Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The (Junk) Science Of Sex Addiction

Sure has been a lot of celebrity dudes checking into sex addiction programs lately. First, Californication star David Duchovny checked into rehab for specific kind of sexual addiction that he developed after an alien abduction. Evidently, every thing those aliens do to your body after they take you on a tour of the universe ain’t all bad.   
Then Tiger Woods checked into the “Wilt Chamberlain Sex Addiction Spa and Grill”  after a string of women went public with claims they were his mistresses.  Tiger claims that he had not had sex with 20,000 women as the “Wilt Chamberlain”  facilities’ namesake is famous for...but Woods said he’s “still got the sex addiction bad”.
So Tiger is participating regularly in a 12 step program with a room full of other sex addicted men who are sitting in a big circle facing each other somehow working it out.  

Wouldn’t you love to hear those discussions...what with the addition of crowd psychology layered on top of an odoriferous level of testosterone saturation?  It would be like telling a room full of 18 year old boys to avert their eyes from a video of Samantha Fox checking the oil on a ’67 Firebird.
Actually,  the idea of being addicted to sex is actually quite controversial, since according to Forbes Magazine (which is the favorite reading of sex addicts other than porn),  “ No such diagnosis is even recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), psychiatry's Bible.” In fact, “The DSM-IV assiduously avoids the word "addiction," preferring to talk about dependence, withdrawal and compulsion.” 
They say a new condition, called hypersexuality, might be what’s wrong, but some psychiatrists do not like the idea about human sexuality as an addictive force unto itself. "I don't buy it as a disease ... it is an excuse," says John J. Lucas, a forensic psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College who BTW, has never needed an excuse for sex addiction. 
In modern society, "we have an unfortunate practice of proliferating illnesses ... in response to various practices in terms of reducing the stigma of certain behaviors."  In other words if you got “the sex addiction bad”,  it’s not much different than the flu...its just that the symptoms are different.  For example, there are no aches and pains, just localized pressure and your temperature rises and falls based on what you are doing, if you catch my drift.
Another idea is that because sex releases dopamine in the brain and provides a momentary high just as many drugs do such that problematic sexual behavior could be understood as being very much like a chemical dependency. In other words, in much the same way that you desire a Bloody Mary at Sunday Brunch, a sex addict might be driven to sex on the beach (not the drink...you alcoholic). 

Some say compulsive sexuality is similar to pathological gambling or even compulsive shopping, however a recent brain-imaging study says maybe not. Researchers at the University of Minnesota showed that the brains of so called sex addicts did not react at all like other more accepted addictions. For example: people who were suffering from “Rachel Ray” addiction had similar brain reactions as the unfortunates who were addicted to the books and films of Nicholas Sparks. 
Then there is the example of my WASPish friend in NY (who shall remained un-named) who enrolled in a sex addiction program after his wife caught him in a string of affairs with Latino girls.  He confided to me that he was NOT addicted to sex...but IS in fact addicted to gorgeous chicks from Puerto Rico and Peru. 
Finally there is the Darwinian, survival of the fittest rational that says that sex addiction is nothing more than a behavioral characteristic of a category of men occupying the top of the food chain that are driven by the hidden forces of evolution to spread their seed far and wide for the general benefit of the entire human race.

This is the most widely accepted explanation by men...especially those who participate in pro sports.  Wall Street types, politicians and preachers have also widely ascribed to this view as well, but their other addictions to such things money, power and cheap perfume cloud the research...making a clear cut diagnosis all but impossible.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Goodness, evilness makes you powerful' - like the Force....or Steve Jobs.

Profs at Harvard uni, Cambridge, America, say they have discovered a crucial meta-physiological effect. Being extremely good and moral - or conversely highly evil - actually confers mental and even physical powers on a person.
"People perceive those who do good and evil to have more efficacy, more willpower, and less sensitivity to discomfort," says Kurt Gray of Harvard. "By perceiving themselves as good or evil, people embody these perceptions, actually becoming more capable of physical endurance."
Rather than those naturally endowed with superior abilities having the potential to achieve great things for good or evil, says Gray, it is more the case that being very pure or deeply villainous confers corresponding powers.
"Gandhi or Mother Teresa may not have been born with extraordinary self-control, but perhaps came to possess it through trying to help others," argues Gray.  Conversely, Steve Jobs may have gained his physical ability to fight back from the edge of death from cancer by ruthlessly destroying the rivals of Apple.  Perhaps he even gains strength from the knowledge that he personally contributed to the destruction of the music industry business model.  
The Harvard egghead bases his assertions on studies in which subjects were given a dollar and offered the choice of donating it to charity or selfishly keeping it. It turned out that the charitable types were then able to hold up a 5 lb weight significantly longer than those who sniggeringly trousered the cash.  

This sort of disproves the Jobs/Apple model....since they are hoarding tens of billions in cash.   But wait...this effect only worked for the really good people.  It does explain why the previously evil Bill Gates quit Microsoft and is now sort of the Mother Teresa of philanthropists.  Now that Gates is pure goodness....maybe he's still getting the same buzz as when he was Darth Vader.
Similarly, other subjects who wrote stories in which they did good deeds turned out to be noticeably stronger than those whose tales depicted them neither harming nor helping others.  Again...its seems that the study implies that you cannot be on the fence about good vs. evil.  You have to be one or the other.
Worryingly, though, test subjects who wrote stories in which they figured as baleful malefactors turned out to be even stronger than the goody-goodies.  So evil seems to win out against good in that part of the study.  

"Whether you're saintly or nefarious, there seems to be power in moral events," Gray says.

There's truth, then, in Sir Galahad's lines in Tennyson, where he states that "my strength is as the strength of ten/because my heart is pure".  Which is the poler opposite of “Blazing Saddles’” Mongo, (Alex Karras) who woefully stated that"  Mongo is  but a pawn in the game of life”.  
Obviously, without the strength of pure goodness or pure evil on your side...you are just a pawn in the game of life as well....maybe a sheep.    

Going back to Apple versus Microsoft....maybe Jobs is Darth Vader and Gates is Yoda and the iPad is the Death Star.  Stay tuned.