Chris Donaghue: The ‘Bad Sex’ Interview
“I want my clients to feel OK with what turns them on,
because we don’t choose that. It’s like being gay or straight.”
Who doesn’t love sex? But what happens when that love becomes an obsession or addiction? Logo seeks to answer that question and help individuals who are struggling with sexual issues in its new series, ‘Bad Sex,’ premiering November 4th…
Sexual issues – from promiscuity to sexual phobias and love addiction can destroy lives – and in some cases, end them. Noted sex specialist Christopher Donaghue has dedicated his professional life to helping people reclaim control of their sex lives through intense individual and group therapy sessions.
We spoke with Donaghue about sex addition, porn, and the Internet…
What’s the difference between a sex addict and someone who just likes to have a lot of sex?
Sex addicts have extreme sexual behaviors that usually have negative consequences. For example, it’s severely impairing to relationships if the person is married or in a committed relationship.
Or it impacts the person’s work life because he or she can’t get to work on time, or isn’t focused while there. There are also health and psychological consequences. The person usually feels out of control and/or has feelings of guilt and shame.
What do you believe is the root cause of sex addiction?
It’s a multitude of things. Men are geared toward hyper-sexuality because their role is to keep the species going. But we’ve evolved beyond that as a culture, and come up with this crazy idea of monogamy. Monogamy does not occur in nature. So it creates pressure to be with one partner for a lifetime.
Most of my clients come from some kind of traumatic history. There’s been a rupture of how he or she handles relationships. It’s really complex and hard to sum up in a few sentences. But history, biology, culture all come into play. Also, people aren’t comfortable talking about sex.
On the show, you get to watch the actual addictions in action, then you see the participants work with me.
Is it validation or something else?
Validation plays a part in everything we do. That’s why we put on what we do in the morning. For some people, they rely completely on sex for validation and that becomes addictive. Other people find other ways to feel validated, so their sex is just for fun and bonding.
This site is about Atlanta, and we’re in the Bible Belt. How does religion come into play?
That’s a good question. Monogamy was born out of religion, because religious leaders though sex was getting chaotic and out of control. Also, capitalism supported monogamy because ownership of your wife meant sexuality was yours.
Whatever people want for their lives – religion, monogamy, etc. – I will help them make it all fit together. My job is to make the participants better able to function, not to tell them what to do.
Monogamy rarely occurs. It’s not that we shouldn’t do it, it’s just that it’s really hard to maintain.
What are some of the strangest sex addictions you’ve had to deal with?
The show has a diverse population of participants – men, women, gay, straight, and everything in-between. The first season, you’ll see people that are a little more relatable.
One client, Ryan, is a sex addict and has the inability to get through an entire day without having multiple sex partners. He can’t even sit through a movie or dinner with his mom without wondering when he can leave and go find sex.
Some of your clients have problems with rough sex. When do they go too far?
I’ll find a way to make it work for them as long as its consensual. Rape is forced, non-consensual, and illegal. On the show everything is consensual. It becomes an issue when there are negative consequences: He gets a little too rough and looses it, and she’s a model who has to show up at work with bruises.
How much promiscuity is a bad thing for gay men?
I don’t use that word. Bad sex is what a lot of us call a multitude of sexual behaviors. The spin of the show is that it’s not bad. I can’t throw a number out there and say if you exceed this number in a week it means you’re slutty or addictive.
If you’re healthy and single and getting to work and doing your job, then have fun. But if you’re like Ryan in the first episode who can’t get to work, that’s a problem. For me, bad sex is usually based on what’s not working for the individual.
Porn makes everything worse. The Internet has provided a lot more access. People are falling into more taboo topics. For example my client Ted, he doesn’t have a desire to be in a relationship. His only interaction with females are online. My work is dealing with how to get him offline to learn how to have sex with someone he’s in a relationship with.
But I can’t say the exhibitionism, homemade porn, etc. is addictive or not just because of the topic. You really have to look at what role it plays in these people’s lives. It depends on if it’s problematic and has negative consequences or not.
I want my clients to feel OK by what turns them on because we don’t get to choose that. It’s like being gay or straight. My job is to find a way for them to work with it. So if you’re an exhibitionist, great. We’ll find a way to make it work without consequences.
There are a lot of new online sex sites. I don’t have a problem with them, but for people who have even a mild sex addiction, it boils up. It’s only going to get worse with smartphones and things like Grindr.
What if I feel normal, but everyone else tells me I’m a freak?
We all want to be normal. The goal is not to be normal. The goal is to be functional. Don’t try to match what everyone else is doing. Be who you are. Is this working for you? Is it not and maybe everyone else is right? Maybe we need to work on that.
How does sex addiction rank among drug or alcohol addiction?
What I’m seeing is that a lot of drug addictions, especially with crystal meth, the person is diagnosed as having a drug addiction. But there’s often a sex addiction attached to it. Once they become a drug addict, often they also become a sex addict.
How do you respond to people who say sex addiction isn’t real?
I get why they said that, but I’ve sat down with people whose sex addiction ruined their lives. You’ll see this on the show.
They often think that in group settings like yours, everyone just starts hooking up.
People do that no matter where you go. They’re going to pair off. Essentially in a therapeutic situation, we’re going to take this seriously. If they start kitting on people, we kick them off. And funny enough, you’ll see this happen on the show.
Where can people get help if they think they have a sex addiction?
There are a lot of amazing organization s and therapists across the country. Work with someone who has experience in sex addiction, because otherwise they don’t always know what to look for.
I work with AASECT. Their site can help you determine if you have a sex addiction, and their database can help you find a therapist.
A lot of people don’t realize that they have an addiction. They’re just doing what their friends are doing.
Chris Donaghue received his Master’s Degree in Clinical Social work from Temple University and is currently finishing his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Chris trained in couples and sex therapy at Florida’s Post Graduate Sex Therapy training program, UCLA, and the Center for Health Sex. He is currently in private practice in couples and sex therapy, as runs sex addiction, love addiction and sexuality group therapy at the Hills Treatment Center. He is the former Program Director at La Ventana Rehab’s Sexual Addiction Program, and is a member of the American Association of Sex Counselors, Educators and Therapists (AASECT).
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