Given my propensity for the controversial, it will most likely not surprise you when I say that I believe evangelicalism causes sexual addiction. I also very much want to say that I do not believe that sex addiction exists as an independent problem – in other words, though I do believe that hyper-sexuality certainly does exist in manic and hypo-manic states, and that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder may well engage in compulsive sexual behavior, I do not believe that one can be addicted to sex any more than one can be addicted to breathing. It may surprise you to learn that there is widespread disagreement within the mental health community over the issue of sexual addiction, so I am not alone in my belief.
But if I don’t believe in sexual addictions, how can I say that evangelicalism causes sexual addiction? I can say it because the more conservative an evangelical you are, the more obsessive you are about your genitals, and (more significantly) other people’s genitals and what they do with them. I believe that conservative evangelicalism and obsessive-compulsive disorder have a high incidence of co-morbidity. How can I say THAT? I can say that because OCD is an anxiety disorder, and there are few people in this world more anxious than a conservative evangelical!
Allow me a little anecdotal evidence. Several years ago I met a very nice man, I’ll call him Dick, who contacted me about celebrating his wedding to a very nice lady, let’s call her Virginia. They were distressingly pretty, both of them. He confided to me that he was a sex addict who belonged to the local evangelical mega-church. He said he liked to watch porn and masturbate, so that made him a sex addict. His “addiction” did not prevent him from attending to the chores of daily life, or going to work, or being sexual with his Virginia, or anything else. His “addiction” began when he was married to his ex-wife, who was not interested in being sexual with Dick. Dick had joined the men’s group at the mega-church which had as its focus sex addicts and masturbation. Honestly. These men got together and talked about their temptations to masturbate, how often they were tempted, how often they failed (or succeeded, depending on your perspective) and actually choked the professor, and how often they had sex (the only acceptable answer to that question for the unmarried was, “never,” and if they did then that was further evidence of sexual addiction), and the blow-by-blow (ahem) details of what they did when they had sex with an actual human being. Dick’s own hyper-vigilance about his sexuality wasn’t relieved (you should pardon the pun), but rather exacerbated by his membership in this men’s group to the point where it disrupted his sex life with his Virginia – the details of which Dick reported back to his men’s group, no doubt fueling the masturbatory fantasies of his colleagues in the group who of course then had to return to the group and confess that they, too, had choked the chicken, and on and on it went. Of course, all of this was completely unacceptable to God, who apparently created us with genitals and sex drives by mistake and now would prefer that Dick and Virginia keep their hands to themselves – but off themselves.
So the mega-church pastor wouldn’t celebrate the wedding of Dick and Virginia, because he knew all about Dick’s propensity to beat the bishop as well as his propensity to attempt to do the mattress dance with Virginia, though his ability to function in bed was disrupted by intrusive thoughts of his fellow flounder pounders from the men’s group and what they might think (and do) when he went back to report his time in Virginia.
Speaking of Dick and Virginia, since Dick was unable to confess his physical and emotional attraction to Virginia because doing so led him to think sexual thoughts, which made him want to cuff the carrot and therefore left him unacceptable to God, he came to look at their upcoming nuptials as a business transaction, focusing exclusively on what each of them brought to the relationship financially. Hardly the basis for a healthy relationship, but at least his men’s group approved!
I am going to share with you what I shared with Dick. Run far and run fast from any peer led group that purports to offer you “support” in the area of “sexual addiction,” because they tend to be filled with people who are much sicker than the average Dick and therefore are completely unhealthy. I told him to have sex with Virginia, enjoy it, and not tell anybody about it because anyone who asked was being boundariless and inappropriate. I told him that if he felt like pulling the Pope, then he should – and not tell anyone about it, not because he was ashamed, but because it was perfectly natural and nobody’s business but his – assuming that it wasn’t interfering with his relationship with Virginia and his ability to carry out the activities of daily living!
Oh, I can hear it now…millions of conservative evangelicals filled with anxiety because of the terrible things I have written. If that is what you are feeling right now, I have to ask a few questions: What kind of God would be as obsessed with human sexuality as you seem to be? What kind of God, who said, “be fruitful and multiply” would be upset when people did? Perhaps most importantly, if “sexual purity” is so important, why do you believe that intrusive, voyeuristic behavior is an appropriate way to enforce sexual propriety? In other words, are you saying that it’s OK to be inappropriate, as long as we do so in the name of propriety?
The truth is that if the religious world would just relax about the whole spectrum of human sexual behavior, including pocket pool, most alleged cases of “sexual addiction” would dry up and blow away. (I am killing myself, here.) What is stopping that from happening? A multi-million dollar industry that has arisen (pardon the pun) over the issue of sexual rehab is invested in keeping conservative evangelicals of all stripes obsessed about their sexuality and so acting out compulsively! There is money to be made, and one thing that is almost universally true about religion is that it won’t look a money-maker in the mouth.
When I was in college the first time I had a communications professor at Marquette University. I’m afraid I have long forgotten his name, but he related the story of how he, a Protestant, had married a Roman Catholic woman and was required to meet with the priest who was to marry them. This professor believed in birth control, and had prepared an entire debate case regarding birth control to bring to bear on the priest. His effort was unnecessary, however, when the priest summed up a very elegant sexual ethic in one sentence. It’s more than a little radical, but I want to offer it to you now in closing:
I don’t care what you do, just don’t hurt each other.