I was excited to be part of The Hack panel that discussed and dismantled 'sex addiction' on ABC2 last night.
Facilitated by Tom Tilley, the panel consisted of Tim (virgin, Christian sex educator), George (sexual enthusiast), Ben (sex addict), Candice (dated a sex addict), Alinda Small (pro sex- addiction psychiatrist), Nikki Goldstein (anti sex-addiction sexologist) and myself, a sex positive activist.
The show centered around Jason's sexual addiction and how it has impacted his life, family, relationships and partner, Cassie. We were allowed into one of their couple's therapy sessions, where Jason confessed that he had relapsed and viewed pornography via Instagram. When discussing his affliction, Jason expressed accountability and vulnerability; he was honest when detailing the intense struggles he faces everyday to move into a space where he has a healthier and happier relationship with sex.
Ben addressed his sexual addiction, but it was unclear as to whether he has been formally diagnosed in the same way Jason had. The way he spoke was more akin to someone with a very high libido as opposed to a 'sex addict.' By his own admission, he put many 'notches in his belt', an analogy for sleeping with women, citing that he had slept with around fifty people in eight months.
The inclusion of George, was divisive for many. He was a young, cis-heterosexual male whose narrative centred around his infidelity that lead to the end of his relationship with his girlfriend. He didn't have a conclusive opinion on 'sex addiction', wasn't an expert in the field, nor had he faced any form of addiction in his life.
Candice spoke candidly about the shame, guilt and stigma that impacted her when she dated a sex addict. It was clearly difficult for her to express the strain that her partner's actions had on her.
Much was said online about Tim the virgin, Christian sex educator. Religious institutions have a detailed history of stifling the LGBTIQA+ community, although Tim did identify as an ally and included many positive aspects of his approach to sexual education.
My background wasn't introduced on the show so it may have been difficult for the audience to understand why I was there; as Secretary of the Australian Sex Party, I have been a sex positive activist for close to a decade. I have run as a candidate for the party numerous times, have spoken on panels and podcasts about the power of female promiscuity and work to empower women to have a greater connection with their sexuality.
While the validity of the term ‘sex addiction’ was debated, it must be noted that it is yet classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, however, 'gambling disorder' is. Almost every criteria that applies to gambling disorder, can be extended to the lived experiences of self-described sex addicts that appeared on the show.
Perhaps the terminology needs to be changed so that we can offer appropriate information and treatment to people who feel affected by this affliction.
The Hack took on a huge task when it came to unpacking this salacious term and gave people an opportunity to connect with stories that exist outside Hollywood headlines.