Sexual Addiction and Gay Communities

In November of 2011, Newsweek featured a cover story on sexual addiction which was part of the growing attention by print, web, and television media dealing with the important but controversial subject. As a result of the story, a conservative, Christian website, LifeSiteNews, responded with interesting zeal about one aspect of Newsweek’s analysis. The LifeSiteNews piece wanted to highlight for their readership, not simply the problem of sexual addiction and dysfunction among the population at large, but sexual addiction among homosexuals in particular. Their comments were received by those outside of LifeSiteNews’ constituency as largely biased and specifically homophobic. From the LifeSiteNews response: “[H]omosexuals are known for having superficial, short-term relationships and hundreds of lifetime sex partners…” (There was no research citation to back up this claim.) Still, part of Newsweek’s piece had, in fact, touched on same-sex encounters as they relate to sex addiction, so it may well be important to ask: Are homosexually-identifying people more likely to experience sexual addiction than heterosexuals? Regarding the matter of homosexuality, The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) along with the American Psychiatric Association (APA) are clear on their position: “…homosexuality does not imply any pathology or mental illness. Unlike homosexuality, sexual addiction is seen as a disorder in need of treatment. People with homosexual or bisexual orientations have long been stigmatized and may suffer because of this stigmatization. It is important to distinguish between out-of control sexual behavior (sexual addiction) and one’s discomfort with their sexual orientation.”

The Issue of Stigma

When asked his thoughts about the rate or likelihood of sexual addiction among LGBT people in particular, Kristopher Castellano, 29, of Miami, FL had this to say: “I actually find it kind of fascinating that [conservative] Christians spend so much time worrying about the sexual deviance of people that are entirely shunned by them when they can’t even properly reign in all the deviant behavior of their representatives and followers. That level of hypocrisy leaves me dumbfounded. I’m not about to deny the fact that there does appear to be predilection toward sexual addiction [among homosexuals] but, in my experience, we don’t crave it any more than any other sexuality. People just spend so much time focusing on it; of course it’s going to seem that way.” [highlight] Are you dealing with a combination of drug and sex addiction? Learn about our new program that treats both issues >> [/highlight]Castellano makes a salient point. The sexual practices of gays and lesbians, although removed from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for mental illness diagnostics in the 1970s, are still highly stigmatized, marginalized, and often viewed as adherent. To wit: sodomy laws are on the books in fourteen states. In four of those states-Montana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas-sodomy laws exist only if you are gay. In mention of the topic of sexual addiction across gender and sexual orientation lines, one analysis of peer reviewed studies on the subject stated that, “…in general the addictive experience appears to be far more similar than different.”

The Consequence of Systemic Homophobia

Early on, fear of repercussions and the consequence of not toeing the line in terms of gendered and/or sexual expectations create the stifling closet of shame and secrecy. Many LGBT people-young and old-often remain closeted for fear of hurting their families or risking the censure of their communities. Systemic homophobia permits the sodomy laws mentioned above, the discriminatory workplace practices which, in most states still allow trans people to be fired, and which embolden the bashing and bullying which many LGBT people experience at some point in their lifetimes. In light of this, and recognizing that at base, sexual addiction is a disorder of emotional intimacy-not an issue of sex, so much as a problem of feeling wanted and being able to deeply attach-it would be no wonder if such a marginalized people facing these very issues were to suffer just such a predicament to a greater extent than mainstream society. But there is currently no evidence whatsoever to suggest that LGBT people are sexually addicted at a higher rate than their straight counterparts. (Interestingly, and contrarily, one resent study indicated that religious, conservative, red-voting states with negative views of pornography-a common feature of sexual compulsivity-consistently subscribed to pornographic websites at higher rates than did liberal, blue-voting states.) The Newsweek piece’s mention of homosexuality was actually a mention about the way that some sexually addicted straight men, because of the progressive and escalating nature of the disease, will seek other men for sex. These men do not consider themselves gay, and as a result of all that systemic homophobia, as well as a primary feature of all addiction, will feel shame. Still, they won’t be able to stop, and will continue to act out. The article posited that men are easier for men to find, and easier to convince to have sex, but mentioned nothing of a female sex addict’s own escalation or ventures into same-sex experiences, which are well documented. One has to wonder what Kinsey would say about all of it. The more arresting point is not to which sexual orientation or gender identity someone belongs, but whether he or she can and will find the help necessary to heal from this potentially devastating addiction-regardless of either circumstance.

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