Caught in the Confusion of Madness

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“Come on and fuck me, Daddy-o,” she said as she was lying back on the couch, caressing her pussy with the soft strokes of her index and middle fingers. “Get off that thing and fuck me.”

“Lo,” I said, in my all-too-familiar paternal tone, not even looking up from the computer screen to the lovely nymph on my right, “I’m writing.”

“Writing about what, Daddy-o?”

“What do you think? I’m writing about you.”

“Well, why just write about me when you can have me in the flesh?”

“Because, right now I know what I want to say. Five minutes from now, it might be gone. Do you understand?”

“Who’s the sex addict now?” she asked rhetorically, disappointment in her voice, as she got up from the couch, naked, and walked out of the room. I looked up just long enough to see her perfectly formed ass cheeks rise and fall as she sauntered away.

“Who is the sex addict now?” — the question echoed in my head. Sex addict. Am I a sex addict? If I am, I am only in theory, not in practice, if that makes any sense. I mean Lo, Lo was off to the bedroom to pull out one or two dildos and have at it. I. . . I on the other hand was sitting on the couch, computer open to a document with all sorts of naughty words and thoughts strewn across the screen. At that particular moment I happened to be composing a poem for Lo that perfectly expressed the difference in our addictive tendencies. It began:

You are the song of my notes,

The dance of my choreography,

The meaning of my scribbles,

The creation of my concept,

The thoughts of my brain chemistry,

I am the cerebral addict; she the visceral. I get lost in words; she in flesh. I sing; she strips. I play with syllable counts and sentence structure; she plays with herself while watching porn. And I would have it no other way. Yet. . . yet. . .

The taxonomy of addiction breaks down into two basic types: substance and behavioral. The former is rather obvious and consists of a direct cause and effect: body ingests addictive substance, mind becomes dependent upon said substance: tobacco, cocaine, heroin, etc. The latter can be more or less subtle and the usual suspects are: gambling, food, sex, shopping. The standard line is that none of these behaviors are “addictions” until or unless done compulsively and that compulsion leads to negative consequences in one’s life — deleterious effects upon one’s social interactions, financial situation, or physical well-being. Frequently, but not always, there is a concomitant feeling of regret or negativity that the “addict” feels about the behavior as well, but sometimes it takes the observations of friends and family to point out the harm done.

Queue Lo’s comment to me, “Who’s the sex addict now?”

But is there really such a thing as a sexaholic? Someone famously asked Alfred Kinsey “What is a nymphomaniac?” Kinsey responded, “A nymphomaniac is someone who has more sex than you do.” Other sexperts, like Eugene Levitt have said that “Nymphomania is an outmoded, chauvinistic word that should be abandoned by science and medicine, and ought not to be used by any thinking person.” (“Nymphomania” in Sexual Behavior 3, 1973, p. 17.) Now, I’d like to consider myself a thinking person, but yet I have no other term to describe Lo’s behavior. Clearly, slut, whore, tramp, trollop, floozy, hussy, tart, strumpet, vixen, and coquette (just to name a few) are derogatory, judgmental, chauvinistic, terms that serve a patriarchal system that inhibits women’s freedom, joy, and pleasure. (And, they are also all terms that Lo loves to be called in the bedroom — just an aside.)

Anyone familiar with Nymphomania: a History, by Carol Groneman, will find that since the Victorian era (when women were diagnosed with “obstinate Erotomania”) right through to the 21st century, nymphomania and other analogous diagnoses have been used socially, politically, and legally as a means of maintaining the social hierarchy (that is, the male hierarchy) and to suppress that most fearful thing — women’s sexuality.

Interestingly, the Bible of the psychiatric world, the DSM IV, removed nymphomania from its list of named disorders and Groneman comments that “At the beginning of the twenty-first century, nymphomania is no longer a significant category either as an organic disease or as a specific mental disorder.” (p. 179) Yet, despite this, there are a record number of treatment facilities for “sex addiction,” “nymphomania,” satyriasis,” “sexual compulsivity,” and so on. There are also television shows and other popular media outlets dedicated to exploring the topic, healing the afflicted, and disseminating do-it-yourself tests to determine if you or your partner is such an addict.

I have explored other, less historically determined terms such as “love elite,” or “poyamorous,” and even Groneman coins a phrase to which I am particularly partial, “the happy nympho” — indicating a woman who consciously, discriminatingly, uninhibitedly, and even proudly seeks out various ways of achieving sexual gratification with few if any negative consequences to her mental, physical, social, or financial well-being.

But this is all just a matter of classification. The fundamental question isn’t so much what do you call it, but is it an addiction or not? Is there such a thing as Nymphomania? Is it created by men who fear sexually liberated women, women whose libidos are more active than their own? Is it part of the societal patriarchal misogynistic retention of power? Are there behaviors that revolve around sex that can be classified as addictive?

No matter what the addiction — substance or behavioral — there are always chemicals and physiological phenomena at play. Whether gaming, gambling, shopping, or sexting, dopamine and endorphins are released in the brain giving the “addict” a pleasurable sensation. Can one become addicted to those “drugs”? The question again comes back to one’s understanding of an “addiction.” I suppose that if the desire for the sensation is great enough to cause one to neglect other ostensibly important quality-of-life matters, then, yes, one can become addicted to those behaviors.

But one can also come at the question from a different angle. Many, many of my blogging friends frequently refer to their “depression” or “bi-polar” afflictions. Just as many people with depression “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol, I don’t think it is a very great leap to hypothesize that many also “self-medicate” with other types of brain-chemistry altering behaviors such as those mentioned above.

“Enough, H.H. with all your abstracting and your ‘one may do this,’ and ‘one may feel that,’ theoreticizing!” shouts a voice in my head, “Are you a sex addict or not?! Answer the question.”

It is very difficult to be a judge in one’s own case, as John Locke has said, but I will admit that in the constant struggle with my own bi-polar tendencies, sex, or rather the sexual tension of self-inflicted tortures (orgasm denial, Lo’s cuckolding, writing) helps me to maintain the life-affirming mania that keeps me away from the precipices leading to the deep valleys of melancholia. I turn to it the way some might turn to their Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac. As Julien Offray de La Mettrie once said, “Irritability is the source of all our feeling, of all our pleasure, of all our passion, and of all our thoughts.” Sexual irritability, for me, is how I know I’m alive. It is a feeling of vitality and mental acumen, creativity and love that is the antithesis of how I feel when my emotional and biological pendulum swings in the other direction toward depression. For me Lo is truly a drug. She is my antidepressant. Without her (and there are times when we quarrel and it feels like my world is falling apart) I experience withdrawal symptoms. I need her. She’s my fix. She’s my hit. She’s my smack, dope, genie.

In addition to that, there’s also the writing. Here too my close companions in the blogosphere testify to the same difficult self-doubt and doldrums that I occasionally feel: Why do I do this? What’s the point? This is crap! None of this is worth it. . . AT All!

But then, I keep coming back to it (as do they) and the only explanation I can give is that I can’t not do it. Not writing would be more difficult for me than writing is. Maybe it is all crap. Maybe it’s not worth it. Maybe there is no point to it. (I take that back; there most definitely is no point to it!) But so what!? I do it because I have to do it. It is. . . dare I say it? — a compulsion. An addiction? Could be.

All this writing on writing and eros reminds me of a conversation two lovers once had by a river. In, perhaps the first written work on love and writing in the West, Socrates explains to the handsome, young Phaedrus that there are two types of madness: divine and mundane. The former is a gift of the gods that inspires us to great deeds; the latter is literally a “dis-order” of the psyche that impels us toward destruction and disaster. Their conversation begins with a discussion of writing (specifically writing on love and sex) and ends with a conversation about good and bad writing. The question that cannot be answered by the lover or the author for either writing or love respectively is whether, when in the grips of it, one is possessed by the divine madness or mundane, beautiful writing or banal. And I suppose, that’s where I am — caught in the confusion of madness.

During all this time of ruminating over Lo’s question, Lo was repeatedly and vocally cumming in the bedroom down the hall. When she was done — or at least taking a break — I went into the bedroom and I showed her all I had written as a response to her question. And I asked her, “So, what do you think? Are you a ‘Happy Nympho’?”

She said, “I agree with Allison Reynolds.”

“Who the hell is Allison Reynolds?”

“You know, ‘The Breakfast Club’?”

“What are you talking about?”

“You should know; it’s from your century old man. In the movie, the Allison character says that she’s a nymphomaniac. When the nerdy kid asks her, ‘Isn’t nymphomania a sexual myth?’ she replies, “It’s a state of mind.”

[Originally, “Addiction, Self-Destruction, Sex, and the Happy Nympho,” from the blog:]

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Just your average nymphomaniac next door. I love fan mail:

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