By Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S
Consider how the following progression of access to sexual imagery and contact over time might affect someone vulnerable to compulsive and addictive sexual behavior:
Sexual Access Timeline
1. Prehistory to approx 1890 – cave art, prostitution, affairs, harems, compulsive masturbation to fantasy
2. 1890 to late 1970’s – photographic porn, film, porn theatres, strip clubs, adult bookstores
3. 1977 -1990 – VCR & Beta, Phone Sex
4. 1990 – 2004 – Bulletin Board (BBS), Chat Rooms, Porn Websites, Web cams, Craig’s List, interactive online sex, online hook-ups and prostitution sites
5. 2004 to the present – Smartphones with GPS locators, Social Networking (facebook, twitter, linkedin), Virtual World Sex, Sexting
6. And coming to your way very soon … Virtual Sex
Note above how the explosion of modern world technology has fuelled an equally exponential growth of access to graphic pornography and recreational sex partners. Think about the fact that over the many millennia it has taken for the brains, relationships, morality and ethics of mankind to develop, our sexual behavior was basically limited to art, cheating, imagination and self-stimulation. Yet in a period of little more than 100 years we have arrived at the point of near instant entry to explicit imagery and sexual partnering (for cash or free).
And while most people have the ability to limit their involvement with the above to the occasional or casual and therefore are relatively unaffected, there are those with similar emotional and psychological limitations to people with drug addictions, for whom this tricky combination has created a nightmare web of intrigue, secrecy, compulsion and broken relationships. We call these people Sex Addicts.
Change is Good
Fortunately for those who either by choice or via addiction-related negative life-consequences have recognized their vulnerability to addiction and choose to actively work on it, the new technologies also offer support. Today there are alternatives to a losing yourself to porn-obsession, compulsive masturbation or anonymous sex. All of the 12-step sexual recovery support groups (like SA, SAA, SCA, SLAA etc.) now offer not only websites that explain the nature of the problem, along with meeting and phone support lists – but also entrée to chat room based 12-step meetings, sponsors and social support for recovery.
As readily as you can employ the Internet to search for porn and prostitution, you can also find therapy organizations and individuals skilled in sex addiction treatment, those dedicated and trained to help guide behavior change and healing. The Internet also offers concrete, specific information about addiction problems and recovery/healing, information about sexual addiction in particular. Needed info that would rarely have been found before via the library, in phonebooks or at the doctor, pastor or psychotherapists’ office, even if one had been brave enough to talk about these potentially shameful problems.
Apps for that!
As rapidly as the social networks have risen to prominence, so support has evolved for all types of healing through apps (like iPromises Recovery Companion or iRecovery), programs that offer one-tap connection to local 12-step support, meetings and daily inspirational messages, along with the ability to monitor addiction triggers or track time sober.
For recovering sex addicts, sexting can be replaced with photos and video of loved ones, those meaningful reminders of why sobriety is important, while Smartphones and GPS offer to connection to higher levels of accountability to concerned spouses, therapists and sponsors. Current technology also offers the facility to set up multiple party phone calls or video support chats whenever wanted or needed. As our world becomes smaller and more immediate, so fortunately does access to help, guidance and change for those willing to put their time and focus into self-stability, integrity and healing.