Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sexual Compulsives Anonymous article

Aiming at Sober Sexuality

"I was swept away in the gay sex revolution of the late '60s and '70s where the more sex you had the more liberated you were. The way you proved it was having sex with 10 people in a backroom."

So said Sol, 64, one of the three founders of the Twelve-Step program called Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA), a largely gay network of meetings started 25 years ago here in New York.
The organization celebrated that milestone at a weekend conference at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center earlier this month.
Sol - identified here only by first name as are the others interviewed, in accordance with the tradition of anonymity in Twelve-Step recovery programs - described spending an inordinate amount of his money on street hustlers back in 1982 when he was approached by another gay man who said he was started a group for sexaholics. This group would become SCA and began in imitation of Alcoholics Anonymous, founded in 1935, which codified the traditions of simple meetings with Quaker-style sharing, mutual support by members each struggling with a compulsive behavior of some kind, and a suggested guide for spiritual development based on twelve steps of action.
While other so-called fellowships have evolved, including Gamblers Anonymous and Debtors Anonymous, there are four other Twelve-Step programs that address problems with intimacy and sexual behavior - Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Recovery Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
In 1982, perhaps not coincidentally when what would be called AIDS was first coming to be identified, two gay men in New York simultaneously began small meetings to address what they viewed as their problematic behavior. One of the founders, Frank, was meeting with others in his apartment, while Bill met with a few people at St. Jean Baptiste Church on the Upper East Side. Soon they heard about each other's meetings and decided to integrate. Their sense was that other pre-existing programs focusing on sex had homophobic language in their pamphlets.
SCA was envisioned as a sex-positive group that affirmed homosexuality and allowed people to define appropriate sexual behavior for themselves. For some that would mean sex only in the context of a monogamous, committed relationship, but for others it might mean no longer having unsafe sex or hiring hustlers, or it could mean waiting until the third date to have sex with someone. Each member would define their own "bottom line" in sexual sobriety.
Many of the gay men who have embraced SCA report finding relief from patterns of behavior that they say kept them isolated and alone.
Paul, 44, has been in recovery in SCA for more than 15 years. Before coming to SCA, "most of my sexual behavior took place in public restrooms or parks and was with people I didn't know," he said. "I put myself in danger, being in parks late at night and got diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea."
Allen, 43, remembers "getting out of bed in the middle of the night to go to a porno theater in Times Square where it was completely dark. It was seedy, it was shaming, and I couldn't leave."
In fact, regular attendance at SCA meetings has done for many gay men what will power and therapy alone could not - allow them to moderate self-destructive sexual behaviors.
"There is already such stigma in regards to sexual orientation, in addition to the stigma around compulsive sex," said Paul. "That's one of the powerful healing features of the program, because it creates an accepting environment that helps remove or lessen those stigmas."
The group's proliferation is testament to its success in addressing concerns apparently shared by many gay men. There are now more than forty SCA meetings each week in New York City as well as chapters throughout the United States.
"We now have meetings in Canada, France, England, Thailand, and in South America," said Sol.
Meetings are open to people of all sexual orientations although SCA still remains primarily attended by gay men.
SCA has not been devoid of controversy over the years. Internally, there have been struggles to define what is appropriate language during group sessions and whether the specific names and locations of sex venues should be mentioned.
For people outside of SCA, but who feel they might have problems they could address there, there is often worry that joining means making the change from a libertine into a prude.
"Some people thing SCA is puritanical," said Sol. "But we're more like Mother Theresa than Larry Kramer, since each person sets their own boundaries for acceptable sexual behavior for themselves."
For more information about Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, visit http://www. .

©GayCityNews 2007

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