To understand sex addiction within the LGBTQ+ community, we need to first understand when sex is just sex, versus when it’s an addiction…
Sex addiction is a term used to describe a compulsive desire for sex or sexual actions often to the point of disregarding our other vital needs.
Medical and psychological experts disagree whether we can become addicted to sex.
One argument is that the term ‘sex addiction’ is simply a futile attempt to give legitimacy to what is an actuality just being irresponsible or ‘greedy’.
Disparagers argue that sex addiction will use as an attempt to justify irresponsible actions behind a diagnosis.
However, this is ignoring the very real emotional turmoil that sex addiction can put addicts and their loved ones through.
It’s important to know sex addiction doesn’t manifest the same way for everyone. It can be anything from having sex with your partner to consuming pornography, masturbating, soliciting prostitutes or using other sexual services.
Typically, these don’t cause serious problems for people, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying sex or masturbation. It’s one of our natural functions and there shouldn’t be any stigma about enjoying the endorphins that sexual activity can release.
However, when the pursuit of these sexual highs becomes uncontrollable urges, and begins to have a direct and negative impact on our lives, that’s when it enters the world of addiction and can have troubling consequences.
While anyone can become addicted to sex, it is troublingly common within the LGBTQ+ community and often goes unaddressed.
Whether it’s due to social stigma, hook-up culture, or past trauma, a lot of LGBTQ+ people can feel like they have to pursue sexual gratification which can lead to addiction.
It’s important that we, as a community, can talk honestly about sexual addiction so we can recognise when the pursuit of sexual gratification may become unhealthy for us.
Let’s first explore the possible roots of sex addiction.
It’s important to remember that no matter what the source of your sex addiction is, there is no shame in recognising and admitting that you have an addiction.
Sex addiction can often be a coping mechanism for a perceived inability to achieve a real emotional connection.
When we’ve grown up feeling and being told that we’re unable and unworthy of love then it makes sense that we might be more likely to become addicted to sex.
One of the reasons it may be so common in our community is the pervasive stigma surrounding queer sexuality where it’s expected that ‘all LGBTQ+ people are horny’.
We’ve all heard it, comments like ‘but you’re gay, don’t you just shag each other all the time?’.
Or, ‘I wish I was gay, I’d love to just be getting laid every night’.
For years, homophobic propaganda has put forth the idea that all LGBTQ+ people are addicted to sex, particularly gay men and transgender women.
This is obviously untrue and while there have been concerted efforts to challenge these stereotypes among some members of our community, there are other parts of our community that have internalised these stigmas.
A lot of LGBTQ+ culture, particularly surrounding nightlife, has created an environment where hypersexuality, vanity, and lust is treated as a vital part of our self realisation as gay men.
It’s important to remember that, historically, LGBTQ+ ghettos in cities and towns were placed on top of their red light districts to keep all ‘sexual deviants’ in one place.
As such, the association of homosexuality with hypsersexuality is deeply engrained within our psyche as a community and very difficult to break.
Because this type of mindset has become so normalised in our community, where value seems to be placed on one’s ability to accrue sexual conquests, many of our community don’t receive the help they need for their sex addiction.
This can come out of a feeling that they don’t want to fall into a stereotype and be addicted to sex or a simple disregard of the idea that they could even be addicted to sex.
Another reason that sex addiction may be so common in the LGBTQ+ is due to past trauma that so many of us experience.
Trauma can lead to mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
These are extremely difficult to grapple with and, without proper treatment and support, can push people towards unhealthy coping mechanisms in an effort to suppress the negative feelings that come about with them.
Sex addiction is just one of the coping mechanisms that can end up causing more harm than help in the long run.
Common trauma experience by our community includes:
These can cause emotional trauma which many people in our community may feel the need to “medicate” through compulsive sexual behaviour.
Low self-esteem can be a by-product of early onset trauma, or can it can manifest later in life following abusive relationships, breakdowns with family or friends, or other adverse life events.
Even something as simple as seeing that our own body is aging can damage our self-esteem in a culture where so much importance is placed upon being youthful and attractive.
This low self-esteem can cause us to feel inadequate and that we’re of no value to anyone.
n response to this, it’s common to seek more sex than usual almost to prove our desirability to others.
This is dangerous because, when we place our value upon our ability to have sex with other people, it can cause us to seek that feeling of validity.
This can lead to a compulsive need to prove our sexual prowess and then an addiction to sex.
This is similar to social stigma with the tragic twist that it comes from within the community.
Across social media, film, literature and dating apps, a lot of queer culture is built upon this hypersexual idea of how gay people should act.
This hook-up culture has become so pervasive that it’s become almost a game.
We brag and compare our sexual conquests with friends often debasing our sexual partners to how attractive they are or the size of their dicks, rather than appreciating them for the people we are.
This creates a sense of competition where we are pursuing sex for sex’s sake.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with simply enjoying sex, when you combine it with this feeling that we should be constantly looking for the next hook-up it can lead to a compulsive addiction.
This can end up stunting our ability to connect with our partners and prevent us from finding fulfilment in our relationships.
Not so commonly considered is the change of parental support after someone comes out.
Since the majority of parents are a typical male+female dynamic, different-sex parents simply do not have the lived experience of being LGBTQ+, or living within the LGBTQ+ community.
They are therefore fundamentally ill equipped to guide their LGBTQ+ sibling(s) on navigating the LGBTQ+ community, and all that it brings. In particular with the risks around sexual health within the community.
Our older LGBTQ+ peers become supplementary parents.
This is valuable as it’s so important to have role models like ourselves to look up to however they will often have grown up and absorbed this same pervasive hypersexuality.
This can lead to a self fulfilling prophecy where unhealthy sexual pursuits are seen as status quo, and thus, sex addiction spreads.
While there is no shame in having a sex addiction, it is important to remember to stay sexually healthy, both for your sake and the sake of any of your sexual partners.
Our community knows this better than most. Having gone through the horror of the AIDS crisis, let’s not forget the lessons we learnt from it to always stay safe.
This includes using contraceptives, going on PrEP and having open and frank discussions about your sexual history with any of your partners.
Sex addiction can have a lot of negative effects on the addict and the people around them.
It can prevent us from developing healthy boundaries.
When we are in relationships with people who are addicted to sex it can cause us to feel isolated, depressed, angry or humiliated because we’re unable to satiate their sexual needs.
If we are addicted to sex, then our need to satisfy our addiction and fear of abandonment can cause us to stay in unhealthy relationships.
Or we may jump from relationship to relationship without ever really getting to know the person we’re jumping to.
Sex addiction can put us at higher risk of contracting STIs or pregnancy which is why it’s so important to practice safe sex at all times.
Sex addiction can cause a deterioration of our emotional and mental state such as developing feelings of shame, inadequacy, and emotional distress. It can also lead to psychological disorders like:
With these negative effects in mind, it’s important to know some of the ways to seek help for sex addiction so that we can better help ourselves or those in need of help.
There are lots of resources available to combat sex addiction including Sex Addicts anonymous or through our directory of qualified therapists.
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