Sex addiction came to the forefront with the Oscar-worthy performance in Shame by Michael Fassbender. We had Los Angeles sex addiction specialist Alexandra Katehakis check out the film and then talk to us exclusively about how a film such as Shame can catapult such an emotional issue to the forefront of public consciousness. “These movies, such as Shame, Ordinary People and Terms of Endearment -- that are more psychologically based -- bring to the fore these real problems that people have. And many are caused by mental illness,” Katehakis said.
“People don’t talk about it. But, when they see it on screen, they can have a moment of, ‘That’s me and I can get help for this.’ Or, ‘I didn’t know that other people struggled with this and I do. It’s really relevant to what’s happening culturally right now.’”
With celebrities seeking help for sex addiction (Tiger Woods, Jesse James), the problem has certainly been in the news. Katehakis feels that Shame gets it right on so many levels.
“You get a very clear sense of the pain and the high level of compulsivity and the profound isolation that goes with sex addiction,” she said. “Also, he no longer has a choice in the matter and that is one of the earmarks of addiction. They talk about sobriety from alcoholism is the return of choice. In terms of showing the pain, the lack of choice, the internal discussion and humiliation and also the level of tolerance over time -- that’s accurate.”
Another aspect in Shame that was impeccably captured was how sex addiction affects relationships between family members. In the film Fassbender and his onscreen sister Carey Mulligan have a complicated relationship, to say the least.
“They were so extremely fused with one another, which is what happens in dysfunctional families. People don’t have a sense of their own self,” Katehakis said. “There are all these lack of boundaries in terms of personal space between the two of them.”
Of all the monikers filmmaker Steve McQueen could have chosen for his film that follows Fassbender through the bowels of sex addiction, Shame could not have been more perfect. “I love that they didn’t mention sex addiction or sexual compulsion in the title. Let people take away what they wanted from it. There are studies that show that people who are hyper-sexual have a profound amount of sexual shame,” Katehakis said.
“They feel very shame-based internally so it’s a lot easier, as it’s shown in Shame, to have sex with somebody when you’re transacting money than to have an intimate, close, connected relationship with somebody.”