‘The truth about my sex addiction’
This time last year, I sat on a couch opposite Larry Emdur and Kylie Gillies, and lied, on national TV.
The lie spread like wildfire.
Pretty soon, I was appearing on prime time radio and in headlines in just about every major online media outlet. Suddenly, after years of trying to get my foot in the door as a journalist, everyone wanted to hear what I had to say.
Unfortunately, what I had to say was something I knew in my gut to be deeply problematic. But as the opportunities kept coming, so too, did the pressure to stick to my story.
That story, was that I had a sex addiction.
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A few months prior, I'd sought the advice of a hipster life coach, who'd pompously remarked, "you clearly have a sex addiction, my dear," after I'd confessed to a casual sex binge in the aftermath of my marriage breakdown.
We went on to talk about other things in the session, as I cried into the sleeve of my shirt, but I couldn't get his comment out of my head.
Walking home from his office that afternoon, I anxiously Googled 'sex addiction'. The lists of 'symptoms' my search results uncovered hit home.
Frequent sexual thoughts and fantasies. Check.
Having sex with multiple partners, including strangers. Check.
Feeling remorse or guilt after sex. Check.
Was my life coach's quasi-diagnosis the answer I'd been looking for?
It certainly seemed to fit. What else could so succinctly explain away the shame and dirtiness I'd felt surrounding sex my whole life?
Back at home, I went straight to my laptop and started to write, purging all my sexual sins into a column, before submitting it to my editor.
A week later, I woke to an inbox of producers barely able to contain their elation at discovering my tale of shame. I agreed to share my story, convinced it would help others.
The "female sex addict", they introduced me as, "come marvel at how strange and sinful she is", was the subtext in the opening monologues.
Suddenly I was a modern-day human freak show. Not only was I a woman who actively enjoyed sex (how titillating!), I was "addicted" to it (how bizarre!).
I felt the reality of it all sucker punch me during my live television interview. It sat heavy in my gut, like an undigested piece of fat. But the cameras were rolling, and the hosts were already looking back at me expectantly. I'd become a part of the machine of fast news for views.
A few interviews later, I quietly stopped sharing my story. "No thank you," I responded to the eager invitations.
"I'm no longer discussing this topic," I told them.
Meanwhile, I'd begun speaking to women from all over the world about their sex lives. My TV appearance had rendered me an unwitting confessional for female sexual guilt.
There was a clear pattern in their stories, too - namely, enjoyment of sex, followed by shame and self-pathologising. Was it possible all these women were also sex addicts? Or, was there another answer for the guilt we were collectively feeling?
According to the most recognised resource in the psychiatric community, the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), it's not the former. The DSM-5 doesn't even include a category for diagnosing sex addiction.
In fact, once I started looking, I couldn't find any medical journals or respected authorities who recognised sex addiction. The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems and AASECT (the governing body for sex therapists and educators) both, too, reject the concept.
"I have worked clinically with many patients who spent years in sex addiction treatment (along with far too much money), and our work becomes about deprogramming all the sex shame that was instilled in them," psychotherapist, sex therapist and activist, Dr. Chris Donaghue wrote in a blog post, Is sex addiction just an excuse for bad behaviour?
And herein lies the problem.
The addiction industry is worth an estimated $35 billion a year, with so-called sexual disorders raking in a significant portion of the kitty.
In short, diseasing human sexuality is big business. Not to mention, well-rating entertainment.
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Few would deny, we're living in the most hypersexual time in history. It's hard to scroll social media, consume an ad or piece of content, without being exposed to sexual messaging. And yet, sewn into that messaging, is the confusing directive that women should be sexually objectified, but never actively pursue or enjoy sex.
Just try finding a TV comedy in which there isn't an episode involving the hapless husband begging his prudish wife for sex to a laughter track. The implication is clear: men enjoy sex, and women don't. Those of us who fall outside of that definition are broken.
This is all not to mention the deeply troubling idea that sex should be regulated - that there's a "correct" amount, and an "excessive" amount to be had. Policing human sexuality has never proven to be an effective strategy; just ask the LGBTQIA+ community.
It's not anyone else's place to determine how my sex life - or yours - should look. Namely because of how intrinsically individual sex is; one person's idea of "obsessive" is another's "moderate". Who are any of us to judge?
All I know to be true today, is this. I am not a sex addict. I no longer prescribe to the ideology of sex addiction, and I regret my role in contributing to it.
If that makes me less entertaining, then so be it.
I'd rather have hot, guilt-free sex than 15 minutes of fame.
Nadia Bokody is a freelance writer and Instagram influencer. Continue the conversation on Instagram | @nadiabokody