Sex addiction is tricky. If one is a sex addict, simply going cold turkey is not a good long-term solution. Sex, like food, is a part of the human condition and a good thing by itself. It's only when sex or food take on a purpose and control one's life that they become addictions.
Addictions aren't good because ultimately, "Mental health is commitment to reality at any cost." The following folks did not exhibit that. They put up tremendous stakes, ranging from presidential ambitions to the health of their wives, to vast sums of money. They convinced themselves that they could get away with it. So basically they had unlimited downside. The upside, you decide...
Tiger On The Road
Tiger is the latest in a string of high-profile Americans who have been identified as sex addicts (or possible ones). Mark Sanford and Elliot Spitzer are a couple other recent examples.
Tiger did everything that sex addicts do. He risked everything in his private life to spend a night or two with women who were very much out of his league. He had unprotected sex, thereby endangering his wife's health as well as his own. He risked hundreds of millions of dollars.
Here's a cynical view on it.
What makes an addict or, more specifically, a sex addict? And what distinguishes a sex addict from a "player"?
Tiger, in his public apology, used a lot of the right words that one who is receiving treatment for sex addiction would use. Many criticized him for his scripted speech, but I think it was a great first step.
e4e Verdict: Tiger is a sex addict. Risking and losing tens of millions of dollars, his reputation, family, and health to have sex with women well below his status. His only gain here was sex on the road.
The Curious Case of Eliot Spitzer
Another prominent sex scandal had to do with Eliot Spitzer, governor of New York. His case is different in a few ways than Tiger's. First, he wasn't having sex with random people while on the road. He chose to use prostitutes. And not just prostitutes, but very expensive ones.
The prostitutes that he was using charged several thousand per night, and reputedly provided a "girlfriend experience." It is more than just having sex with someone, but actually going on a date. Conversing, a meal, perhaps a show followed by making out, and sex is the modus operandi.
Spitzer had the high rank and a lot to lose by his actions, so that certainly fits the mold. I wonder if his case is a little different. He is essence was going out with actresses, women who knew how to be a blank slate, and as Sasha Grey says in The Girlfriend Experience, "Sometimes clients think they want the real you, but, at the end of the day, they want what they want you to be. They want you to be something else... If they wanted the real you, they wouldn't be paying you." and "You really have to adapt and become something that they want." So they come across as a young, beautiful, intelligent girl who is truly interested in him as a person--perhaps what his wife was like when they were courting.
He feels that spark again that has been gone for so long--the first stage of falling in love. Deep down, presumably, he knows that it is a facade, an image of a real relationship with a real person, but he pays the big bucks to get that feeling again. From a political standpoint, he doesn't have to get divorced and he doesn't have to deal with a real relationship. I am guessing that he saw this as a lower risk way to have an affair. It's all upside...
Until you get caught. Affairs are not illegal and would perhaps be less damaging to a political career. That's why I think that he is towards the middle of the sex and love addiction spectrum. His motives were more about the thrill of a new relationship rather than simply notches in the bedpost, but he took big risks in his personal life. I am assuming that his sex was protected. If not, that would put him further towards the addict side.
e4e Verdict: More love addict than sex addict. Definite problems by risking his career and marriage for thrills. If he had marital problems he should have dealt with those directly. I'm not justifying his actions. I suspect he was lonely and not receiving emotional props at home.
Mark Sanford and His Argentine Girlfriend
In contrast to Spitzer, Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina was apparently having an actual girlfriend experience. He, in essence, threw out his marriage and possibly his political career for an Argentine woman, who was not a prostitute.
e4e Verdict: I don't think he's a sex addict, just a male who is in the first stage of love, where his hormones are completely dominating his common sense.
Robert Moffat of IBM
Although less well-known than some of the others, Moffat was a high level executive at IBM who got mixed up with an attractive analyst/former beauty queen who fed information from him to a hedge fund operator. He lost something on the order of $65MM. His wife of over 30 years had her MS flare up. Moffat apparently did not benefit financially from the arrangement, but that is not required to convict him. The only need to demonstrate that he obtained a benefit of some kind. Receiving sexual favors is considered a benefit.
Moffat is quoted in the article as saying, "Everyone wants to make this about sex. Danielle had an extensive network of business people. And she added clarity about what was going on in the business world...I know in my heart what this relationship was about: clarity in the business environment." The author reveals his skepticism by saying, "He may even believe that."
e4e Verdict: He is delusional. He was getting exciting sexual favors in exchange for information, and rationalized it away by his lack of financial benefit and by convincing hinself that he was getting "clarity in the business environment." Moffat is not mentally healthy. He is probably a sex or love addict of some kind. There was not enough information in the article to make a clear call. He did some really foolish things though, had no upside and lots of downside.
There is an excellent article in Fortune on this if you want more details.
What does the SEC have to do with this? In this article from the Atlantic Monthly, the author asks the question, "Did porn cause the financial crisis?".
e4e Verdict: not addicts, but the regulators were fiddling with themselves excessively during work hours, as the financial system was burning. I wouldn't be surprised if some of those involved are sex addicts. Maybe they're just immature.
Some additional reading and resources:
Helen Fisher on Why We Love and Cheat in Ted Talks
Willard Harley from Marriage Builders on how infidelity can sometimes be misinterpreted as sex addiction
Scientific American article on Why Men Buy Sex
Covers all the bases.