Friday, January 15

Sex Addiction v. Variety: Tiger’s transgressions.

With recent rumors that Tiger has checked into a Sex Addiction Recovery Center, I can’t help but to discuss the prevailing American sentiment that an individual should only have monogamous sex (whether married or not) in light of the concept of sex addiction.

Monogamy and Catholicism

To begin, we must examine the roots of the sentiment that we as a society should aspire to monogamous sex. As with many American attitudes, the thrust of disdain toward polygamy comes from the prevailing Catholic moral code governing how people are to live their lives. Catholics are specifically instructed not to have sex before marriage: Hebrews 13:4 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” When married, fornication must be monogamous: 1 Corinthians 7:2 “But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.”

If you have sex before married, have sex with more than one person at any given period of time, or have sex with someone other than your spouse when married-- you will go to hell. Sorry. Evolution is thrown out the window here.

Sex Addiction, 3 Approaches

Is sex addiction a clinical sickness, behaving “badly,” or simply the preference of multiple partners and/or very frequent sex.

1) Sex addiction qua sickness, the clinical approach.
Compulsive sex (not being able to control the urge to have sex, acting on the impulse). Here the definition of addiction follows that of drug addiction.

The typical pattern of chemical addiction is:
social use--experiences problem--dependence (impaired control-cannot consistently stop, compulsivity).

For sex addicts:
lots of sex with many people--problem?--dependence?.

2) Sex addiction qua “behaving badly,” the moral approach.
Breaking a moral code. For many Catholic law-abiding believers having sex before marriage and/or breaking the commitment of monogamy by having sex with someone other than one’s spouse when married violates the Catholic code. These are perceived as being acts of “sex addiction.” Here the line between actual clinical diagnosis and one’s personal religious beliefs is blurred.

3) Sex addiction qua personal preference, the biological approach.
Some examples of personal preference would be: maintaining multiple sex partners and/or having sex very frequently, possibly with many partners at once. Choosing to have sex once a month with a different partner each time. Choosing to have sex several times a day with a monogamous spouse. Or combinations thereof.

Here having frequent sex, doing so with a variety of people, and/or doing so before marriage is not “wrong” or “bad.” There’s nothing “immoral” or clinically diagnosable about these habits…they are simply a preference.

Case Scenario

Consider the following case scenario:

Man A is married, has a high sex drive, is impulsive. He has sex with his wife multiple times a day, watches porn with her, owns sex toys and sometimes calls his wife to have a quickie with her at work. He has not and will not sleep with anyone other than his wife. Both are very happy with their sex life, and feel they are “doing nothing wrong.”

Man B is not married, has a high sex drive, and tends toward impulsivity. He prefers to have sex with a variety of women, and does not want to be in a committed relationship. In one and the same week he may have sex with many different women via random hook-ups, perhaps with more than one partner at the same time. The women are aware that he is not monogamous and they are okay with it. No one is harmed, and to the contrary everyone is very happy.

Is Either of These Men a Sex Addict?

Both men like to have sex often. Both tend toward impulsivity. The only difference is one is married and having monogamous sex, the other is not and having polygamous sex.

1) The clinical application.
According to our clinical definition both men could be diagnosed with clinical sex addiction, and both could be treated due to their compulsivity regardless of who each is having sex with. Impulsive, uncontrollable, frequent sex is the definition of sex “addiction.”

2) The moral application.
Man B would be breaking a moral code if he were Catholic, since he’s not supposed to be having sex before being married. (On a related note, a married couple who both prefer to sleep with multiple partners while married would also be breaking the Catholic moral code.)

3) The personal preference application.
And yet neither would be a sex addict if their sex acts are simply a matter of personal preference. There is no inherent harm in what either is doing (so long as they are using protection and informed consent). If neither are Catholic, neither are violating a moral code.

We ask: is one a “sex addict” because their behavior is actually causing “harm” to themselves and/or another, or is one a sex addict because the prevailing American sentiment is to value monogamy over and above polygamy, with a clinical diagnosis as a convenient excuse to “treat” - or more accurately -‘reform’ improper and immoral habits?


What makes Tiger a sex addict? Is it because he cheated on his wife or because he preferred to have sex with many partners? The problem is people don’t recognize the distinction between being faithful and monogamy. Monogamy is a preference…i.e. that a man chooses to have sex with only one woman. Violating a vow to one woman has nothing to do with one’s sexual preference.

In other words, the issue with Tiger is not that he prefers to have sex with many women, but rather that Tiger violated his commitment to his wife of being monogamous. Violating this commitment does not make him a sex addict, but rather an idiot for getting married since clearly his sexual preference is for polygamy. I am not saying breaking a commitment is okay…it is not. If you can’t be faithful, don’t make a commitment of faith to someone.

(As an aside, I believe Tiger checked into rehab to repair his image. It’s the first step back to stardom.)

In Conclusion

This discussion points to the issue of clinically diagnosing someone with sex addiction in the first place. Is someone partaking in too much of a good thing with no harm as a result really enough to diagnose that person with an “addiction”? Isn’t the point of treating an “addiction” to help a person not harm him- or herself due to a destructive habit?

I just don’t see how having a lot of sex with many partners is “harmful” (if he/she acts responsibly by using protection as well as informing their partner of his/her sexual habits).

Regarding the morality issue, people are quick to label someone as a “sex addict” simply because they cheated. They believe someone was immoral because that person is suffering from an illness that caused them to be immoral. Sorry, but, just because someone acted immorally it does not mean they are suffering from a clinical illness.

Unfortunately, this sentiment is quite rife in our country and one that I find completely detestable. What is overlooked is the fact that compulsive and frequent sex can be a good thing, even by clinical standards. Whether this is with the same person each time or a different person each time really has no significance either way.

Like, does someone having a high sex drive with a preference for many partners make them an addict? Really?

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