Today's letter from the Editor
Today's Matrices
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: HR Advisor

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an innovative a...

Recruitment Genius: Production Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Production Technician is required to join a ...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer - Hosted Telecommunications

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for a Ne...

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor / Partner - Cheltenham

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: A very rare high level opportunity with a fir...

Terence Blacker: Whatever happened to promiscuity?

It is time to brace ourselves for more bad news. The cover story
in this week's Newsweek reveals a new epidemic which already has an
estimated nine million Americans in its grip.

This scourge is more frightening than bird flu in that carriers of the condition are everywhere – in society, in the home. It could, as Ant and Dec might say, be you.

The disease is sex addiction or, if you prefer a fancy designation, hypersexual disorder. A blight of unzipped incidents is destroying marriages. Careers are being cut short by a thrumming over-enthusiasm for online porn. Heart-breaking stories are being told. "I was meeting girls on the basketball court, in the club, pulling my car over to meet them on the street," a man attending a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous clinic confessed to Newsweek.

Like all good epidemics, sex addiction has inspired media spin-offs. A reality TV show called Bad Sex traces the progress of a group of men and women with "severe sex issues". Shame, the much-touted new movie by the British director Steve McQueen, is an unflinching study of a man tragically enslaved to lust.

Would it be heartless to suggest that, in a crisis-riddled world, this is one problem we should not spend too much time worrying about? We live in an over-stimulated society in which people may well spend more time on sex (thinking it, dreaming it, sometimes even doing it) than in the past. Insecurity and social anxiety have sharpened the need for attention, however brief, and for validation, however meaningless. But an epidemic? Surely this is a panic too far.

There are, of course, people with behavioural difficulties expressed through a compulsion – food, exercise, fandom, sex – but most of the nine million people allegedly suffering from hypersexual disorder are simply taking what modern life has to offer. Unlike Brian Sewell, whose thousand-lovers-a-year habit is happily recounted in his recently published memoirs ("It was sheer intoxication with the sudden ease of it"), they have then felt mortified and have blamed their weakness on a disease.

If you are an addict, you are a victim. A bit of cod science about dependency on dopamine in the brain usefully removes the problem of moral choice. It excuses the weak, the selfish, the mindlessly randy by placing their problem outside their lives. If there is an epidemic going on, who can be blamed for becoming infected?

Weirdly, the transformation of old-fashioned promiscuity into a medical condition also has the effect of demonising a certain type of sex. It is the pornified generation's version of the fear of "nymphomania" in the 1950s or of masturbation in the Victorian age. Perhaps it is not sex addicts who are in urgent need of treatment but the self-dramatising, blame-shifting culture in which they live.

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower