Sex Addiction: More than Psychological Harm
One of the elements of an addiction is continuing a behavior even after the harm is known. The damage sex addiction causes to relationships and the way it hurts the ability of those afflicted to even form normal relationships – all this is well known. What should be more of a concern is the physical dangers sex addicts face.
The Tiger Woods incident focused on the number of partners he had and the marital problems – his fights and then the subsequent divorce. The news covered each twist; the apology, the rehab and the promises to change his ways. Unreported was the risk all sex addicts face of contracting diseases.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer was an exception. In May, they listed five philanderers (Tiger Woods, Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Jesse James) and reported that these men didn’t wear condoms. This is reminiscent of Winston Bennet, a former NBA bench warmer who described his sexual addiction as a compulsion and claimed to have had sex with about 45 partners a month – without a condom. Bennet is also married and admitted to giving his wife two STDs.
Estimating the danger
The mathematics don’t allow for much wiggle room. The phrase, “When you have sex with someone, you are having sex with everyone they’ve had sex with” gives the nature of the exponential relationship. It isn’t additive, it’s multiplied. Estimating the rate and type of STDs is difficult in the sex addict community. You aren’t required to confess your lifestyle when you get treated for infections.
One estimate can be had from those who have multiple sex partners, and unprotected sex, as part of their job description. Actors in the pornography industry are ten times more likely to get an STD than normal. And in this industry, actors are tested regularly for AIDS – something that is not true for sex addicts in general. How bad is it? This month, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation filed a complaint against Larry Flynt in Los Angeles based on occupational health issues. The premise is that allowing pornography actors to have unprotected sex presents a dangerous workplace environment.
Will an appreciation for these dangers keep a sex addict from their ‘drug’? Probably not. Part of the attraction is the risk. But they could at least practice safer sex. When STDs only meant an embarrassing trip to the doctor, things were different. With herpes (the gift that keeps on giving) and deadly AIDS, times are different. Psychological and relationship damage will remain, but these tragedies might resolve in time. A case of AIDS will not. And the tragedy of giving a non-sex addict spouse a fatal disease is equivalent to negligent homicide.