During the recent Super Bowl Sunday “parade of super commercials” Audi had a commercial depicting a young man going to the Prom. He was going to the prom alone. In that determination to go alone he had several family members and friends taunting him with the words “no one goes to the Prom alone”. Even his grade-school aged sister in the chorus of taunts says: “Only losers go to the Prom alone.” His dad offers him the key to the Audi as incentive and courage to go it alone. The next scene flashes and we see him boisterously walking onto the stage to take the prom queen and whisk her off in the A4. The final scene portrays the young man and the prom queen screaming in the thrill of going top speed in the A4. The commercial ends with the slogan “Bravery. It is what defines us.”
Many of my male clients who struggle with sex addiction share with me a silent shame that began for them in adolescence, or even earlier in their lives. Many feel they didn’t have the courage to be who they dreamed or wished themselves to become in assured confidence. They measured themselves against others constantly feeling inadequate and coming up short in relation to a perceived ideal. Many have had experiences of abuse and shame that became permanent voices of inadequacy in their heads. I have heard stories of locker room hazing and ridiculing by their peers. I have heard stories of well-intended but misguided coaches creating “rituals of manhood” that would be considered abusive. Overt and covert criticisms of their body, their abilities, and their manhood remain etched. These experiences have left indelible marks of shame and rage on their virility. Shame and rage become sublimated to sexual energy or fantasy in attempts to regain what was stripped from them, or put upon them. This sexualized rage fuels the acting out in attempts to avoid those feelings for years to come. These messages play over and over in their heads. Messages remain imprinted in the forms of internalized self-talk and self-concept.
The addiction cycle begins with a faulty belief system. Often that faulty belief system begins with these messages which were carried from those shameful episodes of childhood and adolescence. Episodes of adult inadequacy call up those uncomfortable feelings to be avoided at all costs. The attempts to avoid the feelings stoke the fires of the engine that feed the addiction cycle. Pornography becomes the modern-day solution to regain virility. Pornography gives relief to avoid the current uncomfortable feelings and act out the sexualized rage of inadequacy buried long ago.
Many men feel there was something they were missing. The magic elixir of the Audi Key of courage was elusive to them in adolescence but easily tapped into in fantasy with the novelty of the porn hit. A swirl of old shame to be avoided and a quick fix of feel-good pain-relief, followed by despair, shame and guilt, are hallmarks for the set-up of the addiction process.