Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Sex addicts have no problem – until they get caught

Where are these sex clinics? What courses do they offer? Do I have to practise or can I book myself in straightaway, like Tiger Woods?

Russell Brand has been to one and he's had a thousand lovers, so they've obviously got a fantastic success rate. Pine Grove in Mississippi, which is currently home to the reclusive golfer, has even got a dog which bounds around and makes new guests feel welcome.

Oh, I see, it's actually a drug-sniffing dog. And people go there to wean themselves off sex, not to learn how to do it better. Sorry, but I'm rapidly going off the idea, not least because Pine Grove looks exactly like a golf club. Maybe that's why Woods chose it, but he was looking pensive, if not actually glum, when he was snapped in the grounds last week. Frankly, anyone who is willing to pay large quantities of cash to spend six weeks listening to lectures entitled ‘What is celibacy?’ has got a problem, though not necessarily the one he thinks he's got.

Sex addiction has been around for a while now, although it's not recognised as a disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. John F Kennedy behaved like a sex addict in every respect save one, which is that he never gave any sign of thinking his sexual appetite was a problem. One of the few things that can be said in favour of Bill Clinton is that he didn't take the addiction route to excuse his abusive behaviour to women; he just lied about it, and when that didn't work he made up with his wife by trying to help her become president.

One of the first celebs to attract the label was the actor Michael Douglas, who now says it was inaccurate, but the most jaw-dropping recent case is that of Lord Laidlaw. This is what the multimillionaire Scottish peer had to say two years ago: “I have been fighting sexual addiction for my whole adult life. I have been in therapy a number of times, but I have not worked hard enough or continuously enough on this. I should also have been stronger in resisting temptations.” I'd say anyone who has given in excess of three million quid to the Tories is definitely in need of therapy, but the significant thing about Laidlaw's mea culpa is its timing — just as the News of the World was about to reveal his attendance at parties where women apparently charged £3,000 a night for sex.

This is my problem with the notion of ‘sex addiction’: how, exactly, does it differ from greed? Isn't it about bad decision-making and a reluctance to exercise self-control? I've noticed it's often self-diagnosed by famous people whose marriages and careers are at risk, allowing them to appear as patients struggling to cope with a serious psycho-medical condition rather than shameless sexual predators. As a label, it's confused and confusing, for it's possible to have numerous sexual partners without displaying any of the symptoms of addiction or — and this is surely the point — exploiting other people.

So-called ‘sex addicts’ often turn out to have been leading double lives, presenting themselves as uxorious husbands while seizing every sexual opportunity that comes their way.

I was hoping for tantric sex workshops at the very least, but I'll just have to make do with another bar of Green & Black's. Not that I'm greedy, you understand. My name is Joan and I'm a chocolate addict.

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