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With the flood of sexual harassment and abuse stories coming out of Hollywood recently, you might think the phone of a sex and porn addiction counselor would be ringing off the hook as hundreds of people call in to seek help. Personally, I'd like to see that happening, because it would be a sign that these men are waking up and taking notice of the fact that their behavior is harmful and destructive.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.
Men usually come to the conclusion that they need help when they hit their rock-bottom moment. Perhaps they are caught cheating by their spouse, perhaps they lose their job due to inappropriate behavior, or perhaps they simply find themselves in a lonely and pathetic state, and can't take it anymore.
I'm not so sure you can have rock bottom moments like that when you factor in wealth, fame, and a very uneven power dynamic like we're seeing in Hollywood.
Let's unpack what's happening here.
We may never know the individual stories behind the men in Hollywood who have displayed terrible sexual behavior towards women, but we can be certain this wrong thinking is the result of something that happened in their past.
Everyone is living in reaction to their story. I work with men all the time whose unhealthy and corrupted thoughts about sex began as abuse or as a traumatic event. Some of the men I work with, myself included, had terrible things happen to them as children. The people who were supposed to be caring for them and protecting them were exploiting, using, and mistreating them. These actions form the basis of their sexual experiences, and it makes for an awful foundation. Once something like this happens, it can be very hard, if not impossible to build healthier tendencies and attitudes without professional help.
For other people, it's actually overly conservative attitudes towards sex that start them down the wrong path. Too many households don't have “the talk,” because the parents are too embarrassed to bring up the subject. These households often don't demonstrate respectful affection or intimacy either. A child might grow up never seeing their parents hold hands, kiss, or lean on one another while watching TV.
In these cases, the children are left to figure out sex on their own, or to learn it from other children, most of whom don't have the right idea either.
While I may not be getting hundreds of calls from men in Hollywood, I can tell you that I get plenty of calls from small-town living rooms. The young men on the phone are sometimes terrified and angry because they don't have girlfriends. Their unhealthy attitudes towards sex, and their corrupted thinking has made them feel awkward, ashamed, and afraid to approach women.
Sure, they could simply live out their lives as lonely bachelors, but instead, something darker begins happening. They begin hating women. They see women as the gatekeepers of sex – as an obstacle to overcome. They perceive women as holding all the sexual power, and in their frustration, they develop only negative feelings towards them.
In my work as an addiction counselor, what I often observe is that these men turn to porn as a way around what they see as an insurmountable challenge. If they can't have real women, they'll simply look at pictures. Pictures can't reject you. They can't say no. They can be objectified.
This is the beginning of a porn addiction for the average guy, and I see it all the time, but these Hollywood scandals are bringing to light yet another possible outcome...
What happens when the lonely kid with a troubled past and corrupted software who's afraid of girls suddenly gets into a position of wealth and power? How do you think he treats women then?
It may not be terribly surprising that a billionaire actor with loads of clout in show business might use that immense power for bad things, but this same situation is playing out all over the world in a smaller, not no less impactful scale.
At an ice cream shop in Kansas, there might be a manager pressuring a female employee into sex in exchange for more hours.
A professor in Vermont might be holding grades hostage unless the young women in his class comply.
A landlord in Washington might be taking advantage of his female tenants who are struggling to make their rent month to month.
It's happening everywhere, and it adds a compounding factor into an already difficult situation. Men tend to get in touch with me once they've hit their rock bottom moment. They pick up the phone when their sex or porn addiction begins to hurt them. But men in positions of power over others aren't as likely to have these moments of despair. They aren't as likely to be outed. They can keep doing what they're doing, because they're getting what they want every time they try.
It's harder to reach these guys, but we have to.
If you're reading this and recognizing any of your own tendencies, it's time to pick up the phone. If any of these men in Hollywood had come to me or another counselor 10, 20, 30 years ago, think how many women would have remained unharmed. Think of how much better the Hollywood culture could have been if these problems were addressed and worked through.
And no, you don't have to be rich and famous to find yourself in a position of power over a woman. It happens in workplaces, in homes, and in public all the time. If you're beginning to suspect that you might have used whatever scrap of power you had to hurt a woman, or to coerce her into something she didn't want to do, it's time to get help. You don't have to hurt anyone else. You can break the cycle right now.
Let's work together to give you healthier attitudes about sex, and a better understanding of intimacy. Let's set you up for a lifetime of meaningful relationships and real connections. There's a better life for you out there.
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