Sarah wrote earlier in the week about pornography addiction, and the public discussion about whether or not it’s a valid disease. (She says it isn’t, I disagree.) So how fitting that VH1 should announce this week that Dr. Drew Pinsky is spear-heading a new reality show in its upcoming line-up: Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew. According to VH1:
Dr. Drew Pinsky is tackling a new yet very real addiction in “Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew.” In this eight-episode one-hour series, Dr. Drew is turning his attention and cameras on a very widespread but rarely talked about addiction. Sexual compulsion afflicts roughly 6% of the American population and carries the same devastating consequences as any other addiction. For addicts, sex isn’t even pleasurable, but rather a way to escape the pain of past loss, childhood trauma, abuse and abandonment. Like many other addictions, their habits can cost them their jobs, their marriages, even their lives. Despite all this, the affliction is often dismissed because it’s not understood how something as natural and beautiful as sex can be an addiction. In this series Dr. Drew will treat a group of people in Los Angeles who are struggling with this disease while shedding some light on this oft-dismissed compulsion and all the destructive costs that come with it. The series is set to premiere in the fall of 2009.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record about these Dr. Drew shows, which I know are ratings gold for VH1. But I just take such issue with the idea of treating active addiction on camera. I see the value in showing the world the “truth” behind addiction and its treatment, but I feel that enabling people to find fame and attention through their addiction is wildly counter-productive. I understand that VH1 is just looking for ratings, but Dr. Drew is an actual medical doctor who took the Hippocratic Oath, and he should know better. Okay. Rant over.
As I mentioned in an editor’s note, I disagree with Sarah’s assertion that pornography addiction is just “sheer weakness.” (To be fair, let’s note that the new VH1 show is about sex addiction, and not necessarily just porn addiction, but pornography addiction is often a sub-symptom of a sex addiction.) I’ve witnessed sex addicts in action — they can spend thousands of dollars monthly on Internet porn and phone sex and hookers, they cheat on their wives or husbands, and they ignore their children — despite the fact that this is not the life they want to be living, and when they say it won’t happen again, they really mean it. If you replace the words “porn” or “sex” with “whiskey” or “cocaine,” no one would doubt that this is a person in the grips of a destructive addiction that requires treatment. As a society, we do these families a disservice by failing to acknowledge and treat sex addiction as an actual disease.
An even more stigmatized subset here are child molesters and pedophiles, whom I personally believe are in large part suffering from a form of sex addiction. That doesn’t make their actions in any way acceptable — no more than an alcoholic’s drunk driving is acceptable — but the enormous (and perhaps deserved) stigma that society places on sex addicts makes it nearly impossible for them to seek help. A drug addict can approach his family or his doctor or his priest and tell them that he has a problem and he needs help; he will get support and direction and be sent to in-patient treatment or Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous or any number of programs that have broad support from the medical and legal communities. But the forms of sex addiction are so stigmatized and misunderstood — by society, loved ones and the addicts themselves — that the sex addict faces a steeper climb toward recovery than people living with better-understood addictions. Real help does exist for families struggling in the grips of sex addiction, and they deserve to know that. (For information on Sex Addicts Anonymous, click here.)
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