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January 30, 2013

Advice: Savage Love

Not an addict

Q: I’ve been a fan of your “Savage Lovecast” for a long time, but I had to write after hearing Marty Klein’s awesome talk about the fallacy of “sex addiction.” I am 27, and for most of my adult life, I have suffered from complete sexual dysfunction with partners. I was ashamed and thought I was too sexually screwed up to be with a partner because I’m kinky. (I have a fetish for tights and pantyhose.) I was also afraid to seek help out of fear of being labeled “abnormal” or “addicted to porn.” I managed to get a little better thanks to an encouraging, kinky, porn-loving, sex-positive female partner. In spite of feeling better, I am still having problems with partners. What are some good resources for finding a sex-positive therapist like Dr. Klein? I have been referred by several people to someone listed as a “certified sex addiction therapist,” and I worry this is exactly the kind of unhelpful, sex-negative therapist Dr. Klein mentioned on your podcast.
NON-Addict Despite Dumb Intolerant Counselors’ Theories

A: “If the public knew how little sexuality training most therapists receive, they’d be stunned,” said Dr. Marty Klein, a sex therapist, marriage counselor, psychotherapist and author. “You can get licensed as a marriage counselor or psychologist without hearing the words ‘clitoris,’ ‘vibrator’ or ‘amateur porn.’ So ‘How do I find a sex-positive therapist?’ is an important question.”

Klein advises you start by contacting the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT.org). “NON-ADDICT should look for a member in his area,” says Klein. “But the group is small, and not all of them will share his sexual values. Here’s what he should ask a potential therapist: ‘What are your sexual values?’ ‘How do you define healthy sexuality?’ ‘Are you comfortable talking about kinky sex?’ ‘Do you think monogamous, heterosexual, genitally oriented sex is ultimately better than other consensual arrangements?’” The kind of sex-positive therapist you seek will answer straightforward questions like that over the phone before you make an appointment for a session. “And regardless of the answers, if you sense a professional is queasy talking about sex, move on.”

Klein says there are many ways to find a local, progressive, sex-positive therapist. “He should call his local Planned Parenthood or LGBT center, a gynecologist or urologist, or the person who teaches sexuality at his local university, or a local divorce lawyer” and ask for a referral, advises Klein. You could even call a priest. “Most clergy send their sexuality cases to one or two local therapists, some of whom are quite progressive.”

To hear Dr. Klein talk with me about pornography and the “sex addiction” racket, go to thestranger.com/lovecast and listen to Episode 326. To find out more about Dr. Klein and his work, go to martyklein.com.

Q: I recently caught my boyfriend watching porn. We have talked about it before, and he said he didn’t watch it while he was in a relationship. But when I caught him there with his dick in his hand, I lost it. I have never felt so hurt or betrayed. This is my first serious relationship. I can’t get over how sick and sad I feel. It feels like he was cheating on me. Should I be as upset as I am? It was interactive porn — it was like he was cybersexing with one of his ex-girlfriends. What should I do?
Sad And Deceived

A: Was your boyfriend having cybersex with an ex-girlfriend? Or did it only feel like he was? I would make a distinction, because while all porn constitutes a betrayal of the terms of your relationship, interacting with a stranger and, very likely, a professional online shouldn’t feel quite so threatening.

Backing way the hell up: Your boyfriend shouldn’t have lied, but you shouldn’t have been so naive as to believe him. If you can’t bring yourself to forgive him — if you can’t put yourself in his shoes and try to understand why he might lie about this (shame, fear, a desire to spare your feelings) — then this relationship is doomed. End it and find a new boyfriend. But when your next boyfriend tells you he doesn’t watch porn, you’re going to look at him and say, “Suuuuuure, you don’t.”

Ask your new boyfriend to be discreet and limit his porn consumption to an extent where you’re unlikely to uncover any evidence of it. If your new boyfriend manages to do that for you, if he’s considerate enough to cover his tracks, you should be considerate enough to turn a blind eye on those rare occasions when you do stumble over evidence that your new boyfriend watches porn — just like your old boyfriend did and all your future boyfriends will.

Find the “Savage Lovecast” (my weekly podcast) every Tuesday at thestranger.com/savage.