Gluttony: Is Your Bed Too Big?
By Jon Pressick, Sex In Words
There’s a widespread belief that people, particularly in the Western world, consume too much, have too much, want too much. We want desire more things, want everything to be the newest, the biggest, the bestest. This rampant consumption and gluttony can be traced back decades but in the past few years more and more movement has been made to reduce our unreasonable desires and cravings. Smaller, more efficient, less expensive—for some, this is the model of the 21st century.
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However, there is one growth industry and culture that is not adopting this lifestyle, in fact, it is encouraging quite the opposite. Again, the past number of years have seen a different swell of interest, but for more, for different, for the bestest. That is, more sex, different sex and the bestest sex you can have.
Sex education for people have all ages has greatly improved and access to sexual information is easier than ever. The shame and stigma wrapped around many kinds of sex is slowly being unraveled to reveal the fundamental and exquisite pleasures the world of sex has to offer. There are more sex products than ever before and more frank, honest and compassionate discussion.
This seems an ideal situation for our happiness and health… what could be wrong?
It is definitely possible to have a great life of casual, even rampant sex, if your personal situation allows it. However, little things like, relationships, family, job and more can be negatively impacted by that lifestyle. Some will argue that as we freely and easily uncuff sex for everybody, some vulnerable folks will not be able to handle the lure, the temptation and the thrill. As with most aspects of living, sex has the potential to be abused and become an overpowering force in people’s lives. These are the people who believe that a gluttony of sex will lead to sex addiction.
The idea of sex addiction is a controversial subject that is still hotly debated. Simply put, some people believe sex addiction is a thing and others do not. It is a polarising discussion among academics and educators that leaves everyone—particularly those who may or may not be sex addicts—wondering if there is a pathology involved in their behaviours or not. As such, potential treatments are left up in the air as to whether they are effective or even necessary.
Addiction is defined as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)”, and sex addiction is generally described as a lack of control when it comes to participating in sexual acts that may potentially be detrimental. Those who deem themselves sex addicts describe the need to continually increase the activities as their tolerance grows and that their fantasies will dominate their lives to the extent that their moods are altered. Sexual gluttony comes to dominate a sex addict’s life.
At this point, for any disorder to be considered a psychological disorder, it needs to be listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more casually known as the DSM-V. This overwhelming—and controversial—volume captures all of the specific psychological disorders and is used by professionals to make diagnoses and determine research. Sex addiction is not currently listed in the DSM-V. This does not, in itself, mean sex addiction doesn’t exist, as this book is by no mean infallible. It did, after all, list homosexuality as a disorder for a long time. However, it does indicate that sex addiction is not on the radar of mental health professionals as something that needs to be studied and researched.
It might seem crass to associate a word, gluttony, with debated and potentially harmful compulsive actions, but therein lies the controversy of sex addiction. Some do not see it as an addiction at all. They’ll point to this exclusion from the DSM-V as well as the lack of true study and research. But there are other compelling reasons as well.
The first study of sex addiction considered the brain’s response to sexual images, to determine whether the brain of a person with sexual compulsion issues responded to sexual images in the same way as a person with substance abuse issues responded to images of their preferred substance. Turns out, the sex images did not create the same response. This was not what researchers were expecting and threw the idea of sexual addiction into limbo. The disbelief in sex addiction has fallen so low that some view a cry of addiction as an excuse to lessen the impact of sexual misbehaviour and transgressions. That seems extreme as many psychiatrists and psychologists from all around the world report patients struggling with sexual compulsion and difficulties.
Since that first study, another been conducted that lends new credence to the potential of sex addiction. This one took different snapshots of the brain and found that those subjects who do have sexual compulsivity issues reacted strongly in the part of the reward, motivation and craving parts of the brain whereas those who do not present difficulties didn’t react in the same way. The debate rages on!
Regardless whether or not sex addiction is real, another similar issue often gets conflated into the sex addiction argument, though it is a different problem altogether. Pornography, and the consumption of graphic images and film of people copulating is a living, breathing controversial beast of many heads. Some people love porn, some people hate porn. Some people blame countless societal ills on dirty pictures, others see no problem at all. These debates rage even stronger than those encompassing sex addiction. And when you talk porn viewing, addiction quickly comes to the fore again.
Popular actor and former football player Terry Crews recently revealed his struggles with porn addiction. But much like in the discussion of sex and addiction, is porn addiction an actual thing? Crews described the effects of porn addiction as:
“It changes the way you think about people. People become objects. People become body parts; they become things to be used rather than people to be loved.”.
Some have empathy for Crews, others consider this declaration a crutch propping up other issues he’s not discussing. The problem of porn and sex addiction remains: What do we believe?
There are myriad concerns and issues that need to be addressed before sex (and porn) addiction can be meaningfully addressed. Are we burying a sex-related issue out of the same fear we’ve always used with sex in society? Is there a true physical compulsion to sex addiction—and can that ever be accurately measured and understood in the same way directly physical addictions can be? Could differing relationship models and societal views on sex positively impact the future diagnosis of sexual addiction? This need to learn could be the true sexual gluttony we desperately need.
Question about Gluttony:
Is Porn good or bad for sexual relationships?
– Jon Pressick
About the writer: Jon Pressick is a sex-related media mogul. He is also a writer, the editor of the Best Sex Writing series from Cleis Press, co-host and producer of Sex City Radio, event organizer, workshop facilitator, (very occasional) burlesque performer and general sexual gadabout. Jon Pressick also won the prestigious 2010 TNT Favourite Adult Journalist Award and has been named as one of Broken Pencil’s “50 People and Places We Love.”