Only a small percentage of the population would consider themselves to be sex addicts. However, porn now generates billions of dollars in annual sales and about a third of all internet traffic is porn related. Most men, these days, would not date a woman who “wanted to wait” and very few couples practice Natural Family Planning, largely because it demands some work and sexual discipline. Mainly because many men refuse to accept the gradual decline in sexual vigor as they age, Viagra and similar erectile dysfunction remedies sell by the millions. Nevertheless, few people would consider themselves to be sex addicts.
In one episode of the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s mother catches him masturbating. He tells his friends, Elaine, Jerry and Kramer. They agree on a bet to determine who can abstain from masturbating the longest. Soon they suffer from insomnia and irritability. Eventually, they surrender to their base urges and return to normal. The moral of the story is clear: It’s impossible to live without sex, so don’t bother trying.
This is the same message that the mass media and the “sex experts” have been promoting for at least four decades, but it is a lie. The human body does not need sex in order to survive. Although a healthy “sex drive” is normal and good, it can and should be controlled. The saints lived celibate lives and many other people live with no sex or very little sex. Yes, living a chaste (sexually moral) life can be very difficult. Yes, it requires discipline, but it’s not impossible.
Why is it often so hard to control our sex lives? Sexual behavior is extremely pleasurable, therefore highly addictive. Sexual immorality is heavily promoted in today’s culture, and people are conditioned to believe that if they are not sexually active, something is wrong with them. Also, when a person has been compulsively sexually active for a certain amount of time, his brain becomes conditioned to “need” the rush of sexually induced bio-chemicals. When he suddenly tries to quit or radically reduce his sexual activity, he often becomes irritable and restless because he is going through withdrawal. However, over time, the brain adjusts and the withdrawal symptoms cease. The key to controlling sexual behavior is to discipline the mind. One must avoid all impure thoughts and one must pray when tempted.
Those who overcome a sexual addiction soon find that their lives are vastly improved. They feel calmer, happier, more confident, more optimistic, more alert, more energetic and “better about themselves.” Their intimate relationships are usually improved. Many former sex addicts have related these positive outcomes.
God does not command us to do the impossible or to do that which would make us unhappy. With regards to sex, He only commands that we not have sex outside of marriage (and, even in marriage, to not use artificial contraception and to practice a certain degree of restraint). Our Lady of Fatima told us that most souls are damned because of sexual immorality and our Lord told us, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).