The value of an ongoing debate.
Writing this nearly 20 years later, I would love to tell you that the debate has been resolved. In my ideal world, years of well-funded, scientific research would have helped professionals in the fields of sexology, sex therapy, and medicine come to mutually agreeable conclusions about compulsive sexual behavior, including terminology, causes, and, most importantly, treatments.
Instead, I present you with an issue dedicated to the debate surrounding sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behavior, featuring different views on the topic from Eli Coleman and Patrick Carnes, as well as other leaders in the field such as Marty Klein and Dennis Sugrue.
THE IMPORTANCE OF DISCOURSE AND DEBATE
This is not to say that we have made no progress in the intervening years. To the contrary, in reading these articles it has become clear to me that the last two decades have provided us with new research, additional clinical experience, fresh ideas, and a more informed and refined debate.
In fact, I am excited to share this issue with readers precisely because the topic remains unresolved. SIECUS has always been a strong believer in discourse, debate, and discussion. Regardless of the topic, it is only through open and honest debate that we move forward. Debates such as this force us to think critically, evaluate the positions we have held, examine the viewpoints of others, and ultimately clarify our own beliefs. I am pleased that the SIECUS Report can be the forum for this kind of intellectual pursuit.
However, there is another important reason that we chose to revisit this topic after so many years: people.
COMPASSION FOR INDIVIDUALS
While much of this debate, and most of the articles you will read, focus on theories, we need to remember that in the end this topic is about individuals. Specifically, it is about individuals whose sexual behavior is not hurting anyone else but has become problematic for them.
As professionals, we walk a fine line. On the one hand, we need to avoid labeling people or sexual behaviors as problematic simply because they differ from our personal values or accepted definitions of "normal."
SIECUS believes that responsible sexual relationships are consensual, nonexploitative, honest, pleasurable, and protected against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Given these parameters, all adults have the right to make their own decisions about their sexual behavior. It is not our role as professionals to judge how much sexual activity is "too much."
At the same time, we need to recognize that there are people whose sexual behavior has become obsessive, compulsive, or excessive to the point that it is causing them distress and interfering with their lives. We need to ensure that these people receive our compassion and our help.
I think that it is important that this debate continues to evolve through research, clinical practice, and discourse. In the meantime, we need to ensure that we continue to use all available resources and theories to help those people for whom this has become an issue.
A BITTERSWEET GOODBYE
As you will learn from his column, this marks the last issue for SIECUS' long-time editor Mac Edwards. After nearly eight years in this position, Mac has decided to retire to Florida with his partner and take up entirely different pursuits. He has discussed working with flowers or brushing up on his French so that he can begin to teach the language to others.
Mac recently realized that in his time here he had edited 48 issues of the SIECUS Report, totaling way over 1,000 pages. In addition to this journal, Mac was involved in every publication SIECUS produced in recent years, from annual reports and newsletters to policy pamphlets and education manuals. No matter how good the first draft was, Mac always made the final product that much better.
Mac's work at SIECUS will continue to have an impact even as he moves on. We will miss him terribly but wish him the best of luck and are excited to see what he does next.