Illustration: Peter Zin

Hot and bothered

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Amber Olsen

I’ve had sex a few hundred times with a few dozen partners. I’m only 21. Does that make me a slut? Does that make me a sex addict? Sometimes I wonder.

From a very young age I’ve been curious about sex. I craved sex long before I reached puberty. Despite these feelings, I waited until I was 16 to have sex. The first time was disappointing, so I took it upon myself to make it exciting and fulfilling. As I got older and had more sexual encounters, I began to enjoy sex more. As I had sex more often, the demand for new partners escalated. I felt it was getting out of control. I still feel out of control. When I first began writing this story I thought it would be fun. But now I’m really beginning to question the seriousness of my problem.

Many psychologists believe there is not such thing as sexual addiction. Those who do estimate six per cent of US men and women are sex addicts. Neglected children are a high risk group for sex addiction. So are children exposed to pornography and children with low self-esteem. According to the book Male Sexual Health by Dorothy Baldwin, sex addicts are obsessed to the point they have difficulty functioning at work, as parents, even as citizens. In some cases their behaviour destroys their health.

Higher levels of testosterone don’t cause sexual addiction. The addiction is much the same as addiction to alcohol, gambling or drugs. It is a craving for excitement, a lack of bonding in childhood, an avoidance of the pains of daily life and the seeking of approval.

Having sex soothes and comforts the craving, while distracting the mind from harsher truths of life. It’s a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break. So-called sex addicts allow their obsession to take over. They choose to lose control.

I’ve been walking a tightrope, teetering on addiction. But I don’t want to slow down.

Neigher does Reg, a 22-year-old from Laurentian University in Sudbury. He thinks he may be a sex addict too. “I’m always looking for the opportunity to have sex,” says Reg “I love having sex, anywhere, any time, anybody that I can. Just as long as I’m not hurting myself or anyone else, what’s wrong with it?” he asks.

I agree. There are many good points to engaging in a lot of sexual activity. For one thing, in both Reg’s and my experience, it has made us better lovers — we never get rusty. “The more you know about how a female body works, the better you’ll be able to get what you want,” says Reg. He learned early from an older girl who “taught [him] a lot. She was very detailed and specific about what to do and what not to do.”

Having lots of sex fills an empty gap. It gives a person excitement, bonding, approval and an escape they’re seeking in life.

Of course, having sex aldo feels good.

But it’s not all orgasms and ecstacy. There are some serious downsides to being sexually compulsive. First, having sex with a partner can really limit a relationship if it is still in its early stages. Being sexually compulsive also catches up with a person. “What goes around comes around. I definitely believe that,” says Reg. Stories of his behaviour have caught up with him. “Through ex-girlfriends it’s come up on more than one occasion,” admists Reg.

People also pass judgement. Those with strong moral views can find sexually compulsive behaviour downright disgusting. That can mean losing friends. I tell my close friends intimate details of my love life. Even if they don’t agree with my actions, at least they lend an ear. Sometimes I wonder just how much other people know (namely acquaintances, other friends and family). I also wonder how long my friends will put up with my behaviour. Just recently my friend freaked out on me because I had sex with five guys in two months. But to me that was nothing, which makes me wonder, am I addicted?

To this day I wonder if I’ve been branded “easy,” but honestly, I don’t care — as long as my family doesn’t find out. I know my dad would freak if he did.

Being sexually compulsive has other bad side effects too. It means doing stupid things for sex, like sleeping with a cheater or a stranger because you need it so badly. It also means risking your health, no only in the short term, but in the long term too. Protection or not, you can catch a mere flu or catch a full-fledged sexually transmitted disease such as AIDS.

Reg sometimes has unprotected sex. So do I. Luck for both of us, we haven’t contracted an STD — yet. By having sex without a condom I’ve also put myself at risk for pregnancy. Even by using a condom and/or birth control, there’s still always a risk.

Being sexually compulsive has another strike against it. It’s addictive. And addiction means a loss of control.

Reg’s addiction has also affected his academics. This is his fourth year of a three-year degree in psychology. “I’m still here because I screwed the pooch a lot,” he jokes.

A loss of control can be a big distraction. “Relationship-wise, I know it’s a strain,” Reg says. “I like to stay in monogamous relationships but it’s hard. If I run into someone who turns me on I think ‘what if this person is a better person?’”

My health, relationships, concentration level, academics and ability to control my actions have all suffered as a result of my sexual preoccupations. But because I love having sex so much, I’m willing to keep sacrificing those elements of my life.

Despite Reg’s struggle to control his sexual drive, he has managed to stay in a four-month relationship. Whether he’s remained faithful to his girlfriend is questionable.

I’m now dating a guy I knew from a few years ago. The first night we hooked up we had sex and the relationship is now more sexual than anything. I’m not sure what I’ll do next.

Amber Olsen and Reg are psudeonyms


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