Unless you're actively avoiding it, by now you'll have seen or be planning to see Shame, directed by Steve McQueen. Starring a largely clothes-free Michael Fassbender, the actor's handsome but miserable character who suffers from sex addiction. Meanwhile, Russell Brand, formerly a frequent exponent on the subject - has ended his one-year marriage to Katy Perry. Gossip fans the world over are watching and wait to see if he will go back to his philandering ways, starts mentioning his 'dinkle' and recounting steamy tales of his conquests in all media interview.
These days it's generally accepted that being addicted to sex is a debilitating and genuine problem, one we should have sympathy for. Am I the only person who feels a little bit like – hang on! - about all the 'understanding' and 'awareness' of this pressing problem to society? Or does anyone else have a sneaking suspicion that it might not be 100 'a jolly good ruse dreamt up by randy selfish people'? Let's examine the facts.
Sex addiction doesn't seem to bring with it the life-threatening consequences that other, more traditional addictions do. Alcoholics, for example, risk damaging their liver, terrible shakes and eventual yellow jaundice and death. Cocaine addicts risk a collapsed nose and spending thousands and thousands on their habit. Yet, if it's bonking, or the pursuit of bonking you are hooked on, you end up with . . . friction burns? More trips to the clap clinic than average? You simply can't argue it's the same.
Another issue is that only blokes seem to suffer from it. David Duchovny, Russell Brand, Tiger Woods... they've all spent time in 'Sex Rehab'. Hmmm. These are all pretty rich, powerful individuals. They'd be offered a lot of opportunities whether or not they took them up, then when their reputation is jeopardised by getting caught out with their mucky paws in the biscuit tin, they realise, in a life-changing epiphany like a thunderclap, that THEY'VE GOT SEX ADDICTION! Really? What about when a female celebrity behaves badly in public? Think of Lindsay Lohan or the late Amy Winehouse. They're much more likely to receive an unflattering nickname than a wave of sympathy for their condition.
Non-celebrity sex addicts do exist, but it's not glamorous, it's really rather dark. In the words of Eric Benet (who went to sex rehab after cheating on Halle Berry) said; "Sex addiction is a real thing, you know. In retrospect, it's not what I would label my situation". The reality of rehab includes child sex abusers and rapists – some of whom might be receiving therapy as part of their sentence.
No one could argue that Russel Brand's filthy yet fascinating back-story harmed his career, in fact, it seemed to give him quite the rock 'n' roll edge over other stand-up comics. But compared to the anonymous people whose lives have been destroyed by succumbing to extremely harmful compulsions, it's almost insulting, and certainly unsavoury if being 'addicted to sex' is used as a convenient public relations exercise.
By Naomi Attwood
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