We here at PornHelp feel some ambivalence toward celebrities who publicly struggle with sexual addiction, porn-related or otherwise. On one hand, we empathize with anyone who has faced the abyss of out of control sexual behavior, and applaud those brave enough to shine a light on that frequently misunderstood condition. On the other hand, public declarations of sexual addiction by celebrities often sensationalize the problem, and seem calculated to sell magazines and to increase reality TV viewership rather than raise genuine awareness.
For better or worse, we’ve developed a shorthand for toggling between these conflicting inclinations. We call it the “US Weekly Rule.” It goes like this: if the first place we hear about a celebrity’s struggle with sexual addiction is in US Weekly (or a similar publication), our instinct is to doubt that it’s legit.
Here’s where we’re coming from. Addictions involving out of control sexual behaviors thrive on isolation, secrecy and shame. They often ruin lives quietly, and become public knowledge only when some cataclysm forces them into the open. Sexual addictions don’t discriminate. They afflict young and old, men and women, famous and ordinary, gay and straight. They involve unwanted, frequently compulsive behaviors that defy repeated attempts to stop. They inflict terrible consequences on psyches, relationships, and careers. In short, sexual addictions are nothing to celebrate, for anyone.
When a celebrity genuinely struggles with sexual addiction, the problem may play out in public as an inexplicable downward spiral. Though the decline itself might be tabloid fodder, the label “sexual addiction” tends not to surface right away, and is rarely offered by the celebrity himself in the moment as an explanation for what’s going on. Think of Tiger Woods, for instance, whose contrite admission of serial infidelity and sexual acting out only followed a year-long slide culminating in a car wreck. In other words, like “ordinary” sex/porn addicts, the “addiction” label usually gets applied to these celebrities only once their desperate misery or efforts at recovery come to light. Their stories make us sad as any tragedy does, but we also can’t help but feel hopeful that their telling may lead to a better public understanding of how powerful and vexing sexual addictions and related disorders can be.
Those tragic stories differ, in our eyes, from the significantly less sympathetic tales of "sex addiction" that too often grace the covers of gossip magazines. In the typical version, a celebrity is found to have cheated on his or her (typically celebrity) spouse/partner, and directly or through a publicist offers “sexual addiction” as an explanation (some may say “excuse”) for the transgression. The story breathlessly features a high-profile check-in at a rehab center. Photographs of mistresses and jilted lovers. Salacious tell-alls. The works. These stories make us roll our eyes, and invite us to indulge in a little schadenfreude.
The US Weekly Rule isn’t foolproof. That particular magazine may break legitimate news now and again, and we get that celebrities differ from the rest of us in how their lives get shared with the public. Ordinary folks don’t have reporters sniffing around our private lives for a scoop. Publicists or no publicists, Tiger’s reported battle with compulsive sexual behavior was bound to come out eventually because his downfall was just so precipitous and notable. But the guy wasn’t - and still isn’t, so far as we can tell - trying to sell that story for clicks or shout-outs.
Which is to say, the US Weekly Rule works as a general guideline because the notion of voluntarily breaking the news of a sex addiction in a gossip magazine seems, at best, highly suspicious. No recovery program we’re aware of requires, or even recommends, that a person publicly announce their struggle (certainly not until well into recovery and after serious reflection on the consequences of speaking out). Virtually no one who has endured the pain of a sexual addiction, celebrity or not, wants to offer up that agony for others’ consumption. The vast, vast majority of us are just trying to put it in the past and rebuild. And as for the few among us courageous enough to talk publicly about their sexual addiction in depth (thank you, Terry Crews), well, we see a big difference between them and tabloid speculation about affairs and betrayals.
So look, we know we’re whistling in the wind when we say this, but we sure do wish that people in the public eye would think twice before coopting the label “sex addict” to describe their every indiscretion. Because, the thing is, every false or opportunistic celebrity claim of sexual addiction cheapens and sensationalizes the struggle of people who really do suffer from out of control, compulsive sexual behaviors. And that’s the last thing those of us who’ll never appear in US Weekly need.
Longer-form writing from the PornHelp team on current topics relating to problem porn use and recovery.