First, a few comments about sex addiction in general as a backdrop for the discussion of gay sex addiction. A basic truth about sexual addiction is that it turns our natural, instinctual sex drive into a drug habit whereby sex is repeatedly used to get our brains to release chemicals that medicate unconscious pain. The sex is also sought addictively in an attempt to meet unconscious needs that are unrelated to sex. Things take on a new meaning for sex addicts. Pictures of models in swim apparel or underwear ads instantly become compulsive sex objects; a person is valued for his/her body parts; sex acts are not a means of naturally experiencing one’s sexual energy or sharing that sexual energy with another as an expression of love, but are a drug on which to get high over and over. This is true whether the sex addict is heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.
This discussion of gay sex addiction, for a frame of reference, includes comparisons to heterosexual sex addiction. (For more detailed information about sexual addiction in general, select from the buttons in the side bar.) Gay sex addicts share many of the same characteristics as their heterosexual counterparts. They medicate unconscious internal pain by addictively seeking sexual highs. They violate their personal values and operate in secrecy, creating a visible life and a hidden life. They progress into more and more out-of-control behavior as time passes and they chase the high into new, more frequent, more extreme, and riskier sexual adventures. They experience cycles of release and control; that is, periods of euphoric sexual abandon alternating with periods of shutting down the sex and replacing it for awhile with things like work, depression, or religiosity. And over time they experience more unwanted consequences, such as significant credit card debt, sexually transmitted diseases, arrests, lost relationships, and lost jobs. Even the specific behaviors and contexts in which the behaviors occur are often similar for both heterosexual and gay sex addicts: compulsive masturbation, pornography and sexual chat on the Internet, sexual massages, sex with prostitutes, phone sex, and one-night trysts with someone met at a club.
There may be a slight difference in the estimated incidence of heterosexual versus gay sex addiction. Based on his research, Patrick Carnes, leading authority on sexual addiction, has estimated that 8% of males and 5% of females in the U.S. population are sex addicts. (It would be an assumption that those percentages include heterosexuals as well as people of other sexual orientations.) Robert Weiss, in his book, Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, says that an estimated 10% of gay men are sexually addicted. This is, of course, not exactly comparing apples to apples.
Moving forward with the discussion of gay sex addiction, there is the obvious fact that gays (whether addicts or not) are attracted to the same gender while straights are attracted to members of the opposite gender. So it follows that gay sex addicts sexually objectify people of the same gender in order to medicate pain and meet non sexual needs, just as straights do with the opposite gender. A difference between the gay and straight sex addict has to do with how their addictive objectification of others works. For example, the straight male sex addict typically is using a sexualized image of, or connection with, females in an attempt to fill something lacking within himself, while the gay male sex addict is driven to try to complete something within himself through the sexualization of other males. Perhaps the gender of the sex object goes beyond just sexual attraction. This would be further illustrated by bisexual male sex addicts who see themselves as heterosexual and live that lifestyle, but choose men rather than women as the objects of their sexual obsession. Perhaps it could be said that both gay and straight sex addicts are symbolically attempting to heal unconscious psychic wounds, heterosexuals usually through the feminine and gays through the masculine.
Another difference lies in how the gay or straight sex addict deals with shame about the addictive behavior. Shame, whether it is conscious or largely experienced at an unconscious level, is an integral part of the addictive cycles as the sex addiction progresses. Society and culture play a role in creating the shame associated with sex addiction. The straight sex addict deals with shame about his behavior: behavior that violates a marriage or committed relationship, secret behavior that gets discovered, actions that contradict one’s values, or behavior that the addict has promised to cease. But the gay sex addict deals not only with those same behavioral dilemmas but also with the shame and stigma that is attached (still) to being gay. Robert Weiss points out in his book named above on gay sex addiction , “…there is double shame for the gay sex addict; no matter how much he may have worked through his negative feelings about being gay, he still ends up feeling ashamed of his sexual acting out.”
The heterosexual-dominated larger culture, which in the first place is characterized by a frequent lack of accurate information and a lot of disagreement on most sexual issues, has a built-in tendency to view a gay sex addict differently from a straight one, if indeed having any information at all about sexual addiction. (Some joke that sex addiction is one addiction to be desired while others equate sex addicts with sex offenders.) With a frequent heterosexual bias, there is often a notion among non gays that gay sex, by definition, exists at the extreme. From this view it would be easy to lump all gays together as sex addicts. Then there is the added fact that many gay people themselves contribute to a distorted perception of what is healthy gay sexual behavior, by viewing the unquestioned pursuit of sex as a sacrosanct gay right. All this tends to strengthen the gay sex addict’s denial: “Just because I have a lot of sex with a lot of people doesn’t mean I’m a sex addict: it’s just part of being gay.” Again, in the words of Robert Weiss, “Unfortunately, for the gay [male] sex addict, his increasingly destructive patterns of sexual behavior take place against a cultural background of dramatically greater sexual freedoms than those usually enjoyed by his heterosexual peers.”
Personal and cultural biases and differences, plus a lack of accurate knowledge, make it difficult to determine the line between healthy and addictive sexuality in the gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans-gender population. The information presented in this section is not intended to resolve this question, but to bring one aspect—gay sex addiction—into sharper focus.
While gay male cultural norms may more fully embrace casual sex as normative behavior, non addicted gays often have personal rules and values about their sexuality and fidelity, which mirror those of non addicted heterosexuals. Gay sex addicts, on the other hand, like heterosexual sex addicts, will tend to organize their lives around the procurement of sex, engaging in rituals they have developed that involve excesses, manipulation, deception and even danger in order to maintain a regular sex supply that meets the level of inner sexualized needs.
The sexual rituals are varied and are repeated endlessly. For gay sex addicts sometimes it’s the bar scene, at other times it’s sex in a tiny booth at an adult bookstore, or at the baths, or in the gym locker room—before, after or instead of a workout—or in a sex club. The search for sex can involve multiple sex partners. Or it can entail long hours online masturbating, while visually “feasting” on digitally endowed "Greek gods" and graphically explicit gay sex. Some will hook up for sex via web cams and phone sex lines, while others will cruise public parks and restrooms seeking anonymous sex. For the more addicted gay man, most evenings include a smorgasbord of these activities.
To read a description of what life is like for the gay male advanced sex addict, click on the link below. For more topics about gay sex addiction, click on the sub tabs under "Gay Sex Addicts" on the side bar.