In her debut memoir, Getting Off, Erica Garza confronts her experience of overcoming sex and porn addiction, and the shame that still surrounds it
It may be 2018, but there remains a lot of secrecy and shame around female sexuality. While a good proportion of popular culture seems to center around men jerking off, female masturbation remains a relatively taboo subject. There are, Garza notes, “shows like Broad City and Insecure which depict women watching porn or masturbating, so things are changing for the better” but they are few and far between. Even the current #MeToo movement, which has ignited a debate about sexual mores, hasn’t really focused on women as sexual agents; rather hypersexuality has been equated with toxic masculinity.
Meanwhile, women are watching more porn than ever: according to Pornhub’s 2017 Year in Review, “Porn for Women” was the top trending search of the year, increasing by over 1,400%.
There certainly weren’t any frank discussions about such topics when Garza was growing up. Garza was born into a middle-class Mexican family and grew up in the well-to-do suburbs of LA. As a young girl at Catholic school, Garza says, it was made very clear to her “that sex was for procreation and anything outside of that was sinful or dirty or bad”. This made it difficult for her to separate shame from pleasure. “The first time I masturbated I felt immense pleasure and immense shame at the same time. So, I think I continued to seek out situations that would produce the same feelings in me because I didn’t know how to separate the two.”
As she grew older, her shame spiraled into what she describes as an all-consuming sex addiction. She’d spend whole days in bed masturbating to porn; have unprotected sex with a string of guys she’d just met; ruin promising relationships because she couldn’t stop herself having sex with other people. “In some moments, with some partners, ‘sexually liberated’ was exactly what I felt,” she writes in her book. “But those moments were rare.” Being sexually liberated is empowering; her sex addiction was just the opposite.
But what exactly is a sex addiction? The term was popularized in the early 1980s but isn’t currently listed in the standard diagnostic manuals of mental disorders –and not everyone is sure it is an actual illness. So many disgraced male celebrities, the latest being Harvey Weinstein, have claimed to be sex addicts, potentially giving them a free pass for despicable acts.
Garza acknowledges that’s “there’s a real danger with using sex addiction to justify bad behavior, especially right now with everything that’s happening in Hollywood.” However, she says, it’s “important to know that not all sex addicts are in positions of power and not all sex addicts want to take advantage of and hurt other people.”
Further, says Garza, there is no easy definition of sex addiction. “I’m often asked how many hours of porn I watch and how many partners I’ve had. Understandably people want to measure an addiction because then it’s easier to cure. But sex addiction doesn’t work that way. I can’t just say ‘two hours of porn a day is OK but three is a problem’, because everyone expresses their sexuality in different ways.”
When it comes to her own experience, Garza says, she knew she had a dysfunctional relationship with sex and porn “because it was getting in the way of my intimacy with other people; it was getting in the way of my productivity. I just felt bad about it all the time.” Garza says would cancel plans so she wouldn’t miss out on opportunities to have sex and sabotaged relationship after relationship because, she says, she “felt really unworthy of love”.
Just as there is no straightforward diagnosis of sex addiction, says Garza, there’s no simple way of curing it. Garza herself tried various remedies, from going to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings (which, she says, were overwhelmingly male) to meditation to therapy.
Then, just as she was about to turn 30, she took a trip to Bali “partly inspired by Eat, Pray, Love”. There, she started doing a lot of yoga and taking care of herself. “When I was in that clear-headed space I met my husband – he was on his own journey recovering from drug addiction,” she says. It was the first time she was able to be in an honest, healthy relationship, and, from there, she started to develop a healthier relationship with sex.
Garza hopes her memoir will educate people about the nature and prevalence of sex addiction. “I think the common narrative with sex addictions and most addictions is that it’s preceded by abuse and trauma and so I really wanted to open up that narrative and show that it could really happen to anyone, even if you had a safe, loving childhood as I had,” she explains.
Her intention with the book, she stresses, isn’t to “promote censorship or demonize the porn industry. I think that people can use porn in a healthy way.” Rather she wants to help break down the shame that still shrouds female sexuality.
But while Garza may intend for her memoir to promote a more complex view of female sexuality and desire, I wonder if might end up doing just the opposite.
The tabloids have seized upon Garza’s memoir with obvious relish, and much of the coverage appears to have turned her story into a modern morality tale: a nice Catholic schoolgirl develops a shameful addiction to sex and internet porn. Just when she hits rock bottom, she meets her husband. The love of a good man saved her, turning her into a loving wife and mother.
Garza always knew her story risked getting sensationalized and simplified. Still, she says, she has been disappointed by how reductive some of the coverage has been.
Some outlets, she feels, have “minimized my story by saying that I was saved by a man, and that my husband was the main reason I changed. Yes, he played a very important role but that’s not the whole story.” In addition, says Garza, “a few articles really made a point of saying I was a mom – I think if I were a dad they wouldn’t have mentioned that. It felt like they were trying to shame me or make me into some kind of freak show.”
But while she feels like some of the coverage has been trying to shame her, “I also feel like nobody is going to be able to shame me more than I’ve already shamed myself. They can certainly try. But that’s on them. I’m past that.”
'Sex addiction can happen to anyone': author Erica Garza sheds light on a female taboo Arwa Mahdawi 17 Jan 2018
Erica Garza has admitted she started watching porn when she was just 12 years old in a new memoir called Getting Off.
The 35-year-old from the US went from a self-conscious Catholic schoolgirl to someone hooked on porn, saying it was all a combination “of shame and sexual excitement” that she had come to depend on.
“My methods of getting this only became darker and more intense, wreaking havoc on all aspects of my life,” she told the New York Post.
“I used to hide with my computer in the bedroom closet. Part of the thrill was that I might get caught.”
Erica says she believes it all came from her struggle to fit in at school in LA while she suffered from scoliosis and was forced to wear a back brace. She would seek an escape and that is what porn became.
What started with softcore porn on late-night cable TV eventually developed with technology through her teens and she eventually even unable to have sex without porn on.
“It felt like a relief for me because we had a sort of wall between us,” she explained.
It got to the point where she was watching hard-core porn and engaging in risky and violent sex, even with complete strangers.
Finally, in her early 30s, Erica realised her addition was stopping her from bonding with men. It was then she met her how-husband, who encouraged her to talk about why she used porn.
The now married mother-of-one said with the help from her husband, yoga and therapy she didn’t watch porn for six months.
Sex for the different sexes
Habit or addiction?
An epidemic of female sex addicts is being created through the rise of women-friendly porn, sexologist warns George Harrison 16th January 2018
Virtual reality (VR) tech means that just by pulling on a headset, you can immerse yourself into any world you choose and see your surroundings in 360-degree 3D, as if you are actually there.
An alluring illusion
A generation of people won’t leave their bedrooms once virtual reality porn becomes mainstream, warns expert George Harrison 18th January 2018
VR porn app hack exposed 20,000 randy viewers’ names and download habits Sean Keach, Digital Technology and Science Editor 16th January 2018
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At a time when the feminist movement is growing stronger even as the word “feminism” itself has come to be misconstrued and maligned, what does it mean for a man to call himself a radical feminist?
For author and academic Robert Jensen, it implies belonging to a long tradition of women and men who simply want to get to the root of the problem of gender injustice – a definition based on the Latin meaning of radical as “root”.
For the past 30 years, Jensen, a senior professor of journalism at the University of Texas, has been known for his Left-wing political activism, his advocacy for an end to masculinity, and his activism against sex-based industries such as pornography and prostitution. His firm stand against pornography is unpopular among many other feminists who focus on the value of choice in consensual pornography, but for Jensen, it is merely a logical extension of the radical feminist critique of the ways in which sexual exploitation-based industries normalise violence against women.
“Radical is often taken to mean crazy or extreme,” said Jensen, whose latest book, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men, was published in 2017. “But by radical feminist, I mean the understanding that men’s subordination of women is a product of patriarchy and that the ultimate goal of feminism is the end of patriarchy’s gender system, not merely liberal accommodation with the system.”
Jensen, who is visiting India, has been speaking about politics, feminism and journalism in Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru.
One of Jensen’s seminal books is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, an impassioned personal commentary on why the world needs to do away with pornography altogether. His position draws from the school of feminism which views porn as sexist, racist, damaging to the women working in the industry and, most importantly, it is where gender-based violence is dangerously sexualised.
“Pornography, I learned from these feminists, was a key place where the domination/subordination dynamic in patriarchy is sexualised,” said Jensen in an email interview with Scroll.in. By reflecting on his own use of porn in his youth, Jensen found that it plays a large role in socialising boys into patriarchal masculinity. “That has obvious destructive consequences for women, but it is not in the self-interest of men to embrace it.”
This critique of the sex industry is even more compelling and relevant today, because the contents of porn, according to Jensen, have become increasingly cruel and violent over the years – “In the 30 years I have been studying pornography, that’s the paradox. In cultures that claim to be civilised, like the United States, pornography is more widely accepted yet more intensely sexist and racist than ever.
The accessibility, affordability, and anonymity of the internet has contributed to this expansion and intensification, along with the pornography industry’s need to produce consistently more extreme material to keep the mostly male consumers clicking/buying.”
Many feminists don’t share this view on porn and other sex-based industries, and Jensen believes it is because this critique leads to an inevitable re-assessment not only of pornography but also of the general sexualising of male dominance, which he would like to see abolished. “People are afraid of that truly radical analysis, so precisely when we need that feminist critique the most, people avoid it,” he said.
In his books and essays, Jensen also asserts the need to completely eliminate masculinity, instead of merely redefining it in less toxic terms. “Recognising that masculinity is typically associated with an obsession with control and conquest, men often try to rescue the concept by offering characteristics of a healthy masculinity, such as strength, caring, or courage,” he said. “But it’s obvious that those are not traits that only men possess or should aspire to. Striving to be a ‘good man’ and create a healthy masculinity, then, turns out to be nothing more than striving to be a decent human being, male or female.”
A post-Weinstein world
Jensen may be at odds with other schools of feminism on many counts, but like most of them, he has been filled with hope in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, in which the powerful Hollywood producer was exposed as a serial sexual abuser by the scores of women he exploited. The scandal led to a flood of sexual harassment allegations against influential men in various industries around the world, and many of them have lost their jobs in the process.
Trump's affair with pornstar Stormy Daniels: Lawyer had set up company to pay hush money 19 January 2018
“In my lifetime, I have never seen this kind of space for women to tell the truth,” said Jensen. “Like many, I am hopeful that this moment of accountability will not fade.” He believes that the world could well be at a tipping point at which the abusive behaviour of many men will not be tolerated the way it was for years.
To keep up the momentum of this movement, Jensen believes a radical feminist analysis is necessary – but he is not as confident about people’s willingness to go down that path. “There likely will be changes in institutional policies and some laws, but will people want to challenge the routine ways that men treat women as objectified bodies for male sexual pleasure? One test will be whether this leads to a wider critique of the sexual-exploitation industries.”
Meanwhile, Jensen claims it is important for all men to challenge themselves by re-examining their own behaviour from the feminist lens. “That critical self-reflection is not always easy or fun, but I can testify that it has made my life richer and fuller.”
Is porn a public health risk? Florida lawmakers claim 'it causes physical and mental illness' Alakananda Bandyopadhyay January 19, 2018
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