Hollywood blockbuster Shame portrays the harrowing world of sex addicts. Two Kingston students tell Mashaal Mir how their addiction is ruining their lives.

By Mashaal Mir

The shameful addiction

By Mashaal Mir

Dressed in a grey cardigan and loose navy blue jeans, Kingston University student Derek* is a rather good-looking guy.

The enchanting musk-like aroma of his cologne is strong, but not overpowering. With dark chocolate brown hair and soft, delicate almond eyes, he seems in complete control.

But beneath the enticing smile, the 23-year-old has locked away a dark and guilt-ridden secret.

Meet Derek

Derek is a medically diagnosed sex addict.

According to Newsweek, the infamous addiction is on the rise. Once largely considered a ‘Hollywood phenomenon’, the epidemic of sex addiction is no longer constrained to movies and film actors.

For Derek, who says he stopped counting how many women he’s slept with after number 50, the often ridiculed addiction, especially by men, is all too real and all too severe.

“There are times when I’ve stood in the shower for an hour after having sex with some random girl, just scrubbing myself until I bleed,” he says and rolls up his sleeves to show rashes along his arm. “I feel disgusting and I want to throw up. I want to cut and scratch myself until the filth within me is out of my system, out my mind and heart.

“But no matter how hard and long I scrub, the monster won’t wash away. He won’t die.”

An early start

Derek grew up with three older brothers and a father who didn’t mind encouraging sexual behaviour. When Derek was eight, he became familiar with pornography and it wasn’t long after that he had his first sexual experience.

“I lost my virginity at the age of 14 and instead of being upset about it, my Dad congratulated me and said manhood was defined by how many women you sleep with,” recalls Derek. “If I had a girlfriend, he would say: ‘you’re not supposed to be interested in the woman, it’s all about the pussy.

What are you waiting for?’”

Out of control

According to Derek, his sex life steadily grew during college, yet it wasn’t until he came to university that his lifestyle exploded and started to get out of control.

“Masturbating wasn’t satisfying anymore. It would entertain me for a bit, but I’d easily get bored, restless and looking for something more,” he says and shifts uncomfortably in the chair. “Looking at other men dominating women wasn’t enough. I wanted to do it as well.”

Many people often confuse sex addiction with simply enjoying the act of sex. While individuals who enjoy sex are undertaking a healthy lifestyle, sex addicts specifically have sex in order to resolve more complex, unresolved psychological and emotional issues. And just like any other addiction, individuals addicted to sex desperately seek their ‘high’.

“For me, my addiction is the sight of the woman underneath me,” Derek says. “Watching her moan and squirm is like snorting several lines of cocaine in one go. I feel powerful and God-like.”

However, the more severe the addiction, the stronger the drug dosage. Derek confesses that his addiction has often made him go through a ‘manic’ period: fuelling nights of threesomes and hardcore sex orgies. His peak, he says, was having sex with nine different women in five days.

“There are days where I feel like a king. I can get any woman I want and when I see my other friends pathetically hitting on women and not getting anywhere, it makes me feel superior,” he says. “But when I have threesomes, foursomes, or go to sex parties, I feel ashamed and like I am spiralling out of control.”

Derek contacted his father for help and advice, only to be told that it was “normal for guys to sleep around and that if a guy wasn’t having sex with different women, there was something wrong.”

Intervention

It wasn’t until an incident at a night club, and an intervention by his friend, that Derek finally came to realisation that he needed professional help and joined therapy.

“I just saw this girl on the couch, laying there unresponsive and clearly drunk,” Derek says and his voice cracks. “That was the first time in my life I had considered taking clear advantage of a woman. I was desperate for my fix and I saw a clear opportunity.

When I was about to pick her up to take her to my place, my friend basically dragged me outside and said: ‘you have a serious problem and you need help. What you were about to do in there, that’s rape.’”

“People think sex addiction is just some excuse celebrity guys invent if they can’t keep it in the pants,” Derek says. “No one understands the repercussions of sex addiction. The feeling of guilt, shame and self-disgust is overwhelming and at times unbearable.

“You think I like not being able to have a solid relationship? I can never tell a woman about who I really am. If I did, no one would ever touch me again.”

It’s not just men…

Yet, despite sex addiction predominantly being seen as a ‘male problem’, women too are affected. According to the BBC, one in five sex addicts are women. But, the underlying reasons for why some women become sex addicts are different.

Eva*, a third-year student, lost her virginity at the age of 18 to a random man she met. Her encounter, which left her feeling “used and dirty”, was the trigger to an unhealthy relationship with sex.

Low self-esteem

Eva suggests that her addiction to sex is about dealing with a low self-esteem after years of feeling inferior to her more seductive and pretty friends.

“If a guy wanted sex, that meant I was desirable and attractive,” she says. “The whole process of sex is addictive, from the seduction to the climax. My high is the look of satisfaction and ecstasy on the guy’s face while we’re having sex. This was my way of connecting with love. Knowing that I’m giving him bliss and he desires me is my drug. It’s like being in a trance.”

Eva says she realised she was a sex addict when she became careless and went out of her way to have sex, even if it meant destroying relationships. She ended up sleeping with three of her friends’ boyfriends.

Disgust

“During the moment, you don’t feel anything, and you certainly don’t think. There have been countless times when I have had unprotected sex,” she admits. “But when I get that one moment alone and I get down from the high, everything slowly comes crashing down. I realise that I can’t undo what I have done. The feeling of betrayal and disappointment is overwhelming. I feel this disgust towards myself, as if I were this piece of trash.”

Several sex addicts talk about ‘cleansing’ themselves after sex in hope of destroying all memory of the episode. Any evidence of it evokes strong physical reactions.

“I remember cleaning myself after I had sex with this random guy from Oceana,” Eva says. “I threw up because the traces of what I had done sickened me.”

Eva, who once slept with four men in two days, says that women don’t speak out about sex addiction in fear of being labelled as “whores and easy”.

“I thought that sex was a tool that I had complete control over, but in reality I was becoming a slave to sex. It had control over me,” she says.

Hope

The legitimacy of sex addiction as an actual addiction is still a matter of heated discussion within the medical and public domains, but Eva is focused on improving her self-esteem while Derek continues to go to therapy. He doesn’t have ‘manic’ periods anymore, and he’s down to sleeping with six women a week.

“My friend who basically saved me is now my flatmate,” he says. “He helps me stay away from clubs and if I need to talk, he’s willing to listen.”

“There are days when I think I’m going to get over my problem. Then I look around and realise just how deep I am in and maybe I will never make it out. But I’m not going to let the monster win, I won’t allow it.”

*Names have been changed

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