Sex addiction is all the rage, but are Hollywood’s bad boys just taking us all for a ride?
The new favourite Hollywood destination isn’t a hip bar or The Ivy. It’s rehab – sex rehab, to be exact. With Tiger Woods and Jesse James (pictured with wife Sandra Bullock) checking in for ‘rehabilitation’ after their spectacular infidelities hit the headlines, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just another kind of damage control, except with more hugging.
But is it? Is sex addiction a real condition, or just a way to explain away the immoralities of entitled rich power-seekers?
Addiction is not a term to be bandied about lightly. Anybody who’s been in a family with an alcoholic can tell you that. However, the most relevant bit of the ‘addict’ diagnosis is that it means the sufferer literally cannot control his impulses. Woods and James might be hoping that the ‘addict’ label makes their wives, and their public, look at them with more pity than disgust.
People who agree with the idea of sex addiction (or nyphomania) point out that if somebody’s excluding their friends and family from their pursuit of sex, thinking about it 24/7, and suffering from ‘withdrawal’ if they don’t get their fix, it fits the addiction model very well. Addicts can’t stop themselves, even when the consequences are dire.
The scientific side? Much like the notion of addiction to adrenaline, supposed sex junkies can become very attached to the burst of dopamine and associated chemical releases after orgasm. Russell Brand, the British comedian who’s now marrying Katy Perry, went to rehab for sex addiction at one point, and describes needing the ‘breathing space’ after orgasm, where all stress has been released.
Still, there’s ‘desirable sensation’ and there’s ‘addiction’. The medical jury is still out on whether manic craving for sex constitutes chemical addiction, psychological dependency or something else. (Or, indeed, people suffering from a horrible lack of self-control.)
In the case of Woods and James, though, it’s a bit like Isaiah Washington being sent to rehab after he made homophobic remarks on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. (For what? Is there ‘prejudice addiction’ too, now?) The idea seems, unfortunately, like a Hollywood game to keep people onside.
For now, sex addiction’s up in the air. I’m sure there will be plenty more celebrity infidelity scandals and rehab visits before the verdict’s finally made.
Lady Friday xx
Taking pillow talk out of the bedroom, every Friday…