Are we becoming sexually obese?
Updated: Jun 29
Written by Andy Jones
I’m no puritan and, let’s face it - neither are you, you’re on this page. But, like our obsessions with fast food and sugar, are we now grabbing at fast, not-good-for-you, sexual release?
The term came up when I was interviewing the brilliant sex addiction therapist Paula Hall of the Laurel Centre recently. She described how, with the proliferation of online pornography and sexual images all over the internet, we are becoming “sexually obese.” That is, in the same way, that some people may eat even when they aren’t hungry, those who might be “sexually obese” are seeking pornography even when they aren’t aroused. There are legions of men and women who are hitting up pornography just to fill time, to get them to sleep before bed, to ease personal stress.
In some ways, there’s nothing wrong with that. But, when it becomes a habit - like fast food or any other vice - it affects you badly. You suddenly become sexually obese.
Hall phrases sexual obesity like this. If you walked into a cake shop and you weren’t hungry, yet - because you fancied a cake, you ate it - that’d be perfectly okay. However, once you start walking into the shop to eat cake just to feel okay, that can become an issue with you, to the point where you don’t even know your own appetite. You’re eating to shut something else out.
Pornography is that cake shop, a shop window of temptation that gives you a hit even when you aren’t hungry. That’s addictive. Pornography can completely change your sexual appetite, the same way you can go from “quite fancying a cake” to needing it to dull the pain of something else.
Being the first generation that has had free online pornography, we are guinea pigs and it’s becoming nauseous to see some of the effects. Hall says she has clients who are - to all intents and purposes - sex addicts. They crave orgasms all the time compulsively, but only from the internet. Real sex is appalling to them - the smell, the sweat - it cannot compete with pornography.
We are raising a generation of sex addicts who are not even having sex.
Also, it is not just pornography, it is Instagram, tabloid media, television. Sexual imagery is everywhere - scroll the tabloids and there are boobs and bums all over the place.
Even the sports’ pages are full of sex. An article last week about Man City players partying with a gaggle of internet models after a match was littered with sexy pics of girls in tiny thongs and plunging cleavages. We’re spiking our sexual appetite even when we’re not aroused.
It’s a rare contradiction, that at a time when we are pushing toxic sexuality out of the workplace when Harvey Weinstein faces trial and we openly nod along when hearing how important #metoo is, that - in our own viewing habits - we are allowing so much toxicity in.
I am not anti-stimulation or anti-porn, much like I am not against an occasional fast food binge or a sugar rush. However, when you are poking your libido into life with visual stimuli when you weren’t even aroused, you are teaching your body to only be turned on by things it sees and - then - flesh and blood sex struggles to compete.
All that sensory stimuli, the touch of your partner under the sheets, a hot kiss when they come through the door, suddenly has less effect because you are gorging on this diet of high definition, surround sound sex even when you aren’t aroused. You are re-wiring the arousal points in your brain so much that, when making love, you need to conjure up images to keep yourself in the zone.
Human beings have always wanted sex. There’s always been lust and desire. But now, the sexual content we consume - either passively when we read and watch media or when we watch overtly pornography - it is so hyper-real, so polished, so otherworldly, we are spiking our appetite to the point where it is all over the place.
Then, rather like eating when you aren’t even hungry, it becomes bad for you. You become sexually obese - constantly craving the easy sugar rush of pornography rather than the balanced meal of real, nurturing sex.