Stigma

Woman opens up about her years of ‘sex addiction,’ says it started when she was 12 years old

Erica Garza. (YouTube / NBC News)

A debut author whose memoir chronicles her struggle with sex and porn addiction says that she wrote about her experience to help confront, and counteract, a harmful culture of shame that stigmatizes female sexuality.

Erica Garza, 35, said that as the child of a middle-class Mexican family in Los Angeles who attended a Catholic school, she was taught from a young age “that sex was for procreation and anything outside of that was sinful or dirty or bad.”

“The first time I masturbated, I felt immense pleasure and immense shame at the same time,” she told Arwa Mahdawi in an interview for The Guardian. “So, I think I continued to seek out situations that would produce the same feelings in me because I didn’t know how to separate the two.”

In her memoir, Getting Off: One Woman’s Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction, Garza recounts how her shame transformed into obsession, as she spent whole days masturbating in bed while watching porn, had unprotected sex with men she’d only just met, and ruined relationships because of her inability to stay loyal to one partner. Her inability to control her sex drive, she said, left her feeling “bad about it all the time” and “unworthy of love.”

She said she was finally able to take control of her life after she took a trip to Bali at age 30, where she began practicing yoga regularly and focusing on living her life in a healthy way. While in Bali, she also met her future husband, a recovering drug addict, with whom she had her first honest and healthy relationship. The concept of sex addiction is a controversial one in the medical and psychology communities. Many experts say sex does not stimulate the brain the way nicotine or narcotics or alcohol does, and, therefore, a person cannot develop an addiction to it.

Garza says the book isn’t meant to demonize pornography — in fact, she believes that “people can use porn in a healthy way.” Instead, she said, she wants to spread awareness about the complexity of female sexuality — and to counter narratives that sex addictions in women are predicated on experiences of “abuse and trauma.”

“It could really happen to anyone,” she told Mahdawi. “Even if you had a safe, loving childhood as I had.”

Watch video of Garza’s recent appearance on Today with Megyn Kelly, during which she went into greater detail about her years of addiction and a doctor talked about some of the methods used for treating those who find themselves in an unhealthy relationship with sex, below.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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