Are You A Sex Addict? The Blowfish Blog


Please note: This post, and the post it links to, discusses many different aspects of my personal sex life, in a certain amount of detail. Family members and others who don’t want to read that, please don’t.

Dont_call_it_loveI have a new piece up on the Blowfish Blog. A two parter, actually. In the piece, I take an online test designed to determine whether I’m a sex addict… and I go after it with my laptop in one hand and a bayonet in the other, pointing out all the ways that the test pathologizes (a) unconventional sex, (b) sex that other people are shocked or upset by — regardless of whether they have any right to be, and (c) people who make sex a high priority in their lives.

It’s called Are You A Sex Addict? Part 1 and Part 2, and it begins thus:

Are you a sex addict?

Probably.

I seem to be.

Via Dr. Marty Klein’s excellent Sexual Intelligence blog comes news of this Sexual Addiction Screening Test from SexHelp.com, a site designed “to help those affected by sexual addiction and compulsivity.” The site was created by Dr. Patrick Carnes: inventor of the term “sex addiction,” founder and designer of multiple treatment programs for sex addiction, and author of several books on sex addiction.

According to Dr. Klein, Dr. Carnes admits he has no training in human sexuality. But let’s not focus on that just now.

Because according to this test, I have a problem.

Which is a bit odd. My life is good; my sex life is great. Things in my life are stable and flourishing, and sex is a happy part of that.

So I don’t actually think I have a problem.

I think this test has a problem.

To find out more about which questions I answered “yes” to on this test — and why I think the questions are the problem, not my answers — read the rest of the piece. Enjoy! (And if you take the test yourself, please let me know how you scored!)

Comments

  1. says

    I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as sex addiction. That certainly doesn’t stop those who can make money from it from selling books about it, attempting to diagnose it, and even to treat it. With the next revision of the DSM coming soon, it will be interesting to see whether the psychiatric profession decides to recognize it as an actual mental disorder.

  2. says

    “I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as sex addiction.”
    I’m not either.
    It’s clear that there’s such a thing as sexually compulsive behavior. But my understanding is that “addiction” is a fairly specific term, and it shouldn’t necessarily be applied to any and all compulsive behavior.
    Admittedly, I’m not an expert in this field. But other experts in this field (Dr. Marty Klein, for instance, whose blog I got this from) do have serious problems with the way the word “addiction” gets bandied about when it isn’t appropriate — especially when it comes to sex.

  3. Pi Guy says

    Again, another fine piece of thinking and writing.
    I’m a little leery of the whole addiction concept in general. As you point out, metric for addiction should be one’s ability to partake, even regularly, but continue to do what they’ve committed to do: show up for work, take care of family, et al.

  4. Rebecca says

    I took it. I lied a couple times because it seemed foolish for someone in my line of work to admit to a particular past line of work on some moron’s website.
    Even so, I scored a 6. I have too much weird sex and I think too much about the sex I’ve had.
    The whole thing about prioritizing sex and having unconventional sex being signs of addiction is unsurprising. Stupid, but unsurprising.
    What appalled me is that if you have ever stopped to think about whether your behavior bothered anyone else, and particularly if you have tried to change that behavior, these are signs of addiction. Here are the questions:
    “5. Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behavior?”
    “8. Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?”
    “12. Have you attempted to stop some parts of your sexual activity?”
    So let me get this straight…
    I noticed my behavior was hurting someone else. I felt bad about that. I changed my behavior. This is bad?
    Let’s take an example from a good 20 years in my past: having sex with a friend’s prom date at an afterparty. This was dishonest and selfish, two things I try not to be. So I decided not to go after other people’s partners in the future. And I didn’t.
    Once again: this is bad?
    What a load of self-serving, abusive crap!

  5. Zeke says

    Apparently I’m consistent with men who have had sexual compulsion issues. Interestingly, the score I got also fell QUITE FIRMLY within the overlap between “normal” and “abnormal”, yet no mention was made of *that* fact.
    I’m not sure how the “significant depression, despair, or anxiety” entered into the “diagnosis”. Maybe because I KNOW that the type of sex I have isn’t normative?
    Anyway, I’d like to point out a question you didn’t mention. I’m 21 now, 5 years ago I was being sexually active, with other people who were, *gasp* also minors. One of the questions asked whether you’ve had sex with minors. Yes, and I’d dare say many if not most people have in their history been sexual with a minor.
    Pathologizing adolescent sexual desire and its natural expression? Check!
    (and to bring Dan Savage into the conversation, he makes an extremely good point about the VAST WIDE GORGE of a difference between say: being a 25 year old dating a 17 year old minor, and being any age and being sexual with a pre-pubescent kid, so even if I were to now have sex with a minor, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, that it still wouldn’t be a problem)

  6. says

    Ooh, ooh, can I be the first to make the obvious joke?
    “They could have just stopped the test after the first question: are you male?”
    Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. . . .

  7. Anna says

    Heya, I just read your article and I think it’s spot on and I’m so glad someone, you, is out there to write about this.
    This has probably already been noted (to lazy to read comments, sorry0, but I wanted to comment about how the questions that were phrased:
    Most of the questions start out: “you” desire, “you” want, you know, pretty much talking to YOU. But, every now and then the questions say “my”. I’m no psychology major, but I think that says… alot.

  8. says

    I got a 9, and would probably have gotten more with less charitable interpretations of the questions. Like, I didn’t count buying sextoys online as paying for “online services”. (OK, I tried, and I get 10 when I answer truthfully in the “worst” possible way.)
    You know, the questions are so stupid that I hesitated to conclude that “Have stayed in romantic relationships after they became emotionally or abusive?” constitutes a typo.
    Also “Do you believe casual or anonymous sex has kept you from having more long-term intimate relationships?” – how do I answer this when I don’t *have* casual or anonymous sex?
    Something else that totally boggles me is why some things are a problem if done “regularly” and others if done “ever” – if I did SM stuff all the time with the girlfriend who was into SM but not with anyone else, does that count or not?

  9. Valhar2000 says

    The part about music was an excellent idea! When I took the test, it turned out I was not a sex addict: the missionary position, with lots of kissing and touching and talking, is close to being my favourite, and I am similarly conventional in other ways.
    However, by substituing “music” for “sex”, I discovered that I am a music addict.

  10. says

    I scored a 7 and it told me I’m probably a sex addict, even though according to their graph more NON-addicts score 7 than addicts. And, yeah, some of the questions were pretty broken. Like “Have you attempted to stop some parts of your sexual activity?” Yeah, when I was in junior high I tried to quit masturbating. I failed. I eventually figured out that it was normal and healthy and haven’t tried to quit since. But according to this test that attempt still haunts me… Also “Have you subscribed to or regularly purchased or rented sexually explicit materials (magazines, videos, books or online pornography)?” is partially redundant with “Have you regularly purchased romantic novels or sexually explicit magazines?” so I get TWO points for my magazine subscriptions… laaaaaame.

  11. T. says

    Yeah, sex addiction does exist, even amongst radical, queer, sex-positive people like myself. It has nothing to do with what acts you engage in, but rather how they affect you. Sex addicts do all kinds of things sexually, just like the rest of the population does. Some “experts” try to say that practicing BDSM or being non-monog/poly is a sign of sex addiction, but people who pathologize behavior are assholes and don’t know what they’re really talking about. So I agree: most sex addict online quizzes suck. But sex addiction exists. For me it’s about how preoccupation with sex took over my whole life and left the rest empty (lost my other passions, interests; wasn’t interested in people with whom I didn’t have some sort of sexual energy with), how I didn’t feel strong or powerful or valued if I wasn’t sexual or dressed up in a sexually appealing way, how I would jerk off all the time to numb out from a painful situation/feelings (just like an alcoholic, drug addict does), how I would feel really empty and distant after having sex, how I felt that I could only attract people as friends or potential partners if I was very flirtatious or sexual or made comments all the time about my sexual prowess. It’s about trying to get needs met using tools that just don’t work. I would have sex with someone when I really just wanted them as my friend, I would have sex with someone because there was something about them that I admired and I felt that I could get closer to that goodness if I had sex with them, I would have sex because I was lonely, I would have sex when I wanted to feel like I existed in the world. I wasn’t really having sex because I actually just wanted to have sex. I was having sex for some other end that ultimately never fulfilled me and so I kept going and going and going. So no, it’s not about how much sex you have, how you have it, or who you have it with. It’s about using sexuality to fix something that could never be fixed with sex, using or seeing sex as an answer to a problem that could be solved most effectively by other means.

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