In February, Elements Behavioral Health, The Ranch and the Sexual Recovery Institute hosted an event designed to help clinicians attending the 7th Annual IITAP Symposium understand how media portrayals of sex addiction have changed over the years and how desensitized we have become to the sexual images we regularly see. In a room decked out like a movie premier – complete with red carpet and theater snacks – a group of about 90 clinicians were treated to a light-hearted yet poignant presentation about sex and entertainment. Renowned sex addiction experts Rob Weiss, the founder of The Sexual Recovery Institute, the Director of Sexual Disorders Services for Elements Behavioral Health, and the creator of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch, and Sharon O’Hara, the clinical director at the Sexual Recovery Institute, shared insights from the field. Although the presenters found dozens of graphic clips from film and television that brought to light the explosion of NC-17 and X-rated material in the mainstream media in recent years, they decided to start the discussion with three clips:
- First, a segment from South Park where the CDC declares sex addiction an epidemic and develops an assessment tool for young children. When two of the boys at South Park Elementary were determined to be sex addicts and join all the usual celebrity suspects in sex rehab, the treatment provider assures the kids that they don’t have to accept accountability for their behavior as long as they don’t get caught. In essence, sex addiction is portrayed humorously but inaccurately as an excuse for bad behavior.
- Second, an excerpt from the film Shame, described by some sex addiction experts as one of the most accurate depictions of sex addiction in the media to date.
- Third, a clip from Saturday Night Live in which flirting expert Rebecca Larue stops by the Weekend Update to share how single people can find a partner during the holidays. Over-the-top funny, this clip highlights how women behave in ways they never would’ve a decade ago.
Light and funny yet thought-provoking, the presentation prompted a stirring discussion about a still-uncomfortable but widespread problem. It also helped clinicians understand what their clients are faced with in the mainstream media and the way The Ranch and the Sexual Recovery Institute approach treatment of sex addiction.