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Associates at big law firms don’t normally burn out right away. They arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, raring to go. This is their moment! Grasp the golden ring!

If you look closely, though, you’ll notice a few poor souls who burn out immediately – sometimes within a few weeks. These folks look awful almost from Day One, dread coming to work, don’t talk to the others, can’t sleep and wonder how to get out – like, immediately.

That’s because they’ve been sexually harassed.

Oh…that.

Right. That.

I know. Sexual harassment is a drag of a topic, the stuff of tedious lectures by gender theorists and “Human Resource professionals.” Nothing new to say, just standard material: wince-inducing scenarios, tired platitudes about respect and crossing the line and what’s appropriate in a workplace blah blah blah…boring, scary, boring.

I hear about sexual harassment all the time from my clients, so it’s a little less boring for me, and a lot more real. There is stuff worth talking about. But I’ll keep it quick.

First, to be clear, I’m not talking about law firm sex in general. I’m as sex-positive as the next guy, and this isn’t about sex. And I’m not naïve. I’ve heard all about the “hanky-panky” – ill-advised and otherwise – that goes on at firms. Associates get it on in their offices. Partners seduce young summers. Some of those partners are married. So are some of the summers. And it’s not just a straight thing – gay associates and partners get caught up in this stuff, too.

When you’re working together around the clock at a big law firm, there’s a lot of pent-up sexual energy, so there’s oodles of sleaze. Stuff happens. That stuff might be fun, or un-fun, no big deal or something you’ll regret for a while. That’s not our topic.

Harassment is never fun or okay. It’s unwanted, unasked-for, undesired, unexciting, unpleasant, unsexy, unattractive, uncool sexual attention.

I have a theory that everything is more interesting if you stick the word “extreme” in front of it. Barbecue is okay. Extreme barbecue is way better. The same thing goes with sex. It intensifies things. Cool becomes super-cool if you add sex. Likewise, bummer turns into super-bummer if it’s sexual. Harassment is a bummer, and sexual harassment is a super-bummer.

Here’s what sexual harassment looks like:

(more…)

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The orgasm has been compared to a sneeze – they’re both involuntary muscle spasms.

I think I can draw a more useful parallel:  a laugh.

Laughing is certainly more fun than sneezing, and there’s another useful similarity – they’re both about relaxing, and letting yourself have fun.

Most of my patients who have trouble attaining an orgasm are able to climax when they’re alone, but not with another person – especially not with someone they know.

It’s hard to relax enough to have an orgasm in someone else’s presence.  It’s also hard to laugh with a stranger.  That’s why the number one thing my patients say they are looking for in a partner is “someone who can make me laugh.”  It’s a sign that you’ve achieved a connection – you can let go and relax and laugh.  You feel safe enough to be yourself.

Sex is a barometer for communication in a relationship.  If a couple stops having sex, their communication has usually shut down.  There’s something they aren’t talking about, and it shows.  They’ve tensed up and stopped talking – the trust in their relationship is compromised.  That breakdown of trust is reflected in their discomfort opening up sufficiently to do something as awkward and private as get naked and have sex.

For some of my patients, having sex with strangers is easier than sex with someone they know because they can hide with a stranger.  In some sense, they are alone, since there’s no real connection, so they can let go.

It’s interesting that a good comedian’s job is to relax us enough that we laugh in the presence of others.  The best comedians can make you laugh even if you’re trying not to – it really is involuntary.  They do this by surprising us with forbidden communication.  Ironically, one of the easiest way for a comedian to get a cheap laugh is by “working blue” – talking about sex in an open way that surprises the audience into admitting truths about themselves.

In order to relax enough to have an orgasm, you need to own the forbidden feelings around this act of supreme openness. Instead of beating yourself up for having a “problem,” you can treat your feelings with respect, own them, and explore them.

Why is it scary to open up and relax around another person?

Probably because when you did it before, in the past, you got hurt.

Simple enough.  A trained response, just like Pavlov’s dogs.

So you’re going to have to respect that trained response, and address it by reassuring yourself that this time you’re safe.

Maybe, as a child, it wasn’t safe to open up and be yourself, relaxed and present.  You learned to close down and assume a defensive posture.

But as an adult, there’s nothing you can’t handle – because you always have yourself nearby.

Someone’s got your back.

So go ahead.  Laugh.  Or sneeze.  Or whatever.

It’s going to be okay this time.

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We found out last week that Tiger Woods has checked himself into a posh rehab center for sex addicts.

This raises the issue of whether sexual addiction really exists.  I think it is a fair question.

After all, we’re all sex addicts, to some degree – sex is a normal, necessary human drive.

Sex also seems harmless.  It feels good, and if you use a few sensible precautions, no one has to get hurt.  With other addictions, like alcohol or drug abuse, kicking the habit entirely seems like a sensible goal.  But except for a few monks and nuns, no one abstains completely from sex.

So maybe it’s like food – moderation is the goal, controlling your appetite so you don’t get fat.

But that doesn’t seem right either.  No one can say how much sex is enough for another person.  Maybe you like it every night. Maybe you like it every month.  Maybe you like it two or three times a day.  That would appear to be nobody else’s business.

Does sexual addiction exist?

In my experience, it does.  It’s a bit like marijuana addiction.  Plenty of people have sex – or smoke pot – without any detrimental effect.  It isn’t innately addictive.

It only becomes an addiction when you decide there’s a problem.

Usually, the indicators are:

1) you’re no longer enjoying it the way you used to; and

2) you don’t feel in control of your behavior.  In other words, it becomes compulsive – you can’t stop.

I’ve worked with sex addicts who cruised online for hours, exhausted, but unable to leave their computer. Some patients set up endless series of anonymous hook-ups, staying up all night until they were so physically exhausted they lost their jobs.  These patients didn’t look forward to the sex anymore – they felt compelled to repeat the same weary pattern.

Typically, with sexual addiction, it isn’t the sex act itself that you’re craving.  It’s the feeling of being pursued by someone for sex – catching a stranger’s attention, and making him want to have sex with you.

Think about it.  When was the last time you had someone’s positive attention focused entirely, like a laser-beam, on you? Probably back when you were a small child, and then it was a parent’s attention.  It made you feel important, loved, cared for – the center of someone else’s world.

As an adult, you rarely get that sort of focused positive attention – except when someone is pursuing you sexually, trying to get you into bed.  It’s hard to compete with a sexual pursuit.  It brings an affirmation, a high, an ego boost that can feel terrific.  All they want is you, now, right away.  The focus is entirely on you.

Once the sex is over, though,  you crash.  The other person’s interest fades, and you realize you hardly know him.  You might even feel awkward in his presence and just want to be alone. It’s a bit like a hang-over.

A sex addict, like any addict, runs to what once felt really good – especially when he gets angry and feels deprived in other ways. He keeps searching for the easy high of being pursued for sex – trying to escape again into that good feeling.  It becomes like a drug.

After a while, like all drugs, it stops working.  If you do manage to attain the high again, you crash even harder afterwards.

That’s sexual addiction.

The treatment – which Tiger is presumably undergoing right now – is similar to the approach you’d take with any other pattern of addictive behavior.

First, there’s an intervention, in which the people in his life let him know how his addiction has harmed them.  Certainly his wife, and maybe the other women he’s been sleeping with, could confront him with how he’s hurt them by lying and betraying promises.

Then, fellowship is created.  Tiger goes to a place – a rehab center or a 12-step group – where he can meet other people who share his problem, and exchange stories and experiences.  He is educated about his addiction.

Finally, self-awareness.  He is encouraged to be honest with himself, and own up to how he’s been living, and decide for himself whether he wants that pattern to continue.

I haven’t met Tiger Woods, and I cannot say for certain if he is a sex addict.  He might just be a guy who needed to get out of his marriage and do some dating and decide what he wants in a relationship.

Only Tiger can decide if he has this addiction, or whether he’s going to address it.

But that’s the nature of any addiction – no one can make these decisions for you but you.

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