In her new book, she details many of the experiences that led up to her realising she had a problem. She used to prioritise staying at home watching porn over leaving the house, and sought out a string of partners for unprotected sex.
Ultimately, she struggled to separate pleasure and shame. She told Business Insider there are many misconceptions about sex addiction. For example, it's not just men who have it — it affects nearly as many women. Also, you don't have to have been through any sort of trauma to develop a sex addiction. Having a string of partners and watching hours of porn isn't necessarily the way to achieve sexual liberation. While many people are empowered by owning their own sexuality in this way, for some, it can mean the exact opposite.
Rather than enjoyment and affection, sex can be intertwined with shame and used as a weapon on the path to self destruction. For Erica Garza, life was about pursuing romantic partners, watching porn, and putting herself in potentially dangerous situations, all for the sexual release that helped her forget about everything else she was trying to ignore. In her book " Getting Off: One Woman's Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction ," Garza, 35, tells her story of how she would continually cancel plans to stay in a dark room and masturbate, and have strings of partners who she didn't use protection with.
Sex and shame were so fused together, she would seek out situations that she thought were "revolting," and other adjectives like it, just to be able to orgasm. Unprotected sex, for example, gave her an extra charge of adrenaline. I knew that something could happen, and I couldn't believe I was putting myself in those destructive situations — but it felt too good not to.
Women in particular are thought to be under-represented in seeking help for sex addiction because of the stigma and shame they may feel about it. In fact, a third of all sex addicts are women — but this figure is thought to be lower than reality. Also, in the media it's almost always a man who claims to be going to rehab for a sex problem, like Harvey Weinstein did last year. She said women probably have an extra layer of shame if they are addicted to sex, or even in relation to sex in general.
It's still something of a taboo to be a woman who needs, or even just likes, sex. We use terms like 'sluts' and 'whores,' while with men we just shrug it off and say that's normal.
It's just 'boys being boys,' that sort of mentality. And I'm really hoping my story is going to open that up a bit more. For Garza at least, that wasn't the case at all. She grew up in a Catholic Latino household, which meant sex was very much off the table as a conversation topic, leading her to associate it with more shameful feelings.
But all in all, Garza was raised in a safe, supportive home and she felt loved and cared for. And I don't think anything diffuses shame more than being able to talk about it. For example, she was diagnosed with scoliosis and had to wear a back brace for two years, which made her feel really insecure and self-conscious. She found that if she watched more porn and masturbated, she could get a break from those feelings. After that she continued using sex as a crutch, until she was truly ready to face everything.
Sex addiction has its skeptics because it's hard to define Unlike other addictions, like heroin or alcohol, you don't have to go cold turkey to recover from a sex addiction. You don't have to stop having sex or even watching porn.
It's more about developing a healthier relationship with sex, and learning not to use it in destructive ways. That's not happiness either. And that becomes a whole other problem. It's a lot more about finding balance and forging a new pathway with your sexuality rather than giving up sex completely. But over time, she began to realise it wasn't her sexuality that was the issue.
It was the shame, the lies, and putting herself in unnecessary danger. Because sex addiction is so completely personal and different for everyone who suffers with it, it is a hard thing to define. Garza said this is probably why there is doubt in the psychological community that it exists at all. But, she said, this isn't really the point. They cant take any actions to change because there's no context for helping them.
By taking that off the table and saying it doesn't exist, people don't know what to do for help. As certified sex addiction treatment specialist Robert Weiss told me in a previous article , when a person comes into treatment, that individual is in crisis.
As a therapist, it is his duty to do what he can to help, regardless of definitions or how they have gotten to that point. I say who cares," he said. I think there needs to be a larger conversation to explain how people feel powerlessness with their sexuality in some ways and they engage in destructive behaviours in a compulsive way. She said she plans to be incredibly open with her daughter about sex in the future, so she can always come to her with questions when she's making the same discoveries Garza felt she had to hide away from and feel ashamed of.
I don't want to be a source of silence. She's going to get that from the world around her and I don't want to be that place for her," Garza said. Unfortunately, a sex-positive upbringing is something people in even the most progressive societies can struggle with. It may take a while for parents to openly discuss the existence of porn with their adolescent children.
Nonetheless, the conversation is broadening, and Garza is playing her own part in that. She's grateful for how her recovery has gone, but it's an ongoing process, and there have been stumbles along the way. I keep taking steps in that direction of revealing and being vulnerable, and that's being the biggest help, rather than closing off and shutting down — which I used to do.