[From Essay, Issue Three, 2002]

Over the years I have become more aware of how many people in our fellowship have limited the term “sex with self” to mean masturbation to orgasm. I believe this is a problem. I could never consider limiting the definition to merely meaning masturbation to orgasm.

In our fellowship isn’t sex with self touching oneself for the purpose of sexual stimulation with or without an orgasm? Isn’t sex with self and watching internet pornography for the purpose of self stimulation? Isn’t sex with self any act one does while alone with the motivation for sexual stimulation?

Those people who wonder why they repeatedly relapse might consider that they have never really gotten sober. Yes, they stopped masturbating to orgasm, but nothing else changed. Some continued stimulating themselves but not to orgasm. Others continued watching internet pornography and others live in sexual fantasy while letting themselves become aroused. If this is not “sex with self,” then what do we call it?

I call this behavior sex with self. Is it not analogous to the situation in Alcoholics Anonymous years ago when people would call themselves sober in AA while still smoking marijuana? Although nothing officially deals with this situation in the AA big book, the general feeling in meeting rooms, to the best of my understanding, is that these people are really not sober.

What is the solution? Do we itemize each form of sex with self? Do we define it specifically for each other? Do we merely continue to ignore this problem as a fellowship and just say it is part of progressive victory over lust? No. I do not believe these are the solutions.

I believe the solution is in the statement “To thine own self be true.” Our “top plates” are revealed as we become more honest with ourselves. We then discuss these top plates with our sponsor. We say something like this, “I do such and such behavior to sexually stimulate myself. This is a form of sex with self. If I do this behavior again, I will call it a loss of my sobriety.” For some it might be so obvious that they know their sobriety has already been lost. Either way, this behavior needs to be confronted and not swept under the carpet of denial.

Lately I have been hearing the term “technical sobriety.” I have heard stories where people will say, “I have this amount of time of technical sobriety and such and such length of time sober from internet pornography.” I do not believe this is being honest with ourselves.

Is our behavior sex with self, or isn’t it?

How will people want what we have if we are not willing to get honest with ourselves concerning our own sexual sobriety?

I do not have all the answers. However, this is definitely an area where more is being revealed. I merely know what has worked for me for over 18 years of sexual sobriety. What has worked is for me to have a clear definition of sexual sobriety concerning sex with self that is more than merely masturbation to orgasm. Let’s begin to talk about this subject at all levels of our fellowship. Let us search for a language and application of our principles that will help us help one another move out of denial—a denial that can keep us from experiencing the full freedom of mature sobriety. Let us bring light to this subject and let us truly face what is sex with self.

Harvey A., Nashville, TN