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.

This Imperfect Journey

Today, I realized that I am 9 days away from 90 days. The first 60 days went by so slowly. I felt so many emotions and every day was different. The last three weeks have gone by pretty quickly and I haven’t felt much of anything. I know the reason is because I am partially using again — I’m reading HC’s ads on craigslist.

A program friend asked me the other day if I get upset when I find his ads looking for casual, anonymous sex with both women and men. It occurred to me that I don’t get upset when I find his ads. I only get upset when I don’t find them. When I don’t find new ads from him, I don’t get a hit.

I had a great conversation with my sponsor today. I so badly want her to tell me that I’m not sober because I’m spying on HC again and that I need to start over at the beginning. In my head, if I can’t do something perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all. I told her about a friend of mine, Jessica, who got sober in AA 8 years ago. She went to a meeting and never drank again. I want my sobriety from sex and love to be like that — black and white and perfect. My sponsor told me that that’s not how it works in SLAA.

Another woman I heard speak at a meeting last week spoke about having an imperfect program (in fact, most speakers I’ve heard stress the fact that they did not do it perfectly). She compared her love addiction to alcoholism (she’s also in AA) and said that an alcoholic can put her addiction down and never use again, but a sex/love addict needs to learn how to take small sips from the bottle everyday without going overboard. This is all well and good, but there is still a little voice inside of my head that says, “You suck. Just give up now.”

My sponsor is really great at helping me turn this negative talk around. Another thing I asked her today was, “why the hell am I not over this guy yet?” It’s not like the relationship was significant or long-term. She reminded me that It’s not really him that I need to get over. He’s just a stand-in for my unresolved shit. Duh, I learned this when I first went into therapy over my obsessive relationship with my boyfriend Peter 10 years ago. Then I learned it a few years later with Ethan, then Jonathan, then Anthony. Hopefully I will remember it this time and won’t go through this again. These men really mean/meant nothing to me, once I dug under the surface. They are drugs. I use them to avoid dealing with the real stuff — grief, trauma, abuse, abandonment, etc. from my childhood.

The real stuff is heavy and uncomfortable. My addict is trying to find all kinds of ways to distract me from doing this work. Tonight, I pray for God’s grace and protection. I pray that he will help me to stay away from spying and all other forms of acting out, one day at a time.