The Talk

When I was around 12 years old, my mom gave me a sex talk. This wasn’t our first sex talk. At that point I already knew the basic mechanics, but this was her more mature talk designed for my seventh grade ears.

“When you start dating, you need to be careful. You can never trust a boy because all he is thinking about is sex,” she began. At this point I had never even kissed a boy, but my thoughts were not at all virginal. I fantasized about having sex with Giovani Georgallis, the tall, athletic, impossibly good-looking boy in my class I was too shy to even make eye contact with; Christian Slater in Pump Up The Volume, Leonardo Dicarprio in Growing Pains, Axel Rose from Guns ‘N Roses, or whomever my celebrity crush de jour was.

“But Mom, some girls like sex too.”

“Sex does feel good for women, but it’s different. For women it is more about love and emotions. For men it’s just sex. Men are obsessed with sex. It’s all they think about.” I thought about how much I fantasized about Gio, Christian, Leonardo and Axel. I wasn’t just imagining them being my boyfriends, I was imagining them on top of me. I thought about this a lot. Was I obsessed with sex too?

“Maybe that’s how it was when you were growing up, but girls are different now. Plus, not every guy is like that.”

“These things don’t change. Trust me. They will say or do anything. Lie, cheat, steal just for sex. That is ALL they think about.”

I left this conversation with two things: women shouldn’t like sex or think about it as much as men, and never trust a man. Thanks Mom!

In her defense, this sex talk was way more than a lot of my friends got, and way more than the talk my Aunt Buffy gave me a year or two later when I was living with her: “If I ever, EVER find out you are having sex you are out of this house!” (hey, it kept me a virgin until a month before I moved away to college). I doubt my mom ever even got a sex talk from her mother, my ultra conservative, super Catholic grandma.

Pretty much ever guy I’ve been involved with has lied to me, so maybe mom was right on this point. Of course, one could make the argument that since I believed all men to be untrustworthy, I only ever picked untrustworthy men.

The part of this talk that really screwed me up was the notion that women are not supposed to be into sex so much. I am and always have been obsessed with sex. Even before I knew what sex was, I was humping banisters and thinking about some boy from school (or Han Solo, my earliest crush on a fictional character). Thanks to the messages I got from the women in my family, I was always convinced that I was some kind of pervert freak.

I can waste a day watching porn online and masturbating. Even now that I’m in a program to treat sex addiction, I’ve never met another woman who has admitted to this. It’s not exactly like I’m shouting this from the rooftops either, though.

In meetings I identify as a sex and love addict. If I share about my acting out behaviors, it’s mostly about the “love” addiction — spying on my qualifier, obsessing over him, etc. When I share about my sex addiction it’s in extremely vague terms. I don’t want to offend or trigger anyone with tales of my sluttishness, but another reason is that I don’t want to admit to a room full of people that I watch porn or masturbate. “Girls don’t do that!”

I hear that statement in my Grandmother’s voice. One time when I was about 15 she walked in and I was lying on the couch watching tv. I had my hand down my pants scratching my crotch, Al Bundy style. Scratching only, I swear! But she thought I was doing something else.

“Don’t ever touch yourself there. Girls don’t do that!” I hadn’t yet figured out how to masturbate to completion so I hardly ever did it at that time. And if I did do it, it was behind a closed door and under heavy covers (God, and your dead relatives can’t see through covers). Still I was mortified that she would even think I was masturbating.

For the record, I think masturbation is totally healthy. And if you are someone who can watch porn in a moderate way, more power to you. I don’t think these behaviors are wrong. In fact neither one of them are even on my bottom-lines list (although porn might end up there on the next edit). I do think spending all day masturbating and watching porn is a problem, though.

As I was saying, in meetings I identify as a sex and love addict. A large percentage of the women there only identify as love addicts. In my judgier moments I think, why the fuck are you here then? But I know why they are there and they have just as much right to be there as I do.

My sponsor, a woman from my mother’s generation, is one of those women. She is nurturing, kind and so supportive. I am very grateful to have her. The only problem is I feel uncomfortable talking to her about the sex stuff. She just doesn’t get it and it is obvious how uncomfortable it makes her to talk about sex in even the most general of terms. I’d say she is probably a sexual anorexic, or in laymen’s terms, a prude.

I am currently recovering from/still going through a slip. I’m working on renewing my sobriety and recommitting to my bottom-lines. Today I was talking to my sponsor and going through my consequences inventory. I told her I had had phone sex. I didn’t want to tell her. I knew she’d be uncomfortable, but how can I go through this process without being honest about my behaviors?

I could hear that I’d made her ill at ease and instantly started minimizing. I’ve only done it once or twice (a lie), I’ve only done it with one guy (another lie). I also didn’t clarify that “phone sex” also meant “skype sex.” I told her that I think phone sex should be added to my bottom-lines list. She, of course, agreed. But she also asked me a question that was a little odd. She asked if I would want my daughter to be doing that. I said no, because I knew that’s what she was looking for. She said if I didn’t want my daughter doing it, then I shouldn’t be doing it myself.

The thing is though, if my 15-year-old daughter were having phone sex with a man, I would have a big problem with it. But I’m not 15, I’m 30. If my 30 year-old-daughter were having phone sex with someone, I wouldn’t care. It would be none of my business.

Asking me what I would want for my daughter made me think about my mom, my grandma, and my Aunt Buffy. They wouldn’t want me to have phone sex, but it’s because believe it to be morally wrong, not because it was making me feel bad.

I wouldn’t want my theoretical daughter, at any age, to be engaging in an activity that made her feel like shit, but I do want her to grow up with positive attitudes toward sex.

Since I’ve been identifying as a sex addict I’ve come across many people who get up in arms and want to argue that sex addiction isn’t a real thing. Most of these arguments seem to be rooted in semantics. To these people I say, who cares? If people are getting help for what they see to be a problem then why are you arguing about terminology? But a lot of people also think that “sex addicts” are just horny prudes that have been brainwashed by religious fanatics and anti-porn crusaders to think that healthy sexual expression is evil.

Sometimes I wonder if they are right. Maybe if I didn’t grow up with unhealthy messages about sex, I’d be a totally normal, well-adjusted adult.

Then I remember that those “girls don’t like sex” talks were the least of my childhood traumas. If that was all that ever happened in my childhood, I’d probably just be a horny girl with a guilt complex (aka a kinkster). My acting out went so much deeper than just being horny or just being kinky, though.

Even though I’m a sex addict in recovery I still consider myself sex positive. If I ever have a daughter, I don’t know what I’ll say in my talk, but I know it will be a lot better than the ones I got.

My Dad’s Porn Stash

When I was around 8 or 9 I found my father’s stash of porn magazines in the garage. They were mostly Playboys, but there were also some hardcore ones. At the time I remember feeling a lot of shame that my father had these magazines. But looking at them, I also felt titillated and exhilarated. I enjoyed looking at them, which made me feel extremely guilty. I looked at them every opportunity I got, and every time I felt like the biggest creep in the world.

I don’t even really understand where the feelings of guilt and shame came from. I mean, I was 8, it’s not like I knew much about sex and it’s not like anyone in my family or community was directly telling a second or third grader that sex was this bad thing. Also my parents weren’t “fire and brimstone” religious types. My mom was somewhat religious, but fairly progressive, and my dad was an atheist.  Somehow, though, without even knowing what it was, I picked up that sex was “wrong” and “dirty.”

Is shame over sexuality just innate? Was it innate for me? Maybe my parents didn’t need to shame me, maybe it was just in my blood — Irish and German Catholic immigrants on one side, and WASPy descendants of Puritans on the other. Maybe some kind of shame gene was passed down.

Now that I’m an adult, I realize that finding Dad’s porn is a fairly common experience. At the time though, I felt like the sickest, dirtiest, most deviant person on the face of the earth. Even now, while I intellectually understand that it’s human nature to be titillated by pornography and sex, even at a young age, there is a voice in the back of my head that says, “No, there was something wrong with you. And there still is something wrong with you. You are a sick fuck. You should be locked up.”

So much of my sexual acting out was based on the same combination of emotions I felt looking at my Dad’s porn — shame, guilt, and exhilaration. For many years I was drawn to BDSM, for this reason (and many others). I needed to be told I was “bad,” to be humiliated, to be punished. It felt right. When I masturbate I usually need to think of being abused, used or humiliated in order to get off.

And while I’m on the topic of BDSM, let me clarity my feelings on it. I don’t think that practicing D/s, power exchange, role-play, bondage, or kink in general is in itself a symptom of sex addiction. I know many non-sexaddicted, healthy people who are a part of the lifestyle. Being a submissive was a big part of my sexuality for many years, and it might still be, once I get back into the world of relationships. As I progress in my sobriety, though, D/s does seem to be losing some of it’s appeal. Right now the idea of eventually having a healthy partnership with an equal is more attractive than the idea of having a Dom.