Kevin B Skinner Ph.D.

Inside Porn Addiction

Sex

Sex Scandals, Dirty Laundry, and What It Says About Us

Is our animalistic nature winning the battle?

Posted Oct 26, 2015

On July 20, 2015, it was announced that a significant data breach had occurred at Ashley Madison (Parent company Avia Life Media (ALM)). For those unfamiliar with this company, it is a site that actively promotes having an affair. Their famous or “infamous” tagline is “Life is short, have an affair.” Hackers of the site announced that if Ashley Madison didn’t shut down its website, they would release personal data including names, addresses, and credit card information from the 37 million plus members who had signed up for their service. This forced Ashley Madison to scramble. Was the threat real? Should they shutdown their website? What would a release of the data do to their company and the millions of individuals whose lives would be altered by a release of this information?

So what happened? Ashley Madison did not shut off their servers and continued their services. As a result, hackers released the stolen data. The short-term result? The personal information of millions of people worldwide who signed up on Ashley Madison are now exposed. Individuals who have been outed include: Josh Duggar, many military personnel, and government workers including White House personnel.  It’s not pretty.

The devastating long-term effects will be felt for years. Marriages have ended; individuals have lost the trust and respect of others; reputations have been damaged. Others have used this data for extortion. The emotional impact has been high. Can you imagine learning about the data breach, wondering if your spouse has been cheating and then looking up their email address? Just going through this process would likely induce anxiety. Sadly, well over 30 million people who searched in this way would find their significant other had used this site.

While I believe Ashley Madison is a black eye to our society, playing god as the hackers choose to do also has the potential to harm many lives. There have already been articles suggesting individuals have committed suicide due to the information coming out. Others have filed for divorce. This story is sad.

My sadness comes from what this says about our society. That millions of married individuals are seeking sexual relations outside of their marriage should scare all of us. What is happening to our society? What happened to marital vows, promises, integrity, and core values that make societies strong? Infidelity harms all of society. It breaks down trust and weakens families.

The data also exposed us men. It was estimated that 90-95% of Ashley Madison users were men. If this is accuratem, that would indicate 3.7 million women had created accounts while 33.3 million men had signed up. Men, we are defining ourselves down. Societies are only as strong as we make them. Strong and vibrant cultures are built upon trusting relationships, taking responsibility for commitments we make, and being accountable to one another.

Sex Scandals

Every day we hear about sexual scandals. In the past few months, we learned that Subway’s advertising icon Jared Fogel was paying to have sex with minors and viewing child pornography. A federal investigator called him “a monster” in describing the things he had done. Jared pleaded guilty to the charges of having sex with a minor and child pornography.  

This sex scandal was followed by more information about Josh Duggar. In the release of the hacked Ashley Madison data, we learned that Josh had created two separate accounts. In being outed, he admitted to having affairs and struggling with a pornography addiction. He described himself as the “the biggest hypocrite.”

These are more than just stories about sex craved men. This should be a wake-up call to all of us. Is anyone immune? These difficult stories bring the spotlight to our sexuality and they could be instructive to all of us. We should be asking ourselves questions like, “What is driving this type of damaging behavior? And “How can we help?” Maybe we should be asking ourselves this question, “What should we call this behavior?" Immoral, sure. But this doesn’t help us identify the real problem. These men abused teenage girls, had problems with pornography, and had affairs. They harmed themselves, others, and their families.  

As a therapist, what clinical diagnosis should we give these individuals? According to our professional handbook for therapists, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Therapists (DSM-V), there is no diagnosis for sexual compulsivity.  Sadly, the American Psychological Association (APA) and many professionals still haven’t acknowledged this type of sexual compulsivity as a diagnosable problem.

Josh Duggar, Jared Fogel, and millions of others are ruining their lives. And in the process, they are harming countless others. When individuals are willing to put their relationships, occupations, and others at risk for sexual gratification, something is wrong. Why would a person take this kind of risk? What is really happening in the minds of the millions of people who signed up on Ashley Madison? Have they become a slave to their sex drive? How is this different from an alcoholic or drug addict putting everything at risk for the next drink or hit?

Whether we call individuals participating in these risky sexual behaviors sex addicts or not, what we need to understand is that they are people too. Most of them feel out of control, hopeless, and helpless. They live with shame and inner turmoil. They feel misunderstood and hopeless. Their secret lifestyles have enslaved them. Many had their first sexual experiences before they hit puberty (e.g. the average age of exposure to pornography is eleven—Data gathered at www.assessingpornaddiction.com). In many situations, early exposure to pornography increases an individual's sex drive and builds to the point that they are surprised at how much they think about it. This is what it is like for many trapped in the clutches of sexual compulsivity. Indeed, they create much suffering, but they too are suffering often in the silence of their secrets.

Should our society condemn the 37 million who signed up on Ashley Madison? Or should we look deeper into the root of this problem. For many of us, our search should begin by looking in the mirror and asking ourselves how we can strengthen ourselves and protect our families?” We all have to deal with our personal sexual desires. We are sexual beings with natural desires and tendencies. However, when we succumb to our animalistic tendencies without creating any barriers our actions define us down and we contribute to an ever growing hedonistic society. We need to rise up and be better than we have been. We don’t have to accept a culture that pushes the idea that anything goes sexually.  We need to find better ways to teach and educate our children. Our examples will go a long way. We were designed for a much greater purpose than to succumb to our animalistic instincts.

References:

1. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-34044506