by Kyle Beard on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016
This could be the start of a joke: A recovering sex addict walks into Victoria’s Secret with his partner. His initial response is to walk in looking at the ground, trying not to be aroused by the apparel surrounding him. Living in a culture where women’s lingerie is over-sexualized, the articles of clothing themselves seem to possess a sexual power over him. Everywhere he looks, the mannequins and methodically laid lingerie insinuate something he can’t quite place a finger on. Trying to understand, he begins to see that the entire presentation in the store encourages an eroticism of something simple and necessary at its core: clothing and undergarments. On every counter a beautiful woman is pictured, yet the focus isn’t on the product they are trying to sell, but the way the clothing enhances certain body parts. The photo creates a longing, a desire, an exciting anticipation, and the perception that the model desires the onlooker.
This blog’s inspiration came from my own experience just this last weekend. It hit me as I am walking through the store with my wife – this retailer isn’t selling feminine clothing, they are selling a fantasy. A fantasy that if my partner wears this item, they will look like the airbrushed, photoshopped, unbelievably thin model portrayed. Purposeful marketing perpetuates this fantasy throughout our culture. It begins with the objectification of female clothing, but then shifts to the allure of a sexual experience. The wants, feelings, and desires of the viewer are fulfilled in the fantasy created through viewing this carefully photographed advertisement. The real fantasy provided by the representation of these women in lingerie is that I should expect the same feelings, fulfillment, and pleasure from my partner that I experience when viewing these images on their marketing.
Seven years into my recovery my heart still sinks when my wife asks if we can stop by a lingerie and undergarment store. Our culture has made lingerie a fetish, attributing an abundance of arousal to a simple article of clothing. The simple definition of a fetish is this: an abnormal degree of sexual desire linked to an object, body of clothing, etc. The yearly Victoria’s Secret fashion show has perpetuated the cultural fetish. But the real advertising gives messages to us at a deeper, almost subconscious level – your greatest fantasies could come true, if your partner wears our lingerie.
As my wife and I continued to walk through the store this past weekend, it occurs me that the real reason my heart sank as I entered the store is because my sex addiction was an addiction to fantasy. This will forever be my addiction – the false, unrealistic expectation that my partner will look like the models purposely posed throughout the store. They are not advertisements to me, but a reminder of a past fantasy, a realm I lived in for decades, never being satisfied and always left wanting. This experience functioned as a powerful reminder of how easy it would be to step back into my addiction, into the slippery slope of fantasy. Fantasy is and forever will be my true addiction.
I am a certified sexual addiction therapist (CSAT), licensed professional counselor (LPC) in the state of Colorado, and happily married to my amazing wife, but the truth is that my addiction is only a blink away. Through my years of recovery I’ve learned the lie of my addiction – that the fantasy isn’t real – and the tools to combat it. Daily, I continue to make purposeful decisions to fight the addict inside of me who ran my life for so many years. This is why I am and forever will be a recovering sex addict. This title is not a sad reminder, but a powerful testimony to the life anyone can obtain through introspection, hard work, and dedication. From someone who spent the time, finances, and energy to combat his sexual addiction, I have a simple but profound statement: It’s worth it all! All the hard work, times of reflection, and facing my inner demons, have created the amazing life I experience today. Though I still have a response walking into Victoria’s Secret today, my life is better than I ever imagined it would be. And the catalyst for the change was having the courage to face my addiction.