Carnal knowledge

In his new book, Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, psychotherapist Robert Weiss, MSW, explores why such a disproportionately high number of gay men engage in sexually compulsive behavior and how they can be helped.

BY Neal Broverman

January 27 2006 12:00 AM ET

What’s the best way to cope with sexual addiction?Keeping as much structure as you can. If you go to the
gym Tuesdays and Thursdays, stick with that. Also, not
isolating yourself is important. Even if you go out to
the movies or shopping by yourself, you’re not
really by yourself. Being at home alone with hours to spare
and nothing to do is bad news.

Cruise Control focuses on gay male sex addiction,
but are women susceptible too?
There are female sex addicts out there. Again, women
tend to be more relationship-oriented. What women tend
to do in their search for love is addictively have a
lot of sex. The addicts have delusions and denial
about what brings love. This obviously applies to lesbians
too.

Who faces more stigma and shame for admitting a problem
with sexual compulsion: gay or straight men?
I think straight men do because the cultural
expectations of monogamy for straight men are greater.
For gay men to say, “I’ve had hundreds of
partners,” it’s like,
“Whatever.”

You’ve been making the rounds on TV talk shows
talking about sex addiction. Have you experienced
uncomfortable moments with straight audiences?
A staff member from one of the shows was sort of tapping
his foot and, I believe, making obscene gestures
behind the camera because others were laughing. After
I was done he told me, “Porn built the
Internet.” I said, “Listen, porn
isn’t the problem. Like alcohol, with most people it
isn’t an issue, but for a portion of the population,
alcohol is a problem, and they have to deal with it
differently than the other 92% of the population who
can drink [reasonably].” It’s the same with
sex addiction. That kind of setting doesn’t
afford a full explanation, though, and those objecting
to the material quite often have a sexual issue
themselves.

How did you get into this field of study, and why did you
want to write Cruise Control?
I went to UCLA for my graduate work and I was fortunate
enough to work with Dr. Patrick Carnes (who wrote the
seminal book on sex addiction, Out of the
Shadows,
as well as the foreword to Cruise
Control
) at one of the first inpatient sex-addiction
centers. At that time it was groundbreaking to do inpatient
treatment for people with behavioral problems. I spent
four years with the guy who coined the phrase
“sex addiction”—Carnes is a pioneer in
the field. After that time I realized there was no
place in L.A. I could refer someone to and say,
“Go there when you get out.” That
didn’t seem right to me, so I took the steps
necessary to create that by starting an outpatient program
for sex addicts.

The book came
about because the primary material on the field, Out of
the Shadows,
is great, and Carnes is a mentor, but
he doesn’t know what it’s like to be
gay. He’s heard “bathhouse,”
“sex club,” or “glory
hole” a million times, but he doesn’t really
understand those things. You can’t really
include those things in a book intended for heterosexual
men. They would reject it out of hand. I wanted a book about
which gay men would say, “That’s
me.”

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