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Brian Whitney Brian Whitney

This Is Why Porn Addicts Get No Respect From Sex Addicts


There's a strict hierarchy in our little herd, and the guys addicted to pornography are at the bottom, with the phone-sex junkies. If only I had their problems.

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There are always people out there who look at sex addicts as glamorous in some way. I have had friends, coworkers, even therapists, who looked at my past as something to covet. They apparently think of me spending my days fucking an entire town full of beautiful women, smiling the whole time.

Of course this is ridiculous.

But there is one type of sex addict who does not have this problem, and that is the porn addict. Porn addicts don’t have it easy. They get no respect.

In 2007 I went to rehab because of sex addiction. Life had become really dark for me. Houses, jobs, friendships and marriages had been lost, and I was living with someone I hated, purely because she indulged my kink. There was no way I could pretend I didn’t have a problem anymore.

After a few weeks in outpatient therapy in Los Angeles, I went to a grimy rehab in Philly. Even grimy rehabs cost 10 grand a month, but the ones with equine therapy and massage cost 40, so here I was. (I later found out Russell Brand went to the same rehab as I did. He hated it, too.)

About a dozen guys were in there with me. Most of us were in relationships. Nothing says “sex addiction” quicker than being kicked out of your house. The few who were single were either just out of jail or facing jail time. Their participation was mandatory.

I quickly learned that there was a definite hierarchy in our little crew. It happens. You put a bunch of guys in a building for 60 days and there is going to be a lot of jockeying for position.

At the top were the guys who had a lot—a helluva lot—of sex. This makes sense, of course, because we were master manipulators, our skills honed from years of seducing and lying and having to talk ourselves out of extremely difficult situations. It was also because we had all sorts of fucked up stories to tell.

We would sit outside at night and choke down tons of smokes, and we would tell stories. Sometimes they were told with sorrow and other times with humor, but they were always told well. At times guys lower on the ladder would try to infiltrate our little smoking cadre, but they didn’t last long.

One of the things we had to do in group therapy was “victim lists.” All of us at the rehab did them. This was a litany of the people we had wronged as a result of our sex addiction. Almost all of the victims were women. There was only one gay guy, a male nurse whose thing was going to sex clubs and barebacking six guys a night.

One after another we would take our turn in the chair in front of the room and break down everything we had ever done sexually that had hurt someone. Some lists went on for two sessions. There was Part One on Tuesday and Part Two on Thursday: Guys would start when they were, like, 13 years old and, after an hour, only be up to their early 20s. The names just went on and on.

At the top were the guys who had a lot of sex. This makes sense because we were master manipulators, our skills honed from years of seducing and lying and having to talk ourselves out of extremely difficult situations.

This exercise was supposed to get the addict to recognize what his behavior had done to others over the years. It wasn’t titillating—at that point almost nothing was—but it still could be rather amazing. At the very least it was good theater.

Next down the hierarchy were the guys who did crazy shit. These guys were odd, there was no doubt about it. A few had gotten into trouble with the law because of their sexual predilections. Substances were often involved, too.

I remember one guy, Nate, an exhibitionist whose thing was dealing crack naked. Sometimes Nate wouldn’t put on clothes for weeks and people would come over to score and he would just sit there naked dealing it out and sucking on a pipe. That didn’t last long. Dealing crack while using it is like being a monkey trying to sell bananas. His stories went on forever and were filled with debauchery and “what the fuck did he just say he did?” moments.

Another guy would get two or three prostitutes and a bunch of coke and rent a hotel room for a few days. The prostitutes weren’t allowed to move, he didn’t fuck them. They had to just stand there like naked mannequins while he snorted coke. When one finally couldn’t stay still any longer, he would throw her out and call the service for a new one to be sent over.

Next there were the guys who were just sad and destroyed. We all were sad and destroyed to a certain extent, but some guys in there never had a chance.

At the bottom, on the lowest rung of the hierarchy, came the porn addicts. The rest of us looked at them and thought, “What the hell are you doing here?” We never said that to them, of course, we tried to be supportive, but their whole thing seemed so trite.

There aren’t any good stories that go with being a porn addict. There are no games to be played, no skills involved, nothing to make your fellow addicts or society at large envy you. You watch porn, you beat off. That’s it.

If you are a porn addict, the odds are you are depressed or at least isolated socially. If you have a wife or a girlfriend, you are either hiding your behavior from her, or she thinks you are a freak. If you are single, it is probably because you are spending the majority of your time beating off. Maybe you lost a job because you watched porn at work. Maybe you flunked out of college because all you did was watch porn. It is also possible you are in financial trouble because of your habits. When you feel anxious, when you feel alone, when you feel bored, you watch porn and beat off.

There was one guy, Sean, a normal middle-aged business type, but around us he tried to talk like he was Chuck D from Public Enemy. He wore “Life Is Good” t-shirts. He even went to prayer group.

Sean had a rather typical story. He liked to beat off to porn and got caught by his wife. She freaked out and threatened to leave him. He kept doing it and she caught him again. She left him and here he was, trying to get help so she would take him back. To many of us this was rather unbelievable. Most of our girlfriends and wives would have been thrilled if all we were doing was watching porn.

The only person lower on the chain was the phone sex guy. He was a poor oaf who was dropped off by his wife for 30 days, to try and break him of the habit of spending a fortune getting off via voice stimulation. He went from spending 10 bucks a week to a hundred dollars a week to a thousand a week. He started off having phone sex with women, then went to phone sex with men.

At the bottom came the porn addicts. The rest of us looked at them and thought, “What the hell are you doing here?” We never said that to them, of course, we tried to be supportive, but their whole thing seemed so trite.

It isn’t that I am saying porn addiction isn’t real. Of course it is. As with other sex addicts, Internet porn addicts associate intimacy with pain, tend to be emotionally insecure and isolated, and avoid reaching out to other people.

One of the biggest issues as a porn addict is that your sobriety can be ruined in a matter or seconds.

A guy who has serial affairs has to put in some work, he has to be charming, he has to say and do the right things. I would sometimes spend weeks, or even months, working on someone. A guy who goes to strip clubs or goes to see prostitutes has to do some planning. If he is in a relationship he has to figure out how to get out for the night, what his excuse is going to be. Even if he is single he still has to get in the car and drive to the club, or he has to wait for the prostitute to show up.

But the porn addict can access his hit in seconds. He is in danger the second he gets on the computer. There is no forethought or planning needed. Just one image, or thought, can trip up the porn addict and he’s right back in the game.

Sean tried hard to ingratiate himself into my little circle of assholes who did bad things, but it never worked. There were no commonalities. The guys I hung out with had done some truly wild and horrible things, and we were full of false bravado, which of course was part of our problem in the first place. Oh, it wasn’t that we were at all superior about who we were, we actually were different. Right?

We weren’t, of course. We were there for the same reason that Sean was. In fact, Sean, in limiting his desire to porn, was doing much less damage to himself, his wife and his community.

One day Sean complained in group therapy about the cliques. He said that one group (mine) didn’t participate, we just hung out and had smokes outside and made jokes, we didn’t go to prayer group, didn’t hang out with the rest of the crew.

And I got that. I got where he was coming from. He was here, and he was trying. But he went at it all wrong.

Whereas before we tolerated Sean, now we shunned him completely. Which was bullshit of us obviously. But in those situations you do what you do.

When my 30 days were up, they suggested that I stay longer because they thought I needed more help, but I wasn’t into it. I had enough of working on my shit. I was done.

They asked the same of Sean. He stayed without question.

Brian Whitney, a pseudonym, is the the author of 37 Stories About 37 Women and Am I Pleasing You, and the co-author of books written with adult film stars Porsche Lynn and Rebecca Lord. His previous piece for Substance.com was about 10 signs that may indicate you’re involved with a sex addict.