Sex addiction in New York City

Does it really exist? We asked New Yorkers to give us their numbers.

In Shame, Michael Fassbender plays a young Manhattanite grappling with his sexual compulsions.

In Shame, Michael Fassbender plays a young Manhattanite grappling with his sexual compulsions.

Newsstands and art house have been abuzz with "sex addiction" this winter. In late November, a Newsweek cover story claimed that America was amid the throes of a full-on epidemic, citing the increasing number of people being treated for "hypersexual disorder." In December, the erotic drama Shame landed on several film critics' best-of-the-year lists (including TONY's); it's the story of a thirtysomething New Yorker (Michael Fassbender) who has sex emptily and often, hooking up compulsively on the street when he's not glued to online porn at work or home. In reviews, the character is often described as a sex addict. But skeptics have long claimed the condition isn't real—there's even a new book, The Myth of Sex Addiction, which will be published in March.

We talked with some sex-loving New Yorkers about their hook-ups as well as what they really think about the idea of sex addiction. Here are their stories, presented alongside their number, you know, the "how many you've slept with" number, the one you're supposed to keep track of but never actually admit to. How do you compare?

Leigh, 24

Her number: 15

New York is a city of beautiful people. How do you not get caught up in the moment and sleep with them?

A friend and I picked up a film director who had a hot indie release this year. It was at his Brooklyn screening after-party. The three of us got kicked out for making out in the bar (we actually did a triple kiss; I thought that was only for Real World episodes, geesh). We went back to my apartment in Bushwick and had our way with him. It was weird, but fun. I woke up naked on my living room floor using a trash bag as a pillow. Not exactly classy.

There is a complete double standard when it comes to the number of partners men can have versus women. I do think porn addiction exists. I've known someone who was so obsessed with porn they couldn't have sexual connections or chemistry with other people. So sex addiction probably isn't far off from that.

Ninke, 27

Her number: "I've stopped counting."

I once got off with a guy I met on the train, in the middle of the street on the Upper West Side under a scaffolding. I'm pretty sure I would've gotten arrested for that. I also once had a threesome in a nightclub bathroom.

Sex addiction exists, but our society makes hooking up a "problem" that leads to guilt or shame. I think it's easier to get away with being slutty in NYC because your social circle doesn't even need to know what you are up to. If I lived in some small town upstate, I'd be the town trollop.

As far as numbers, I stopped counting around 2007. I have no idea how many people I've slept with. I also don't know how much I weigh, because what are numbers other than stress? Live free, die happy.

Moses, 36

His number: "Quality over quantity, and that is all I will say."

I had sex on top of the Williamsburg Bridge. A few friends of mine have done it on bridges and we've actually made a website——and have been trying to get this to catch on, like a new mile-high-club kind of thing.

I once got a blowjob late at night on an empty car on the R train in between the last stop in Manhattan and the first in Brooklyn.

But my favorite was when I was a double-decker bus tour guide. The buses were garaged in Brooklyn, so if you lived in Brooklyn, like I did, you could hop on one going back at the end of the day to get home. I met my then-girlfriend in midtown at the end of a shift, and we did the deed on top of the bus as we rode over the Manhattan Bridge.

I'm pretty skeptical about sex addiction, it depends on your definition of addiction. For me, addiction doesn't really correspond to the amount you do it—we're not addicted to breathing or brushing our teeth—it's about doing something you don't want to do.

I also think it's telling that sex addiction is automatically equated with lots of partners. A married couple who have sex twice a day, every day, would never be thought of as sex addicts. This makes me think it's more about slut-shaming and sex negativity, or maybe finding a bullshit excuse for why you cheated on a partner. At the very least it should probably be called something more accurate—new partner addiction? Sexual variety addiction?


Mike, 27

His number: "45 for p-in-v and between 50 and 60 for everything else."

I've always said that you can tell that love is a drug because people are willing to suck dick for it. Sex addiction is very much a real thing, it just happens to be used by celebrities as an excuse whenever they are unfaithful.

There are studies showing that love and sex release the same brain chemicals as drugs. One study recently showed that when your lover leaves you, thinking of them results in the same chemical release as withdrawing from heroin, i.e., it triggers actual physiological pain. I've wondered whether I'm a sex addict, but after a discussion with my therapist I don't think I really am. I'm just an ethical slut with a sex-positive attitude and an attraction to exploring boundaries.

I recently had a foursome with an ex from California, a European lab scientist and her Middle Eastern globetrotting boyfriend. It was exceptionally international, which I thought was particularly New York--y.

Next: "I was in the all-glass steam room of the Grace Hotel for a party..."

  1. 1
  2. 2