The sex addicts who don’t have a sex life

Kabir*, 26, is looking for porn on the internet compulsively, as he has done every day before and after work since he began a full-time job. Instead of socialising or working, Kabir spends almost $770 a month talking to sex-cam girls, who charge him for the opportunity to instruct them on how to undress or pleasure themselves on camera. He drinks Red Bull and black coffee to stay awake. Frayed and ashamed, he now wants to stop.

I find him on a sex-cam confessions thread of the forum NoFap – an anti-porn site where men, desperate to stop looking at explicit material, counsel each other. Many of the users of NoFap are also non-porn consumers: wives of addicts; mums trying to wean their sons or sometimes daughters off porn, and even siblings looking to stage an intervention.

More young people than ever are porn addicts, but scared of physical contact.Credit:iStock

"I cancel plans in order to sit and talk to sex cams, and it destroys my social life," says Kabir. "I risk getting sacked at work because I check in on their web pages on my phone during office hours. I initially liked the sex cams because it was more involved than just porn – you'd chat to a sexy girl and then you'd get a sexual experience. But now I have become so obsessive about it that the thought of dating or stopping makes me anxious."

Many of the users of NoFap are also non-porn consumers: wives of addicts; mums trying to wean their sons or sometimes daughters off porn.

To all intents and purposes, Kabir is a sex addict – just like celebrities Russell Brand or David Duchovny – unable to break the destructive habits of compulsive sexual behaviour. But, unlike other sex addicts, he is not actually having any sex. Kabir is part of a whole new generation of consumers driving the explosion of online pornography. In 2018, market leader Pornhub revealed that its videos were watched 33.5 billion times that year, by 92 million daily visitors (up from 64 million in 2016).

This new breed of younger sex addict – one unable to cope with flesh-and-blood encounters – is now populating addiction centres, says the Laurel Centre's Paula Hall, who has been a specialist in sex and porn addiction for 15 years. She says clients at her suburban Leamington Spa clinic are split into older adults who are compelled to engage in damaging physical flings and younger adults so fixated with online material that they are either not interested in sex or have found that real sex cannot match their online experiences.

"A lot of the younger patients we are working with – aged around 18 to 28 – have never had a sexual experience without pornography or sex cams," she says. "They are adamant it's physically impossible. They have no experience of fantasy without pornography."

Even if they experience real sex, they find it disappointing. Hall says: "Some of these youngsters are amazed that their partners have body hair or sweat or their flesh is soft. That they don't orgasm on touch. Real sex – rather than on a screen – smells in a way that is different from what they imagined. They are used to a sexual experience that isn't messy or unclean."

Nuno Albuquerque, group treatment lead at UK Addiction Treatment, says his practice encounters "no-sex sex addicts" every month. He says: "These particular patients have, over time, become psychologically dependent on masturbation, but when it comes to actual human contact and intimacy with another person, they're unwilling or even unable to perform."

A 2014 study from Cambridge University found that addicts watching pornography experience the same compulsive brain activity as drug addicts when confronted with their drug of choice. Last year, 38-year-old Andrew Barnbrook defrauded his employer of $480,560 in order to fund his habit of talking to a sex-cam model.

Dr Thaddeus Birchard of the Marylebone Clinic has treated more than 1,000 men since 2001 and says porn tricks the brain into wanting something it doesn't need. "Studies have shown that butterflies would sooner mate with a replica of a butterfly made of glitter than the real thing. Humans are just the same in that they have begun to prefer looking at constructed internet reality," he says.

The World Health Organisation recognised sex addiction as a mental health condition in 2018, although the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists stated two years before that there was not sufficient evidence to support it as a mental health disorder and that watching porn was not addictive.

Erica Garza, author of Getting Off: One Woman's Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction, was diagnosed as a sex addict in her 30s after years of self-destructive behaviour. Now happily married after completing a 12-step recovery programme, Garza says her addiction grew from deeply held insecurities. Aged 12, she was bullied at school. Instead of talking to someone, porn became a release. "It provided me with an intoxicating combo of pleasure and shame," she says. "This became my emotional crutch. While life stressors eventually changed, so did my methods of achieving sexual gratification, supplementing chronic masturbation with hardcore porn and sex with strangers."

She says: "When you're searching page after page of a porn site looking for a new clip – and then another clip to top the last one – and when you're obsessing about who you're going to sleep with – or just finished sleeping with – or grooming your body to be ready for sex, time gets eaten up, opportunities get missed. Life just sort of passes you by."

Garza was jolted into tackling her behaviour when a friend – who was attending AA meetings – pointed out her compulsive behaviours mirrored his own towards alcohol. She began attending Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings.

She says: "I do recommend meetings to other people as a start, but I tried a number of different things to deal with those underlying emotions I'd been running from for so long. Meditation, Thai kick-boxing, self-help books, talk therapy, a seven-day retreat called the Hoffman Process, and writing about my experiences were all tools that helped in their own way."

Dr Rob Weiss, a sexual therapist based in Los Angeles with more than 25 years of experience, has seen the effects in young adults: "By aged 20, these sex addicts have not dated, they are just coming home and watching porn. They are not aroused by sex, because it cannot compete with hours of multiple videos. I have 21-year-olds who cannot imagine holding someone's hand, panic about body contact and find it impossible waiting for a text reply because they've never had to wait to satisfy this impulse."

Paula Hall says pornography has made the nation "sexually obese". She says: "We are reaching for sexual material when we aren't even aroused, in the same way a food addict eats when they aren't hungry."

Escaping any vice is hard, but the hazard for porn addicts is that the internet is everywhere.

For those in recovery, it is about finding a way to self-regulate, says Garza. "I still watch porn from time to time, but the difference is that I don't seek sexual release because I'm trying to escape something. Knowing the difference in those motivations is crucial to conquering the addiction."

*Names have been changed

Telegraph UK

Source: Read Full Article