Sex addiction fuels movies and headlines, but despite this, writes Rachel Hills, it remains poorly understood
If 2011 was the year of the Hollywood hook-up, with casual-sex flicks such as No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits, 2012 seems set to be the year of the sex addict. Thursday sees the release of Shame, the critically acclaimed portrait of sex addiction starring actor Michael Fassbender. A recent Newsweek cover reported an "epidemic" of the condition, saying it was leaving a trail of destroyed marriages, careers and self-esteem in its wake. Then there is Thanks for Sharing, a new sex-addiction comedy starring Gwyneth Paltrow, due out later this year.
Sex addiction has been a media constant for several years now, thanks to serial philanderers such as Tiger Woods and Charlie Sheen. But the new breed of sex-addiction-fuelled pop culture is darker than its cynical predecessors, concerned with putting the condition on the map as a real and serious illness.
Take Shame, for example. Fassbender's Brandon might be tall and chiselled, but his life is far from enviable. Deliberately isolated, Brandon interacts only with his sleazy boss, his emotionally fragile younger sister (Carey Mulligan), and the carousel of women he brings into his bedroom. Sex comes easily to him when it is paid for or anonymous, but he falters at even the faintest flicker of intimacy. By most people's standards, Brandon has a lot of sex with a lot of different people. But is he an addict? And if so, what does that mean? ...
Proponents of the addiction theory will tell you that their model is morally neutral. Where the tabloids lambast serial cheaters for their sins, those who refer to it as an addiction seek to de-stigmatise the behaviour, explains addiction specialist Robert Mittiga, director of the GATS counselling and treatment program in Adelaide. "It's really not a moral issue. It's a serious illness," he says.
But even medical science isn't value free. Remember that as recently as the early 1970s, the American Psychiatric Association still classified homosexuality as a mental illness. Similarly, deciding who and what qualifies as a "seriously ill" sex addict and what is simply a "healthy expression of human sexuality" means drawing boundaries with highly moralistic implications. How much masturbation is too much? How many partners is too many? Is there a difference between using sex as a panacea for your frustrations and being chemically dependent on it?
Not to mention that the science of sex addiction is contested in itself. The term has been rejected for inclusion in the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the psychiatrists' bible. And the sex addiction screening test (SAST), one of the main tools used to diagnose sex addiction, has been criticised by high-profile sex researchers such as Dr Petra Boynton and Dr Marty Klein for being too broad and ambiguous. "All the SAST really diagnoses is high libido," says David Ley.
At times, the long list of types of sex addiction can read like an excerpt from a 19th-century catalogue of sexual deviance. Cheating, swinging and BDSM? All symptoms of sex addiction. Having sex with someone of your own sex when you think you're straight? Sex addiction. Rape and paedophilia? They're often a manifestation of severe sex addiction, too, says Robert Mittiga. Even telling sexual jokes or hugging too much can be a sign that you're a secret sex addict, according to some sources. ...
A federal judge has ruled there's sufficient evidence to allow a polygamous family made famous by a reality TV show to pursue a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Utah's bigamy law.
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups on Friday dismissed Utah's governor and attorney general from the case, but allowed the suit to proceed against Utah County Attorney Jeffrey Buhman, the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune report.
Buhman threatened to prosecute Kody Brown and his four wives – Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn – after the TLC show "Sister Wives" debuted in September 2010, but his office has not filed charges.
The family sued Buhman, Gov. Gary Herbert and Attorney General Mark Shurtleff in July 2011, claiming Utah's bigamy statute violates its constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, free exercise of religion, free speech and freedom of association.
Waddoups, in his 21-page ruling, wrote that he dismissed Herbert and Shurtleff from the case because Shurtleff assured the Browns that they wouldn't be prosecuted. Shurtleff has a policy of not prosecuting consenting adult polygamists as long as they're not committing other crimes.
But the judge wrote that Buhman conducted interviews with the news media that made it clear he intended to investigate and prosecute the Browns. The fact that no charges have been filed does not matter, he added.
"The entirety of actions by the Utah County prosecutors tend to show either an ill-conceived public-relations campaign to showboat their own authority and/or harass the Browns and the polygamist community at large, or to assure the public that they intended to carry out their public obligations and prosecute violations of the law," Waddoups wrote.
There's reason for the Browns to believe they could face prosecution in Utah County, the judge continued, and that could have a "chilling effect" on their ability to practice their First Amendment rights in the state.
But the Browns must show that there's a real and viable threat to their constitutional rights for the lawsuit to hold up in court, Waddoups wrote.
Brown moved his wives and 16 children from Lehi to the Las Vegas area in January 2001.
Buhman said he had not yet reviewed the ruling and was not prepared to comment.
Women in the bondage and kink scene are speaking out about sexual assaults in the community, and calling for change
Maggie Mayhem is dressed like a kinky dictator. Standing onstage at San Francisco’s Center for Sex and Culture, her olive-green military cap and knee-high-heeled boots belie the vulnerable subject at hand.
“The first time I was ever raped,” she starts, her throat tightening around her words, “it was actually on a date with somebody from my local S/M community.”
The 27-year-old sex educator and fetish model has never before publicly shared the story of her sexual assault, but the purpose of this evening’s event, a “consent culture” fundraiser, is so that she can start telling it, again and again. Her mission, along with fellow activist and sex worker Kitty Stryker, is to raise awareness about what they say is widespread abuse within the BDSM community and a tendency for players to either turn a blind eye or actively cover it up. They’ve developed a workshop meant to combat the problem and want to take it on the road.
We’re talking about real abuse here, not the “consensual non-consent” that the scene is built around, as Mayhem’s story of her first assault makes clear. As an 18-year-old member of a kinky student club at the University of California, Berkeley, Mayhem helped raise money to bring a prominent BDSM educator to campus for a workshop. Afterward, he singled her out for a private “play date” and she was flattered. “I thought this was the best person I could start to learn from,” she says.
The scene that they negotiated was “fantastic,” Mayhem says, but then things took a turn. “I found myself tied up and unable to get away when that individual decided that he was going to have sex with me,” she says, tears welling in her eyes, “even though we’d specifically negotiated against it, even though I was saying that it needed to stop, and even though he was not wearing a condom at the time.”
For the most part, she kept the experience to herself, but on the rare occasions when she did tell people in the community about it, she says, “I got one response … which was people saying [things like], ‘I don’t do drama. This is a respected person in the community. I’m very sorry that you had a miscommunication during your scene that made it not very fun for you, but I don’t want to hear about it.’”
As she pushed deeper into the scene, trying to put this experience behind her, she had countless more encounters where her boundaries were blatantly ignored. As she gained experience, she started to talk more confidently and openly about these experiences – but, again, she got the “I don’t do drama” line. At the same time, she realized that such abuse was prevalent: “It started to look more like a systemic issue,” she says. As Stryker wrote last year in an essay for Good Vibrations magazine, ” I have yet to meet a female submissive who hasn’t had some sort of sexual assault happen to her.”
BDSM has long been a target of criticism from outsiders, but these two are devoted members of the scene. Stryker argued in her essay, “I Never Called It Rape,” that the community is so “focused on saying how BDSM isn’t a cover for abuse that we willingly blind ourselves to the times that it can be,” she wrote. “How on earth can we possibly say to society at large that BDSM is not abuse when we so carefully hide our abusers and shame our abused into silence?” ...
WO years ago yesterday, clean-cut family man and multi-millionaire Herman Rockefeller vanished. His remains were found later in a Glenroy back yard. He was killed when he visited the Hadfield home of Bernadette Denny and Mario Schembri for a sexual tryst. Schembri and Denny are now in jail, but the case lives on for its revelations about sordid sex with strangers, the swingers scene and Mr Rockefeller's double life. A new book revisits the crime.
ON Monday afternoon, while the homicide police are driving towards the Prius left in a country lane, Vicky Rockefeller receives a call at home that she probably wishes she hadn't answered. A woman she doesn't know has rung and wants to speak to her.
Liza Honeywell (name has been changed) is a 52-year-old interior designer and mother who has been married to the same man since she was 29.
Before she was married in 1986, she was in a relationship with Herman Rockefeller. The couple had met in late 1982 at a party in Toorak. At that time, Liza was a 25-year-old student at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology where she was finishing her interior design degree.
Herman was the same age as Liza and told her that he had just returned from completing a law degree at Harvard University.
The couple started a relationship that night. It lasted for three years, or on and off for 27 years, depending on which definition of relationship is employed.
Liza was at home in the affluent Melbourne seaside suburb of Brighton when her husband rang her, urging her to turn on the television and find a news broadcast. She did and was confronted by a photograph of Herman Rockefeller and the image of his wife and brother conducting a police media conference.
She learnt that Rockefeller had been missing since the Thursday before.
Liza's husband asks her if she wants to go to the police, and she replies that she will have to call Herman's wife first. The situation is delicate, but his disappearance overrides any sensitivity she otherwise may have hidden behind.
Liza tells Vicky Rockefeller that she has kept in touch with Herman and received a call from him the night he went missing.
Vicky asks her caller if she was "the person who went to Hong Kong with him". Liza replies that she was and asks Vicky if she "knew of the other phone that Herman had". Vicky knows nothing about any other phone so she takes the number from Liza.
The phone number and Liza's details are quickly passed on to the investigating police. There will be plenty of time later, after Herman is found, to process the fact that he has been seeing another woman.
Detectives Woltsche and Wiseman drive from the homicide offices to meet Liza in Brighton. Her husband has come home from work early to support his wife. ...
GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich told his ex-wife there was plenty enough of him to go around, she claims in a bombshell ABC News interview.
According to ABC, which will air the segment on "Nightline" Thursday -- two days before the critical South Carolina primary -- Marianne Gingrich said when Gingrich admitted to a six-year affair with a Congressional aide, he asked his wife if she'd share him with the other woman, Callista, who's now his bride.
"And I just stared at him and he said, 'Callista doesn't care what I do,'" Marianne Gingrich told ABC. "He wanted an open marriage and I refused."
There's more -- much more:
According to ABC, Marianne says Gingrich was romping with current wife Callista in the Gingrichs' bed -- all the while simultaneously trashing then-President Bill Clinton for a lack of moral leadership. Marianne also says Gingrich told her Callista would help him win the presidency.
Gingrich moved for divorce just months after Marriane was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis: "He also was advised by the doctor when I was sitting there that I was not to be under stress. He knew," she told ABC.
The former House speaker left his first wife, Jackie, as she underwent cancer treatment. His liaison with Marianne began while he and Jackie were still married.
College is a time of experimentation and Isla Vista has its reputation for wild nights and debauchery. But some of its wildest antics occur behind the doors of the people you would least expect. A common saying, “It’s the quiet ones you’ve got to look out for,” holds true for the kinkiest of the Gauchos. The population has created a community of their own: Kink University Fetish Fellowship, the only club of its kind on campus.
The five-year-old organization stresses the importance of safety and communication when practicing BDSM, an acronym for Bondage & Discipline/Domination & Submission/Sadism & Masochism. Their goals are to educate people and build a community around BDSM and kink. At weekly meetings they introduce different topics, such as the use of electricity, needleplay and bondage during foreplay.
Demonstrations are also held, when possible, by a local physician or knowledgeable practitioner of various BDSM acts, to exhibit techniques and safety precautions to ensure a pleasurable experience.
Popular crime shows, such as “CSI” and “Law & Order,” often depict kinky fetishes negatively, with situations of autoerotic asphyxiation gone wrong or crime scenes with a body left in bondage. KUFF’s aims to inform kinky students on how to prevent such unfortunate situations and to rectify the common misconceptions associated with kink by the media. One of the messages KUFF stresses for those who try BDSM is that it should be “Safe, Sane and Consensual.”
“IV is notorious for drunken and unsafe sex,” said the club’s Vice President. “If there is any alcohol in your system, you cannot legally give consent.”
Communication is key for kink, and safe words help partners understand their limits. ...
HJA client Michael Peacock acquitted by unanimous jury verdict
6th January 2012
The trial of Michael Peacock for six counts of distributing obscene DVDs under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 concluded today with an acquittal.
The jury, which had watched large parts of the ‘hard core’ male-on-male DVDs took under 2 hours to find Mr Peacock not guilty.
Mr Peacock had been advertising the DVDs online and selling them from his flat in Brixton. Officers from SCD9 (the former Obscene Publications Squad of the Met) saw the adverts and operated an undercover test purchase. Six DVD’s featuring various sex acts including ‘fisting’ and BDSM were deemed by police to be obscene and Mr Peacock was prosecuted.
Myles Jackman, a solicitor at Hodge Jones & Allen, with a specialist interest in obscenity law, commented: “The jury’s verdict is a significant victory for common sense suggesting that the OPA has been rendered irrelevant in the digital age. Normal jurors did not consider representations of consensual adult sexuality would deprave and corrupt the viewer.”
Senior Criminal Partner, Nigel Richardson, acting for Mr Peacock, stated that “from the outset Michael has displayed an enormous amount of courage in contesting these charges. The jury’s verdict vindicates his decision to challenge this arcane and archaic legislation. The result is also a testament to [HJA crime partner] Sandra Paul’s persuasive advocacy.”