Photo: Devin Jones

Blurred lines: trials of sexual equality and sex addiction

In Love & Sex /

By Sarah Krichel

Bahoz Dara Aziz was sitting in the passenger seat in her mother’s car on her way to a doctor’s appointment. Her phone buzzed and her fingers jolted. The notification flashed across her screen—a Facebook comment that would shape her sexual freedom for the rest of high school.

Two days earlier, Dara Aziz gave a boy a blowjob at a friend’s house party. She was 17 and curious. At the time, she didn’t expect all of the people in her social networks to have access to her sex life, but they did—all because some boy decided to slut-shame her on Facebook.

Five years later, she’s able to laugh about it. But double standards still get her down.

It always begins with a bad choice and a messy hookup. It’s what we tell ourselves, anyway. For me, three too many shots and one too many tokes on a Friday night is what did it. But there’s a question that has recurred to me ever since: what am I really ashamed of? If I have the liberty to do whatever I want with my sexuality, why should people be allowed to judge me for my choices? The shame is too familiar, but the cause has yet to be determined.

Historically, sex was limited to two purposes: reproduction, and pleasing the man. In the 1300s, and for centuries to follow, promiscuous women were diagnosed with hysteria. Physicians would violate them to “cure them” of their urges, while other women would be encouraged to get married. Traces of the past are still evident today: patriarchy-based paradigms condemn women and non-binary people for being sexually free, and it’s become far too easy to classify someone as addicted to sex simply because they are liberated. 

“Sex addiction” was popularized as a medical term by Patrick Carnes in the 1980s. It is categorized as a mental disorder and those who suffer from it have a consistently high sex drive and destructive behaviour patterns.

According to Kimberly Moffit Associates sex therapist Martin Dragan, sex addiction can’t be determined by looking at a person’s “kill list.” Instead, behaviour can be labelled as addiction-induced once a person’s sex drive has started to affect their ability to complete day-to-day tasks: focusing can become difficult, and it can pose a financial burden for those who overspend on toys, sex workers and porn.

In an exclusive relationship, it is very possible for an individual’s sex drive to become a preoccupied and compulsive behaviour, followed by feelings of despair and guilt—which would qualify as addiction.

Eduardo Rodriguez, a third-year student, has experienced these compulsions, as well as the guilt that follows.

Seven summers ago, Rodriguez made his way into the Brunswick House, a once popular bar on the corner of Bloor St. West and Spadina Avenue. He usually went out with his girlfriend, but this time, instead of having his hand wrapped around hers, it was clutching a shot of vodka. Through a sea of young dancers he spotted Angie—an attractive woman in a white dress with matching flip flops. They had been secretly seeing each other for weeks.

“Are you planning on breaking up with her?” she’d constantly ask him. His response was never what she hoped. They resisted their initial sexual temptation, until that night at the Brunny. It was the same night he diagnosed himself as a sex addict. 

He started putting off studying for a few seconds of relief and sneaking away from his family  to scratch that perpetual itch. Even ten minutes after sex, he wanted it again.

“When you have a sexual addiction, it’s not ‘I want to have sex,’ it’s, ‘I need to have sex.’ That’s the distinction.”

Carlyle Jansen, sex coach and founder of the sex workshop Good For Her, believes it’s become too easy to label anything outside of default missionary sex on a Saturday night between two heterosexual beings as addiction.

There has been progress towards sexual equality over the past few decades. The Sexual Revolution in the ’60s, where people marched, chanted and stood up for sexual liberty, was a start. But more than 50 years later, we’re still showing signs of regression.

In a recent controversial Christian Today editorial, Gavin Peacock wrote that “boys can no longer be boys” as a “consequence” of the revolution. He argues that a man who is threatened by the sexual conquest of a woman becomes insecure, emasculated and in turn, repressed.

Jansen touches on this dangerous mentality. “A guy who has lots of sex is never called a slut, a woman is,” says Jansen. “When women claim our sexual power, it’s threatening. What someone might see as sexual freedom, someone might say it’s not ladylike.”

Dara Aziz says this gender-based profiling is still prominent in her life, even amongst her progressive peers. The former Eyeopener sex columnist considers herself sexually liberated, but that goes without a lack of being shamed, name-called, bullied and judged. “Guys can be very openly sexual with each other, and it’s cool,” she says. “But girls have to hide it. In high school, you wouldn’t dare tell anyone you masturbate. It was the most embarrassing thing.”

Dara Aziz recalls the time she went into a sex shop to buy a dildo with three of her friends. She regularly masturbated, but kept it mostly to herself. As they browsed the shelves, looking at different shaped toys, one of her friends made a comment that made Dara Aziz reevaluate whether she should be open about her sexuality.  “Why can’t girls just get dick? Are they desperate?” she said.

Since Dara Aziz started writing about sex, she says she feels more open about the topic. Sexuality is more socially acceptable through the form of art, she says.

Coming to terms with your sexuality requires self-reflection, and, according to Jansen, that’s a difficult task for most.

There’s nothing wrong with sexuality being private. But the point is, it shouldn’t have to be. A woman should be able to walk into a store and ask a male employee for the best sex toy they’ve got. A woman should be able to openly admit that they watch porn twice a day, or prefer to masturbate than have sex with their partner. A woman should be able to also be as kinky, dominant, submissive, reserved during or as abstained from sex as she wants to be.

“Sex is like breathing. It’s a natural process. How can you breathe too much?” says Dragan.

Despite all the walks of shame that take place every Saturday morning, I would advise the same to all the lovely women and non-binary people: keep that chin up and own it. You don’t owe an explanation to anyone but to your own horny, hysterical and sexy self.

*CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, we refer to Bahoz Dara Aziz as Bahoz Aziz. The Eyeopener regrets this error. 

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