Discourse: A Hypersexual Society

Kenneth C.W. Kammeyer, A Hypersexual Society: Sexual Discourse, Erotica, and Pornography in America Today. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008

America today is a hypersexual society. Sexual discourse, erotica, and pornography are pervasive in the culture. Sexual materials, many times extending into erotica and pornography, are found in the consumer world, academia, sex therapy, the publishing world, mass media (especially radio, television and movies) and the Internet. The sexual materials found in all these areas of American society provoke relentless opposition by groups and individuals who want to repress or censor sexual materials. The combined effects of those who promote and produce sexual materials, and those who try to supress them, add up to a cacophony of sexual discourse.

Hypersexuality is a clinical diagnosis used by mental healthcare researchers and providers to describe extremely frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines hypersexual as “exhibiting unusual or excessive concern with or indulgence in sexual activity.” Sexologists have been using the term hypersexuality since the late 1800s, when Krafft-Ebing described several cases of extreme sexual behaviours in his seminal 1886 book, Psychopathia Sexualis. The author used the term “hypersexuality” to describe conditions that would now be termed premature ejaculation.

Hypersexuality may be a primary condition, or the symptom of another medical disease or condition, for example Klüver-Bucy syndrome or bipolar disorder. Hypersexuality may also present as a side effect of medication such as drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Clinicians have yet to reach a consensus over how best to describe hypersexuality as a primary condition, or to determine the appropriateness of describing such behaviors and impulses as a separate pathology.

Some authors have questioned whether it makes sense to discuss hypersexuality at all, arguing that labeling sexual urges “extreme” merely stigmatizes people who do not conform to the norms of their culture or peer group.

Hypersexual behaviours are viewed variously by clinicians and therapists as: an addiction; a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or “OCD-spectrum disorder”; or a disorder of impulsivity. A number of authors do not acknowledge such a pathology and instead assert that the condition merely reflects a cultural dislike of exceptional sexual behavior.

Consistent with there not being any consensus over what causes hypersexuality, authors have used many different labels to refer to it, sometimes interchangeably, but often depending on which theory they favor or which specific behavior they were studying. Contemporary names include compulsive masturbation, compulsive sexual behavior, cybersex addiction, erotomania, “excessive sexual drive”, hyperphilia, hypersexuality, hypersexual disorder, problematic hypersexuality, sexual addiction, sexual compulsivity, sexual dependency, sexual impulsivity, “out of control sexual behavior”, and paraphilia-related disorder.