Confessions of a Gay Sex Addict-Turned-Therapist
Rob Weiss is the founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles and the author of "Cruise Control: Understanding Sexual Addiction in Gay Men." When he talks to his patients about sex addiction, he knows whereof he speaks: This gay man is himself a self-confessed recovering sex addict.
When they say it takes one to know one, they could have had Weiss in mind. (Or maybe "it takes a thief to catch a thief.") Weiss is 25 years into recovery; as with AA and other 12 step-type graduates, Weiss will probably never consider himself "cured," but rather continually in the process of cure.
Despite his own history, Weiss is surprisingly non-judgmental about men who have a lot of sex. What's refreshing talking to him is that he believes that a gay man can not only have a healthy sexual appetite, but also have many partners and still not be considered an addict.
In a blog, he elaborates on this thesis. When George Michael, partnered and public, tells the press that cruising for sex in a public restroom is a gay thing, Weiss sees red. "This angry response sounds a lot more like the denial of an underlying problem than the reality of life for most gay men today," he writes.
He sees sex in restrooms or gym saunas as relics of an earlier, more repressed time. A sex addict, he writes are people who "lose themselves in endless hours and days of searching online for porn and hook-ups or
cruising steam rooms, adult bookstores and sex clubs, often spending more time and energy pursuing sex, then they do evolving healthy, intimate lives."
In an exclusive interview with EDGE, Weiss expounded on his original and even controversial ideas about what constitutes sex addiction, where the boundaries are, how to find them -- and the role of porn, crystal meth and one's peers.
EDGE: You write that the vast majority of self-confessed sex addicts are straight, married men. But, you add, they are usually forced to get treatment by their wives (Tiger Woods being an exemplar). What about gay men?
Rob Weiss: I started the clinic in 1995 in West Hollywood; 15 years later, 95 percent of my clients are male heterosexuals. The only reason why gay men come in is because they have a committed parter, who says he won't put with it anymore. As the community becomes more oriented toward relationships, more come into treatment.
EDGE: Is it that the gay scene in general is more accepting of compulsive sexual behavior?
R.W.: A wife finds 300 images on the computer, sees hook-up emails. That's how we get most of our clients.
Gay men never have a reason for treatment. As George Michael said, this is what gay men do. Gay men also have more sexual opportunities because they have sex with men. You can't go up to a woman on the street and say, "Let's have sex." Women are more inherently relational.
EDGE: So men-on-men sex is like two charging bulls -- now cows involved.
R.W.: Men are able to have sexual experiences without guilt, generally. So men seeking sex with men have no demand for a relational element. That's not about being gay, that's about being men. Straight men envy gay men having so much sex -- they have to work at it harder!
EDGE: What's wrong with that?
R.W.: Here's the problem: It's very difficult to have sex without having feelings for someone. Eventually you're going to attach to someone else. So it's inherently threatening on some level to a partner.
EDGE: But when does it spill over into "addiction"?
R.W.: The men I deal with have an obsession that compromises their lives: work, health, relationships. That is different from recreational sex.