the brain scans of an infatuated lover look nearly identical to the brain scans of a cocaine addict. This is because the natural stimulants dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are released when one is in love to give the brain a similar “high” to that experienced when on coke. Therefore, someone in the throes of infatuation “will go to unhealthy, humiliating, and even physically dangerous lengths to procure their narcotic,” she says. Orgasms and self-stimulation release similar chemicals to the brain and can give you a momentary high. So biologically, it makes sense that this behavior can become compulsive. Yet exercise also releases dopamine, and so does food, shopping, and almost anything else that’s pleasurable. That’s why many doctors refuse to recognize sex addiction as a legitimate clinical diagnosis. Sex therapist and former BUST columnist Dr. Betty Dodson, for example, believes the word addiction belongs only in the substance-abuse category and sees labeling sexual desire as addiction as a form of manipulation. “This is going to mess them up, because now whenever they have any kind of desire to read about sex or look at images of sex, it’s going to be accompanied by guilt,” she says. “And guilt is the most worthless thing on the planet. People are manipulated by it through religion all the time.” Indeed, guilt and shame are common emotions expressed
And even Oprah Winfrey, the standard bearer for mainstream American ethics, has discussed the beneﬁts of female masturbation many times on her talk show. One of Winfrey’s frequent guest experts, Dr. Laura Berman, says encouraging girls to masturbate can help them avoid unhealthy sexual experiences. “You’re teaching them about their own bodies and pleasuring themselves and taking the reins of their own sexuality so that they don’t ever have to depend on a teenage boy to do it for them,” she says. But Renaud isn’t pleased with secular society’s increasing acceptance of porn and masturbation for women. Interestingly enough, she’s ﬁne with teaching young children about the existence of masturbation and porn—as long as they don’t try it. “It’s a very dangerous society that we live in,” she says, “when we’re telling women that it’s OK to look at porn.” Many girls in Renaud’s ministry think that once they get married, they will be free to express their sexuality and enjoy orgasms with a man. This causes some to take the fast track to the altar, only to ﬁnd that after they’ve married, they still feel the same taboo urges and temptations they did before. “I have broken down in tears and begged God to take away my desire for intimacy, or to let me get married ASAP, so I could have
“It’s a very dangerous society that we live in,” says Renaud, “when we’re telling women that it’s OK to look at porn.” by the women involved in Dirty Girls Ministries. “Once I’ve actually committed the sin (of porn and masturbation), I ﬁnd myself feeling such sadness, frustration, disappointment, anger, shame,” writes one anonymous user on the Ministries’ forum. “It makes me feel sick and unworthy,” writes another commenter. “I feel completely isolated and am disgusted in myself,” says a third. One girl even reported feeling guilty after simply dreaming about masturbating. By contrast, secular society in recent years has been moving in the other direction when it comes to women and masturbation, openly embracing it as a way for gals to better understand their bodies and enhance their pleasure with a partner. It’s a well-known fact that millions of women struggle with reaching orgasm during sex, so more and more, sex-ed teachers are including masturbation in their curricula. Last year, the U.N. released a report that suggested children learn about masturbation as early as ﬁve years old. The National Health Service in Britain recently released a pamphlet for teenagers with the headline “An Orgasm a Day Keeps the Doctor Away,” advocating that regular masturbation is good for cardiovascular health. In Spain, one regional government has just launched a sex-ed campaign with the slogan “Pleasure is in your own hands,” stating that masturbation boosts conﬁdence and self-esteem.
some release!” writes one forum commenter. Another who was haunted by her desires married at 19 in the hopes that pious matrimonial intercourse would rid her of her sinful thoughts— only to ﬁnd that during sex with her husband, she would have the same fantasies that plagued her in her single years. “I cannot cleanse my mind of these images and thoughts,” she says. “The fantasies are engraved into my mind. I try so hard to just focus on my husband only, but my thoughts are so warped.” For the most part, however, the young women who gather around Dirty Girls Ministries are bonding over struggles with modern courtship and their subsequent feelings of loneliness and isolation. Renaud says that at the height of her addiction, she considered having an anonymous encounter with a man. She set up the meeting online, went to the pre-arranged spot, and was waiting for him, but “God met me there instead,” she says. So she left before meeting the stranger. Renaud also didn’t date in high school because she was “unfortunate and wasn’t popular.” And she has never had a boyfriend. “I would love to ﬁnd ‘the one’ and get married and start a family,” she says. “I’m just believing that when that time comes, God will bring him about, and it will happen.” But in the meantime, she hopes more women will break free from their addiction to sexual stimulation and embark, with her, on a 12-step path to salvation. B
// BUST / 59
issue 67, portis de rossi