I’m a Sex Addict (And So Are You)
Someone recently made me aware of the existence of an amazing online test. It is called the “Sex Addiction Screening Test.” I’m sure any good mental health professional will tell you that taking this test is similar to diagnosing yourself on WebMD. I may not be a mental health professional, but I am a keen observer of popular culture. It is through those eyes that I took a look at this little gem of the internet. I can’t help but notice that Sex Addiction has become a thing rather recently; I blame Charlie Sheen. It’s not something that you really heard about 10 years ago, I’m not sure why it suddenly became so popular. In fact, it is not to be found in the DSM and it turns out that the medical community is also still out as to whether or not sex addiction is really a thing.
Regardless, you can get online and find out if you are possibly addicted to sex. As soon as I learned this, I went to take the test. The experience was certainly something, and I highly encourage you to go take this test as well. There are several different tests that can be found online. I took a few of them. One of the “tests” set the bar very low for sex addiction, as it only required that you answer “yes” to one of 12 questions.
Here are my test results. It turns out that I’m probably a sex addict. I also share characteristics with homosexual men who struggle with sexually compulsive behavior. I’m not sure what I answered yes to cause that outcome, but yeah…
Almost everyone I’ve suggested take the test is a probable sex addict. Admittedly, my circle of friends tend to be pretty open about sex. Still, I feel like most sexually active folks would qualify as sex addicts according to this metric.
So, what made me a sex addict? Here are some of the questions to which I answered “yes”:
“Has anyone been hurt emotionally by your sexual behavior?”
Yes, someone has. In my defense, I didn’t know that the man with whom I was interacting had a fiancée who believed they were monogamous. I still feel bad that I participated in hurting this person, and I am still mad at the man who lied to me about his availability. Does this make me a sex addict? I don’t think so.
“Has sex (or romantic fantasies) been a way for you to escape your problems?”
Yes, I daydream. When I’m sad, sometimes I daydream about happy things like romance and sex. I guess this makes me a sex addict.
“Do you hide some of your sexual behaviors from others?”
Yup, and I’m proud of doing so. I close the curtains and sometimes the door. I try not to make too much noise when others are in the house. When I join my mom for brunch with a post sex glow, I lie about why I’m in such a good mood. Sometimes, I even wear a high necked shirt to hide hickies. Honestly, I am more worried about folks who don’t hide their sexual behaviors from others.
It wasn’t just the questions to which I answered “yes” that bothered me. It was also the questions to which I answered “no” that worried me.
“Are you in crisis over sexual matters?”
No, I am pretty happy about my sex life, and my sexuality. I’m confident and surrounded by kind and loving people. I am not a young lesbian trying to deal with my sexuality in a homophobic household. I am not a trans person trying to explain my identity to my pastor. I’ve always had ample information and support to be happy with my sex life. If I hadn’t been so lucky, that still wouldn’t make me a sex addict.
“I have been sexual with minors.”
This one confused me for a few reasons. As a minor, I interacted with other minors. I’m assuming that the question is asking if I’ve been sexual with minors as an adult. In that case, no. Additionally, as these questions are not weighted, I’m disturbed that this question is given the same importance as “have you regularly purchased romance novels or sexually explicit materials?” There is no equivalency between statutory rape and bodice rippers.
Then there were the questions they didn’t ask at all:
“Do you have unprotected sex with multiple partners?”
“Do they know?”
“Have you ever pressured someone into having sex?”
“Have you ever sexually harassed someone?”
“Have you ever assaulted someone?”
Although the test is concerned whether or not you have emotionally hurt someone through your actions, is it not concerned if you’ve given someone syphilis? It’s not worried if you’ve in any way physically hurt someone or put them at physical risk?
There were some major themes that I noticed throughout these 52 questions:
Do you pay for porn, do you pay for sex, do you go to strip clubs, do you pay for dating sites? All of these questions come down to: “do you pay for sexual satisfaction?” I understand that if you are unable to pay your rent because of your porn consumption, there is a problem. But why is it so important that everything sexual we consume is free? Don’t porn actors deserve to be paid? What about the printers who publish those romance novels? The venue that hosts the strippers? The strippers? Why is it so important that anything related to sex be free?
I think that exchanging sexual services for money can be complicated for many reasons. I don’t think it necessarily means that you are addicted to sex. Acknowledging that the people who produce your porn are working, and paying them appropriately certainly does not mean that you are addicted to sex. I’m pretty sure it means that you respect folks enough to pay them for their labor.
Many of the questions focus on how comfortable other people are with your sex life. Have people been upset by your online porn, do you hide your sexual behavior, has someone been hurt emotionally? Sometimes people are hurt, offended, confused, or upset by your actions. Sexual orientation is a prime example of this. People might feel shame, might hurt their families, might hide their orientation, but this does not mean that they are sex addicts. It means that the people around them are not appropriately accepting or understanding.
Even the question “Are any of your sexual activities against the law?” is complicated. When we think of illegal sex we think of child pornography, rape, and other clearly bad things. Yet you could also be breaking the law if you own more than 6 dildos in Texas or if you’re polyamorous in a state with anti-adultery laws. Up until recently, plenty of states had sodomy laws as well. If you go international, you can find countries in which homosexuality is illegal. Again, this question is presuming that the people around you are the best equipped to define what is reasonable sexual behavior.
Online porn and online dating sites also dominate this test. This one confuses me. As a young woman, I was hooked on romantic novels. They did give me a very strange idea of what sex and love look like, and I certainly consumed them to the exclusion of other more productive activities. Before online porn, I’m sure people were very engaged with their magazines. Before online dating sites, you could still pick up people at a bar, yet somehow sex addiction is intrinsically tied up with online activity. The idea of “sex addiction” has combined two things about which our society has all kinds of anxieties: sex and technology, to create the perfect monster.
In conclusion: according to this ridiculous test, I am probably a sex addict. I’m going to say that according to these 52 questions, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re a sex addict too. Even with this compelling internet diagnosis, I don’t feel like I’m about to fall into some kind of Charlie Sheen-esque downward spiral. I cannot say at what point a healthy sex drive and poor decision making becomes addiction, but I do think this test has completely missed the mark.
Beneath my test results, it says:
“You’ve taken the test and it confirmed your fears. You’re probably frightened, confused, and overwhelmed. Where do you go? Whom can you trust?”
This brief paragraph is designed to make us afraid, afraid of our own sexuality. That, to me, is unforgivable. There are many unhealthy and unsafe ways to express your sexuality, but unsurprisingly these 52 questions seem to be completely incapable of evaluating such a complicated issue. Instead, they seem dedicated to convincing people who are already confused or concerned that there is something medically wrong with them. People who are confronting their sexuality, people who don’t conform to very narrow ideas of “normal”: kinksters, and those who simply don’t “fit in” are now being burdened with the additional pain of being labeled “sex addicts.” If you want a laugh, go take this test. If you are worried about sex, go talk to a real professional and ignore this nonsense.