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Sexual Orientation vs. Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction – Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

Sadly, there are men and women who engage in same-gender sexual and romantic behaviors who think that means they must be sex, porn, or love addicted. Generally, these individuals are not happy with the fact that they are sexually and romantically interested in their own gender – usually because their family, culture, and/or religion has told them there is something wrong with this. Based on this belief, they seek out (or are guided into) sex addiction treatment as a way of stopping their same-sex behaviors and changing their sexual/romantic desires.

The first thing I tell these individuals is that same-gender attractions are completely unrelated to sexual addiction. Instead, sex, porn, and love addiction are identified by three factors:

  1. Preoccupation to the point of obsession with sexual and/or romantic fantasies and behaviors
  2. Loss of control over sexual and/or romantic fantasies and behaviors, typically evidenced by failed attempts to quit or cut back
  3. Negative life consequences related to these obsessive, out of control fantasies and behaviors

Can a bisexual or gay/lesbian man or woman be a sex, porn, or love addict? Absolutely. But sexual orientation is not a factor in making this diagnosis. If a bisexual or gay/lesbian man or woman’s behaviors meet the criteria listed above, that individual is likely to be diagnosed as addicted. But simply having or desiring same-sex encounters or relationships does not lead to an addiction diagnosis.

Put another way, gay and lesbian sex addicts are not compulsively sexual because of their sexual orientation. Rather, they are compulsively sexual as a way to self-soothe stress, emotional discomfort, and the pain of underlying psychological issues like anxiety, depression, shame, and unresolved trauma. In this respect, gay and lesbian sex addicts are exactly like heterosexual sex addicts. They are also exactly like alcoholics, drug addicts, compulsive gamblers, compulsive eaters, compulsive spenders, etc.

“[People] cannot choose to be either gay or straight.”

Nevertheless, as stated above, people sometimes enter sex addiction treatment hoping to change their sexual orientation. Usually, they (or the people around them) have negative feelings related to their same-sex sexual and romantic desires, and they’re hoping that sex addiction treatment will alter those desires. As a certified sex addiction therapist, it is my job to educate these men and woman about the facts that sexual addiction and sexual orientation are unrelated, and sexual orientation is fixed and immutable. It can’t be changed.

The American Psychiatric Association states this very clearly, writing:

[People] cannot choose to be either gay or straight. For most people, sexual orientation emerges in early adolescence without any prior sexual experience. Although we can choose whether to act on our feelings, psychologists do not consider sexual orientation to be a conscious choice that can be voluntarily changed.

Put simply, gay men are sexually and romantically attracted to other men, lesbian women are sexually and romantically attracted to other women, and bisexuals are sexually and romantically attracted to both genders. And no amount of therapy, treatment, social pressure, willpower, or prayer is going to change that.

Unfortunately, there are a few misguided and/or unethical therapists out there who practice “gay conversion therapy,” despite the fact that it doesn’t work. Often, they do this in the guise of sex addiction treatment – even though they are not properly trained or certified as sex addiction therapists.

“At the end of the day, sexual addiction is not in any way defined by who or what it is that turns a person on.”

In addition to being a waste of time and money, this type of therapy can be quite harmful to the client. For the most part this damage is caused by the therapist’s inherent reinforcement of societal prejudices against nontraditional sexual desires and behaviors. One study looking at the effects of this type of rejection on gay and lesbian youth found that kids subjected to it are three times as likely to use illicit drugs, six times as likely to report high levels of depression, and eight times as likely to attempt suicide. Recognizing these dangers, two states, California and New Jersey, have passed laws outlawing the practice of gay conversion therapy on minors, and virtually every major medical and psychotherapeutic professional organization has issued a statement condemning it.

At the end of the day, sexual addiction is not in any way defined by who or what it is that turns a person on. For an analogy, consider alcoholism, where the type of alcohol consumed is not a factor in diagnosis. Instead, as with all addictions, we look for obsession, loss of control, and consequences.

For more information about sex, porn, and love addiction, check out my recently published books, Sex Addiction 101 and Sex Addiction 101, The Workbook. If you feel you need clinical assistance with sex addiction, therapist and treatment referrals can be found here and here. I also conduct an open-ended discussion about sex, porn, and love addiction at InTheRooms.com, Friday nights at 6 p.m. PST.

About Robert Weiss

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is a digital-age intimacy and relationships expert. He is the author of several highly regarded books, including “Out of the Doghouse: A Step-by-Step Relationship Saving Guide for Men Caught Cheating,” “Sex Addiction 101,” “Sex Addiction 101: The Workbook,” and “Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men.” Currently, he is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health, creating and overseeing addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities. For more information please visit his website, robertweissmsw.com, or follow him on Twitter, @RobWeissMSW.

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