Sex, Romance & Other Dangerous Drugs

by bonnie on November 10, 2011

Dear Reader:

Yes, I’ve been out of touch for the past couple of months and apologize for my long, but necessitated absence. (Wish I had a clone or doppleganger!)

Now, I’m back with a brief review of a new book on love and sex addiction as well as my personal take on the subject and my prescription for transcendance.:

Sex, Romance and Other Dangerous Drugs Is the subtitle of a new book by journalist/screen writer Ethlie Ann Vare. The main title is Love Addict.  In it, the author gives a highly personal account of her own history of romantic obsession, attraction to unavailable and/or dangerous men, and the overwhelming need to use sex to numb her emotional pain.  Even though she’s writing about a disturbing topic, Ethlie infuses her narrative with wit, irony and a breezy writing style: “I’m the kind of love addict who can walk into a room filled with admirers, find the one person who is not interested, and fall in love instantly. It’s their very unavailability that makes them desirable. If you could only get him (or her, or him/her, or wherever you sit in that church) it would prove, damn it, that you’re not the unlovable dweeb you know yourself to be. Because if someone that hard to get gets got – and a quickie in the ladies room stall counts – well, you must be all that, plus tax and tip.”

Vare also has a pet name for love addiction, which I think is brilliantly accurate:  Affection deficit disorder, which Ethlie says beats the more clinica term “hysteroid dysphoria, which is what psychiatrist Donlad Klein called it in the 1980 Diagnosis and Drug Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders. As Ethlie puts it: “I crave affection, yearn for affection, long for affection…I can never seem to get enugh affection. Interestingly, I have the same problem with appetizers. Sit me in front of a nice buffet and I can eat for a week. The mechanism that signals the brain, ‘no more thanks, I’m fine!’ doesn’t function properly. I’m never fine and I always need more. ” In her book, Ethlie explores the psychological neurological and biochemical reasons for such addictive behavior as well as ways to recognize and overcome what she calls “a truly debilitating disease”. Her book is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as her web site: http://affectiondeficitdisorder.tumblr.com/

My take on the whole topic of love and sex addiction, is that in today’s social climate it’s a complicated issue. In our modern world, where a growing number of people – singles and couples - are exploring alternate ways of connecting – via open marraiges, polyamory, etc. (see Daphe Rose Kingma’s The Future of Love , some would say that sexuality can be viewed as merely a pleasant way to exchange energy by two (or more) consenting adults. And if both are on the same wavelength, what’s the harm?

Well, on a purely physical level human beings, like wolves,  are pack animals – bonding with other humans is wired into our brains as a survival mechanism. So the sexual bond also triggers chemicals that give us not only a sense of pleasure, but of safety, connection, even meaning. That’s why we often project onto our sexual partner positive qualities that they may or may not actually possess. And that’s why sexual chemistry alone, while a delightful experience, cannot sustain a relationship. .Rather, it can trigger unmet needs for care, nurturing, compassion, acceptance, admiration, and, of course, love. Conversely, if one’s early bonding experiences have resulted in feelings of engulfment, entrapment, lack of choice or autonomy, sexual connection can trigger the desire to run, or to quickly move on to a new partner. The way our society is currently structured, it takes years of self-inquiry and psychotherapy to heal the wounds that result in sex and love addiction. (A great self-help book on the subject is Undefended Love by Drs. Jett Psaris and Marlena S. Lyons.)  However, unless we create communities that truly encourage and support such change, it’s extremely likely that many will continue to be caught in sexual liasons that thwart or diminish their full humanity.

One great glimmer of hope for such change on a broad social scale is through an organization, I’ve encountered called “The Zegg Community” and the book by it’s founding psychiatrist/sociologist Dr. Dieter Duhm The book’s title is The Sacred Matrix: The Foundation for a New Civilisation . In it he espouses a new form of healing community that supports all forms of relationships and gives each person a voice in expressing what’s is deeply brewing in his or her heart. Regardless of what is going on In one’s intimate relationship, anyone in the group can request and receive loving care and support from others in their community by simply calling forth a “Forum” or gathering of the tribe,  and making a request. So people experience having many options or choices for care, support, compassion, understanding, etc., resulting in a true feeling of empowerment.

Thus, I’m guessing that if we structured our communities as described in The Sacred Matrix, there would be far fewer incidences of sex or love addiction. Men and women – whether monogamous, polyamorous, straight, gay or bisexual, would be invited and encouraged to express what’s in their hearts and souls, to accept their own deepest wants and needs without judgement, and to experience the compassion and understanding of their community.  Similarly couples who are in struggle, can reach out for support and guidance in navigating their relationships

In such an environment, sexual connecting will more likely be based not on sexual chemistry, alone, but on the rich tapestry that makes up each individual human being. No longer will sex be used as a drug to camoflage pain, but rather as a path to blissful connection with the body, heart and soul of a treasured fellow traveller in this perplexing universe.

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