Category Archives: Sex Addiction

Interesting Web Use Info from “Click”

Bill Tancer, who leads global research at Hitwise (an online market research company), has written a book about Internet use trends called “Click.” It’s an interesting read, and has some information specifically related to online pornography use. I’ll share a couple of statistics, and then add some of my thoughts.

In the massive database of websites that it tracks and analyzes, Hitwise follows the usage logs of just over 40,000 adult sites. Tancer offers some insight based on the analysis of these sites.

Overall porn use

  • In August 2005, 16% of all web traffic was on these 40,000 adult web sites. In other words, 16% of all web use was focused on 40,000 porn web sites.
  • In August 2007, 10% of all web traffic was on these 40,000 sites. That represents a decrease in porn use, relative to other web traffic. (There are a couple caveats I would throw out, however. See below.)

Time spent on individual porn sites

  • in August 2005, the average time a given user spent on any particular adult web site was 5 minutes, 38 seconds.
  • In August 2007, that time had increased to 6 minutes, 29 seconds (an increase of 15%). Tancer suggests that the reason for the increase of time on each site has to do with the increased availability of video on adult web sites.

Percentage of women and men accessing porn sites

  • Of the 40,000 adult web sites Hitwise tracks, 73% of the visitors were male, and 27% were female.
  • Tancer doesn’t relate these figures to specific months of his study, and instead implies that this gender breakdown has remained fairly constant over the last couple years.
  • Some people might be surprised at how high the percentage of female visitors is to adult sites, because of the gender stereotype that women are not as attracted to visual pornography as are men (again see my comments below). But Tancer reminds readers that the adult sites also include erotic story sites, which have a higher percentage of female readers than male.

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Dealing with Isolation

I suppose it’s a “chicken and egg” kind of question: What comes first – isolation or addictive sexual behavior (a.s.b.)? People who are isolated are at risk for getting sucked into a.s.b., and people who engage in a.s.b. tend to get progressively more isolated. In the workshops I teach, I’m always struck by how isolated the men are. Aside from their wives (if married), they have no one they relate to on anything deeper than a surface level.

On the road of recovery, breaking the pattern of isolation is essential. Genuine connection is the key to relapse prevention and long term health. Having other people in our lives who know the whole truth about us breaks the shame, dispels the loneliness, and offers accountability and support we need when we start to get “slippery” about our boundaries.

I recently came across a helpful exercise for gauging how isolated we are feeling in key relational areas. The author of the article describes why isolation matters:

The more isolated we feel, the more likely we will be to act out. Sexual addiction is an effort to “fix” our isolated feelings with sex. Sex gives us a feeling of connectedness, even if it is a total fantasy of connectedness. You can’t connect with an actor in a porn movie or image. You can’t connect with a prostitute. In reality, even a short lived extramarital affair is not true connectedness, it is merely a short term, unreal relationship.

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Sex Addiction in the News: Hollywood still doesn’t get it

A recent NY Times article reports a strange and unfortunate promotional strategy for the upcoming movie Choke: beads commonly used as sex toys attached to a bookmark. The movie Choke is about a sex addict. We’ll see if the portrayal is accurate or if it just relies on easy stereotypes. If so, it wouldn’t be the first (Blades of Glory comes readily to mind).

As the Times article puts it: “Move over, tubby; take a break, old maid, there’s a new straw man available for theatrical ridicule: the sex addict. Even as Hollywood has learned, slowly, not to mock the handicapped or brand all Middle Easterners as terrorists, and has turned a more sensitive eye toward alcoholics and drug addicts, it has shown little tact in portraying people diagnosed with sex addiction.”

Later in the article we read:

One participant, who asked for anonymity in accordance with [12 step sex addiction recovery] program’s traditions, said he was offended by the sex toy promotion at Choke.

“It’s like if they made a movie about alcoholism and they were handing out shot glasses or a movie about diabetes and they were handing out sugar cookies,” said the man, who is in his 40s and works in publishing.

What made him seek help was a pattern of “rapidly diving into one romantic entanglement after another, sometimes more than one at a time, without getting to know a person,” he said.

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Porn addiction among college students

Latest news from the “it’s about time” front: The University of Texas at Dallas is including porn addiction counseling as part of their counseling services on campus. By now, we all know what a problem porn addiction can be and it’s great to see colleges working to deal with this issue on campus. If you are in college and are spending more time looking at porn than studying, you may want to check out this website. Here is an excerpt of the article … which contains some basic info about sex addiction:

“Pornography as a potential addiction … can happen when people spend increasing amounts of time using pornography and begin using increasingly more extreme pornographic material. This increase in use occurs even though the use has negative consequences. Some people find that their entire sex life revolves around pornography and they are unable to be sexually involved with a real person without the use of pornography.

How would you know if your pornography use is harmful to you? The following are some signs that pornography use is problematic:

How fantasy keeps sex addicts from real intimacy

Hooded GuyI think that the White Book from sexaholics anonymous is one of the best books out there about sex addiction. This book has great insights about how lust gets in the way of true intimacy. Here’s a great quote from the book, which describes the descent into addiction that it calls “The Problem:”

Early on, we came to feel disconnected — from parents, from peers, from ourselves. We tuned out with fantasy and masturbation. We plugged in by drinking in the pictures, the images, and pursuing the objects of our fantasies. We lusted and wanted to be lusted after.

We became true addicts: sex with self, promiscuity, adultery; we bought it, we sold it, we traded it, we gave it away. We were addicted to the intrigue, the tease, the forbidden. The only way we knew to be free of it was to do it. “Please connect with me and make me whole!” we cried with outstretched arms. Lusting after the big fix, we gave away our power to others.
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“Unmanageability” and Sex Addiction

Out of control fireAlexandra Katehakis has a great article on her site about unmanagebility that got me thinking. Part of the reason many sex addicts struggle to get and stay sober is that sex addiction can be hidden in ways that other addictions cannot. It’s true that “we reap what we sow,” but still. People can go for years dysfunctionally dependent on various types of sexual activity to help them cope with life … and keep this hidden from people around them.

But eventually life starts to unravel. And inexorably, the soul of the addict starts to shrivel up. When we live in unreality, consistently behaving in ways that run counter to our values, and keep significant parts of our lives hidden from people we love, part of us dies … no matter how good we are at lying.

Here’s a few lines from Alexandra’s article:

There are a lot of “functioning” addicts out there, whatever that means! People who are highly compartmentalized can “function” in life. That means, they can fool their partners, their bosses, and even themselves, for awhile. Eventually though, the addiction always catches up with them.

In the tradition of the 12-steps “unmanagability” really means “messes.”

What about relying on God’s power to help you heal from addiction?

addiction and lightMany of the talks I give are in settings with evangelical Christians, and there is sometimes an unwritten expectation that the solutions offered in these settings should fit a specific schema. If the steps suggested for healing and recovery don’t sound “spiritual” enough, people get nervous. I recently gave a talk, and got the question “What about the power of God? Where is the power of Christ to bring healing in all this?”

I had emphasized the need for people to get into recovery groups with other guys, to get honest, and establish boundaries around sexual behavior (among other things). But to people used to hearing messages where the solution to every problem boils down to more prayer / Bible study / evangelism, this probably sounded a little spiritually weak.

I have great respect for people who are devout, and who seek growth and healing in life from habits that arise out of their faith. But too many Christians make the mistake of seeing God’s work only in the mysterious and subjective. In an email response to the organizers of the event, here is what I said about this issue:

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HOLDING HOPE: a telephone seminar for partners, parents, and friends of people struggling with compulsive sexual behavior

Holding HopeThis February I am offering a four-part telephone seminar for spouses, friends, and parents of people struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors. I keep hearing that more help is needed, not just for sex addicts, but also for the people who love them — the wives, children, parents, and friends in addicts’ lives who are hurt, angry, anxious, and struggling to know how to help. Sexual compulsivity undermines marriages and families like no other addiction, and tragically, most spouses and family members suffer alone. Sex addiction carries its own unique and powerful shame, and many people don’t know where to turn for help and support.

Some specifics about the teleseminar:

Dates: Wednesdays in February (the 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th)

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