Sex is an important part of pretty much everyone’s lives and often when relationships break down it’s at least partially due to a lack of satisfaction in the bedroom.
And the health benefits that derive from a fulfilling sex life are plenty: it lessens your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, it allows you to sleep better and it has a noticeable mood-boosting effect.
However, in spite of all the pleasure and health benefits sex provides, it turns out you can get too much of a good thing.
Thirty-five-year-old Erica Garza from Los Angeles used to have a serious addiction to porn, and risked her safety by meeting up with men to perform what she now refers to as “degrading” sexual acts.
Watch Erica Garza talk about her troubled past with sex addiction
She states that initially, these potentially dangerous encounters helped to take her mind off the “more difficult emotions”.
In a very candid and revealing interview with the Daily Mail, Garza spoke about what life is like as a sex addict in an attempt to spread awareness for the fact that women can also be affected by sex addiction. In fact, one-third of all sex addicts are women.
“Sometime in my late twenties I started noticing a pattern with my relationships,” she recalled. “I didn’t invest as much energy or care into platonic relationships and I often sabotaged romantic relationships when I felt myself caring too much.”
“I liked to keep things loose and casual, but felt lonely all of the time. I was also bingeing on porn as a coping mechanism when difficult emotions came up, and I didn’t know how to stop.”
“Sex addiction manifests differently in every addict, but for me, it meant using sex as an escape route and feeling a deep sense of shame.”
Shockingly, Garza’s addiction began at the age of twelve following a diagnosis with scoliosis which prompted bullies to relentlessly taunt her.
“I started using masturbation and porn as an outlet for emotional distress and low self-esteem when I was twelve, the same year that I was diagnosed with scoliosis and started getting bullied at school for wearing a corrective back brace,” she explained.
“When I was trying to achieve orgasm, all of my worries and stress just melted away and I came to rely on sexual release as a crutch for dealing with difficult emotions. I continued relying on this method even after I had the brace removed and started focusing on my outward appearance to gain the attention of the opposite sex.
“Any time I feel that I may have lost interest in these methods or developed healthier ways of dealing with my problems, internet speeds went up or a new boy became interested in me and I could escape again and again.”
“Later, I started to seek out the same feeling of shame and pleasure I got in the type of porn I watched in the sexual relationships I sought. If a man treated me poorly, this was okay, because the shame I felt in allowing myself to be mistreated mirrored the shame I felt in watching degrading porn.”
“I watched hardcore porn in which women were degraded. I needed harder clips in order to feel something because I’d grown desensitized to softer porn,” she said.
“I also sought out sexual relationships in which men said or did degrading things to me just like I’d seen in the clips. I came to rely on porn and sexual experiences that produced shame in me because shame was an integral part of my pleasure.”
Garza never felt any sort of connection with her sexual partners in spite of the intimate situations she found herself in with them.
“Even if I was having a lot of sex, there was always a wall up between me and the other person. I was scared of being vulnerable and didn’t trust intimacy.
“But coming clean about my addiction has allowed me to be more honest and open about who I am, and this has allowed me to connect more with others. I am now happily married to the first person I ever confessed my addiction to.”
Garza is raising a daughter with her current husband and hopes her child will never experience what she has.
“I want her to feel worthy of expressing herself sexually and otherwise and to be comfortable in her body. I want to be a safe space for her, someone she could come to with questions without fear of being judged or turned away.”
“When your story doesn’t sit into that narrative of trauma or sexual abuse, you feel this extra layer of shame because you feel like you can’t talk about it,” she told Business Insider Australia. “Like your pain isn’t justified. And I don’t think anything diffuses shame more than being able to talk about it.”
It’s very brave of Erica Garza to speak of her experiences in such an open and honest way. In spite of the judgment she will inevitably face, her main priority is drawing attention to the issue.