And the best approach to address it.
Many people wonder if their own or their partner’s sexual desires and practices may be abnormal, or even addictive.
There is a constant messaging in the culture about sex/porn addiction, hypersexuality, and people acting out their sexuality in harmful ways due to childhood abuse or trauma.
These narratives overlook an even more pressing issue, What I call Sexual Authenticity Disorder.
I believe that an innate, inherent sexuality is a distinct psychological dimension of every individual. This distinct sexuality includes the types of sexual and life partners they are instinctually attracted to, the core themes their fantasies follow, and their innate frequency for sexual engagement.
In the great majority of cases I have encountered, someone’s inherent sexual nature transcends developmental influences and experiences. But one’s authentic sexual nature can be negatively impacted by those influences.
These negative influences often entangle one’s innate sexuality and its healthy expression in shame, fear, secrecy, dishonesty and more that can harm both the individual and their relationships.
Anyone’s authentic sexual expression needs to be intimately linked to sexual integrity. This means adhering to impeccable negotiation, transparency and consent codes.
This level of sexual integrity is sorely lacking at present. We seem to have a high resistance to being sexually honest. I believe this stems from our great fear of being fully honest about our inherent sexuality, whatever that may look like.
There is a long unending stream of national news reports about politicians, teachers, religious leaders, entertainers, sports figures and other celebrities, caught in some variation of sexual dishonesty. Pundits and psychology “experts” often label these sexual pursuits, and the fall from grace that follows, the result of sex or porn addiction.
These highly publicized celebrity cases point to, but overlook a larger issue of rampant sexual dishonesty that is found at every level of the culture. These cases are just the visible tip of the iceberg of our collective sexual shadow, and the secretive ways we attempt to express our sexuality.
Imagine all the rest of the population that are indulging their sexuality in covert ways. The stats of our collective sexual dishonesty would be astronomical!
Many people exploring and opening to their authentic sexual desires are inclined to keep their sexual explorations secret due to tangible fears of being shamed, harshly judged or punished about their personally meaningful and normal sexuality.
Many take risks, in some cases very high risks, to express their sexual desires in dangerous clandestine ways, that are out of integrity with their agreements and responsibilities. When caught in their infidelity, the sad, ruinous, mythic drama – the fall from grace – gets played out over and over, individual by individual, celebrity and not, in every town and suburb across the land.
Many of these people get labeled as sex/porn addicts or self-label as addicts after the fact, when they are discovered.
I believe in many cases, the often vilifying, porn/sex addiction label, branded or grasped, misses a deeper dysfunction.
The significant issue being overlooked is what I identify as:
Sexual Authenticity Disorder – an extreme and often life-long effort to conceal aspects of ones sexuality and the fear of revealing or having your authentic sexuality discovered, shamed, judged or punished by others.
The primary symptoms of Sexual Authenticity Disorder are intense fear of discovery, sexual secrecy, modest to high-risk sexual behaviors, dishonesty, and an attendant shame and guilt.
This shadow of sexual dishonesty and secrecy plays out just as relentlessly on our local and personal stages, as on the national. Partners cheating on their partners behind their back, secretly chasing after every perversity imaginable online or in real life, getting caught and having their lives thrown into tragedy, will be an ever increasing eventuality in the current sex-negative and dishonest cultural framework.
You won’t find Sexual Authenticity Disorder listed in the DSM-V manual, and this is unfortunate considering the pervasiveness of the problem, but neither will you find sex or porn addiction. None are currently recognized nor accepted as psychological disorders by the American Psychiatry Association, so my defining SAD outside APA sanction is not without precedent!
The reason people hide or are dishonest about their authentic sexual desires may fall within some sex or porn addiction model in some percentage of cases. Clearly excessive porn use can become a compulsive behavior. It may become problematic and lead to numerous imbalances in other parts of one’s life.
Is compulsive porn viewing significantly different than one’s compulsion to check their Facebook feed, email, texts and all social media excessively. In this wireless digital age, our mind’s eye can get glued to our device screens be it pixelated with porn or Facebook.
These compulsive behaviors do point to important underlying psychological issues that are calling to be addressed, but I feel the excessive aspect is more the issue than what the behavior is focused on.
If addiction is the model that makes sense to the one seeking support around their sexual expression, by all means, pursue therapy under the sex/porn-addiction model.
But if the label does not seem to fit, even if you are a regular porn user or have a high sex drive, then consider that you may have not yet owned and honored what is sexually true for you.
You have a right to be who you are sexually, and define your own norm in ways that are conscious, consensual and risk aware.
It is clear to me, from the hundreds of men, women and couples I have worked with the last 18 years, and analysis of over 2800 people’s responses on my Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth Survey, that these emerging sexual explorations are routinely conducted in clandestine, or secretive ways.
My clients indicate this secrecy is due to fear of how partners, families, social, professional or spiritual communities may judge them, not because they are sexually addicted.
The narrow narrative predominant among sex/porn addiction theorists, the scandal driven news media, and sex-negative fundamentalists of every stripe, brushes over the expansive ecstatic depths of human sexuality that are being explored and expressed all across the world.
My concern is that the current psychological tools used to assess someone as a sex/porn addict, a hypersexual or a sexual deviant, and who is therefore “normal,” are inadequate and outdated.
These typically narrow-gauge assessments do not allow for nor encourage this amazing range of emerging sexuality. Many assessed as having a sexual disorder may simply be men and women who have an alternative sexuality that is outside the range of those doing the assessment.
I am reminded of the poignant reply by sex researcher Alfred Kinsey when asked how someone can identify or diagnose a woman as a nymphomaniac.
There was a similar over-the-top hysteria and handwringing about nymphomania in the 1950’s as there is about hypersexuality, sex and porn addiction now.
Kinsey framed it perfectly with his deadpanned quip, “A nymphomaniac is someone who has more sex than you do.”
In other words, Kinsey did not consider nymphomania a diagnosable psychological disorder. The implication by Kinsey was that normal sexuality should be considered as the personal sex-drive and style of the beholder.
I want you to know you have every right to express your authentic sexuality in negotiated consensual ways with your partners.
Your sexual desires, from mild to wild, are meant to be honestly, joyously, consciously explored and experienced, without fear or shame.
The key is to get in touch with the depths of your sexuality and learn to express it consensually, honestly, confidently and transparently.
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