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02.24.10

Every Man Is a Sex Addict

As Tiger Woods undergoes treatment, T. Byram Karasu—the University Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College—says medicalizing normal human behavior doesn’t help anyone.

Sex addiction is simply a new name for the old evolutionary concept—the innate urge to impregnate as many females as possible. In this sense, every man is a sex addict or was one at some point in his life.

Look at sex addiction as existing on a curve of normal behavior over a man’s lifespan: The addiction begins around the pubertal age, and peaks by his early 20s. It then plateaus until the 40s before descending along a downward curve in his 60s. It eventually fizzles out altogether, either because of age-related atrophy of the testicles or, more abruptly, by a prostate operation.

The treatment for sexual addiction is a form of pseudo-redemptive window dressing in which no one, especially the addict himself, really believes.

Sexual addiction is not like other addictions. Unlike addictions to alcohol, cocaine, and cigarettes, in which the craving is induced by external elements, sexual craving, by its nature, is an innate and natural phenomenon. And sex addiction is a specific situation—the frequency of erection and the intensity of orgasm—dependent on the person’s blood-level of testosterone. Man deals with that according to his physical, social, and financial conditions.

Tracy Quan: When Men Are Jealous of Call Girls At the least advantageous end of the spectrum, a man simply masturbates. In the best circumstances, women throw themselves at him. But in between these two extremes reside garden-variety marriages wherein the wife may complain about the husband’s sexual demand, and the man may seek lovers and/or prostitutes. A single man with sexual addiction can carry on with many partners, and no one, except those involved with him, would really care about his addiction. He is rarely bothered by that until the need for emotional intimacy (the whisper within) catches up with him. It’s only once the man gets married that his addiction becomes a problem in a social and familial context.

Therefore, the treatment for sexual addiction is a form of pseudo-redemptive window dressing in which no one, especially the addict himself, really believes. But what choices does the wife have? One potential “cure” is chemical or surgical castration—no man volunteers, not to mention the wronged wife would be deprived of sex anyway, a sort of cutting off your nose to spite your face. The second choice is to view the addiction as a time-limited condition, accept the man for who he is, and wait until his desires extinguish. Let's stop pathologizing every human behavior, like male libido.

T. Byram Karasu M.D., is the Silverman Professor and University Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center. He is the author of the novel, Of God and Madness, a book of poetry, Rags of My Soul, and the two bestsellers, The Art of Serenity and The Spirit of Happiness.