’t handle them when they are there and you can’t decipher between what’s real and what’s not, what’s healthy and unhealthy until one day, you feel nothing at all.
It’s something I work on every single day now. It’s hard sitting with that discomfort and all I want to do is run away sometimes but I am a million times more happy and fulfilled with my life than I have ever been. And I can only hope all of you find the same.
If you or someone you know thinks they may have a sex addiction problem, I highly encourage you to seek out mental health professionals if you have access to them, or check out a 12 step meeting which is free.
M.C. is an agender latine from Atlanta, GA studying Journalism with a concentration in Magazine Writing and a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Missouri. They write to not only share their own unique perspective and view of the world, but to support and give a voice to those who have none. They’re also always in the market for good memes so please send some their way.