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Helen has been writing at the Cast Iron Balcony since 2003. She has been a proud contributor to the Australian Group blogs Road to Surfdom, Larvatus Prodeo and Progressive Dinner Party. She's a blogger, she's a grinner, she's a mother, she's a sinner. She plays her music in the sun.

This author has written 35 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about Helen »

22 responses to “Are you a sex addict, or merely a dirty slut?”

  1. evil_fizz

    There are so many unsettling points in Brand’s piece that it’s hard to pick just one or two for comment, but (a) the rehab center sounds like a fraud of breathtaking proportions (sex addiction is one hell of a euphemism for child rape [editor note: other inhabitants were there to ameliorate child rape charges, not Brand]) and (b) having unprotected sex with thousands of partners makes you a spectacular (if not pathological) ass.

    But, yeah, Mr. Brand, it’s all good for a laugh.

  2. tigtog

    Just a minor nit-pick – Brand’s confessions about his sexual incontinence pre-date those of Tiger Woods – the linked article is from 2007, and the book it was promoting was a best-seller for ages.

  3. Not owning up to this comment

    I think my husband would be happy with either, at least for a while.

    ETA: damn you gravatar!

  4. Ariane

    I’m not commenting on Russell Brand, and I agree whole-heartedly with the different way men and women are treated with respect to reports of unbridled sexual activity. However, I’d like to ask if you were implying that sex addiction doesn’t exist at all? It sort of read that way to me.

    I’m not pretending to know for sure if sex addiction definitely meets some criteria for clinical diagnosis, but I think enough people identify with the term in a “genuinely trying to gain control over the behaviour” kind of way, rather than hiding behind it as an excuse, to not dismiss it as though it doesn’t exist.

  5. tigtog

    I’m not pretending to know for sure if sex addiction definitely meets some criteria for clinical diagnosis, but I think enough people identify with the term in a “genuinely trying to gain control over the behaviour” kind of way, rather than hiding behind it as an excuse, to not dismiss it as though it doesn’t exist.

    This strikes me as a very good point, but it still comes down to women who are promiscuous being treated as if being slutty is a moral flaw, and men who are promiscuous being treated as if it is a medical condition.

    The truth for any individual probably lies along a spectrum between the two positions, but the terms used to describe the behaviour are very gendered.

  6. Ariane

    Yes, I’m sorry, I meant it as an aside to the main point of the post – with which I completely agree. There are women who identify as sex addicts, but you’ll never see them portrayed as having a medical condition.

  7. WildlyParenthetical

    Actually, it’s really interesting to look at the differences between men’s and women’s tests for sex addiction; and the differences between gay men and straight men’s tests. Apparently gay women are never sex addicts, just for the record… you can find them easily available online. According to those tests, for the record, more than half of my students are probably sex addicts. ;-P And I’m pretty sure I count as one too. [shrug] Woo, slut pride, &c!

    I’ve read some interesting stuff about sex addiction, and the ‘treatments’ for it; enough to be troubled that we yet again are pathologising forms of sexual behaviour we don’t like, for whatever reason. It’s apparently a slippery slope from ‘wrong’ to ‘sick’, and in ways that can be pretty conservative, imo.

  8. Helen

    However, I’d like to ask if you were implying that sex addiction doesn’t exist at all? It sort of read that way to me.

    I haven’t done enough homework to really say myself whether it “exists” – I’m just commenting on the way it seems to be applied to one gender. If anything I tend towards Wildly P’s opinion that to some degree it’s pathologising behaviour – we don’t need to make all bad behaviour into a “disease” or “condition”. I’m tempted to pathologise, myself, the sheer overblown sense of entitlement and seeing women as a kind of all you can eat smorgasbord, but then I remember this is a social meme that’s been around since James Bond and Hugh Hefner, and before that.

  9. Ariane

    I can understand WP’s position, but I also think there is value in labelling a situation in which a person feels that their behaviour has become self-destructive and all but impossible to control. I realise that there is a risk that the determination of “self-destructive” may be made by society rather than the person themselves, but that doesn’t mean the reverse isn’t possible. I agree that, particularly in the media, the gender bias is dangerous, but I’m cautious about dismissing the concept altogether when both men and women describe themselves as having an addiction to sexual activity in the traditional vein of addiction – using the behaviour as self-medication to the exclusion of other coping skills and to their own detriment.

    They may or may not be the minority of the people who claim to be sex addicts, and again, I really do agree with your central point, I just don’t like seeing things that people genuinely identify with in scare quotes.

  10. Mindy

    I think sex addiction is a very hetero male thing at the moment. Hetero women are ‘sluts’, I suspect gay men would be called predatory and I’m not sure what lesbian women would be labeled. I suspect that transgender people who identified as a sex addict would be seen as having a psychological condition in need of curing. I know none of this for certain, but it seems almost like it’s a badge of honour or an excuse for going outside social norms when you have been caught.
    I’m sure there are wealthy men who have been doing what Tiger Woods did, for years and who will never be held up to public ridicule because they aren’t tall poppies in the same way and possibly also because they aren’t black tall poppies.

  11. Helen

    I agree that, particularly in the media, the gender bias is dangerous, but I’m cautious about dismissing the concept altogether when both men and women describe themselves as having an addiction to sexual activity in the traditional vein of addiction – using the behaviour as self-medication to the exclusion of other coping skills and to their own detriment.

    You definitely have something there Ariane – although I don’t think I’ve overstated the situation: a claim to sex addiction may be quite reasonable depending on the person making it, but that avenue does seem to be rather more open to men, as far as I can see from my forays into tabloid world.

  12. Ariane

    a claim to sex addiction may be quite reasonable depending on the person making it, but that avenue does seem to be rather more open to men, as far as I can see from my forays into tabloid world.

    And no dispute from me there at all – I can’t think of any occasion where the media has ever portrayed a woman sympathetically as a sex addict, despite (as I understand it) their existence. I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean to imply that I disagreed with your main point.

  13. Carol

    I have seen women portrayed as having a genuine medical (addiction) issue. (The blog Becoming Jennie deals specifically with this.) Additionally I’ve read Russell Brand’s book, and his dealing with his addiction (which he does describe as making his life fairly miserable, much like an alcoholic’s life is fairly miserable) which he treats fairly seriously, for him. (Remember he’s a multiple addict, and humor is one of his defense mechanisms.) Part of his admitted problem is that he wasn’t treating his female partners with respect – he didn’t seem to have a judgment on whether they were professionals or whatever.
    Also, in his initial sexual experience, he was a minor being coerced into the experience by his father. How would you react on hearing this was a trip that a girl made with her mother or father?

  14. WildlyParenthetical

    Carol, I wouldn’t want to speak for everyone, but I suspect *everyone* here would think that that situation was reprehensible and criminal. I’m not sure what you’re trying to say with that? I think maybe you’re implying that because he had this terrible experience, we should be okay with his claim to ‘sex addiction’ (which, really, I’m not invested in: he can claim it if he likes, I just reserve the right to put ‘sex addiction’ in scare quotes because I think it’s a problematic and under-considered ‘pathology’). But whatever the case, Helen’s point (and I might get this wrong, Helen, so please correct me!) is that men are easily classed as having this ‘addiction’, which they can’t help, and which they can’t really be held responsible for; and women, on the other hand, are predominantly, for the same thing, being treated as if they are simply sluts who should behave better, who should rein in their desires and not tempt men and so on and so on and so on, lest they destroy Civilisation As We Know It.

    The interesting thing about the definition of women’s sex addiction (according to the questionnaires I’ve been talking about) include things like reading romance novels, wearing revealing clothing, doing romantic things like preparing romantic dinners…. which, of course, contrast with consuming porn, having sex with multiple partners etc etc for men. Whilst yes, to me, it matters that people adopt particular identities, I’m interested in asking why and how people come to experience particular behaviours as problematic for themselves, especially when medicine/the psy disciplines agree. But that’s because I don’t think it’s a simple distinction between individuals experiencing certain behaviours as self-destructive, and society telling them they are. And more than all of that, I’m horrified by the ‘techniques’ recommended for ‘treatment’ of sex addiction, which seem to me to involve some awfully conservative, often misogynist and anti-queer, but in any case basically problematic ideals of relationships…

  15. Helen

    Yes, I’d agree that his Dad’s actions constitute abuse of the young Russell as he was then, Carol. But it’s true that at the same time, that abuse took the form of schooling the young’un into how to abuse others. Notice how he says that for all he knows they could have been suicidal Sylvia Plaths but he really couldn’t have given a rat’s. I think he has a good case to say “my head has been a bit f*ked up by my Dad”, for sure. But there are a lot of f*ked up women, too, at that.

  16. fuckpoliteness

    I think that the link re vajazzling that you posted on another thread by accident might be a joke Helen…just that their ‘headlines’ read way too much like a parody to…well not be…:

    * My Plans To Stop Illegal Immigration and Make Money For The United States
    * Atheists Team with Gays To Attack Catholocism, Promote Gay Agenda
    * Muslim Arab ‘Miss America’ Rima Fakih Is A Stripper Poll Dancer Pictures
    * Swim Home and Get Out of My Country, Mexicans
    * Japanese Create Secret Solar Powered Space Ship, Venusian Photon War Guns

    and they then link to some pervy images/their ‘gravatars’ seem to poke fun at Christians etc…

  17. Helen

    D’oh! It’s that Landover Baptist mob again I suppose!
    If I’d seen the Venusian Photon War Guns I might have realised… then again we are talking about US wingnuts.

  18. Tasmanianbadger

    I’d argue that men are culturally shoved towards at least trying to fit in with the knuckle dragging, footy fixated, monosyllabic grunting ‘blokey’ role. A large part of this role is to have a lack of emotional self awareness and emotional maturity. Doesn’t it stand to reason that individuals who have limited emotional development are more likely to suffer from something like sex addiction?

    That said, media respresentation of women is – and has always been – referenced to male preferences and perceptions. Is this a surprising thing to anyone?

  19. hexy

    I’ve found that descriptions/discussions of “sex addiction” always seem a little more salacious and sensationalised than descriptions/discussions of “people using sex as a compulsive behaviour”. Perhaps it’s all in the tone.

  20. Sam Bauers

    I just wanted to offer this article, which seems to be a thoughtful exploration of the underlying sexual addiction angle (although somewhat old now).

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/nov/08/gender.weekend7

  21. Katie

    The problem isn’t with the condition, its with how its applied. Do I think that there are Sex Addicts out there? Yes. It is a solely male issue? Hell no. Its just that men always be seeming to look for an excuse for these behaviors. This is as old as the “Its my testosterone” excuse.

  22. Liz

    This guy’s dad is … beyond words. I just can’t believe it. The sad thing is that sex addiction is real, but it seems like it gets trivialized by stuff like this. And then there are the spouses, who also suffer, and wonder what life is going to be like once there’s treatment, and if they can put their marriages back together again. Erotic Intelligence
    by Alexandra Katehakis addresses this topic with tips on creating a healthy sex life post treatment. It’s not some academic tome based on a theor of how to recover sexual health. She’s an accomplished therapist who has guided hundreds of individuals through the process she outlines in the book (I love the “straight from the trenches” approach). It’s real advice that really works. I hope Russell Brand reads it…

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