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In her memoir of her life, Erica Garza portrays herself as a sexual addict. This is a difficult task to attempt since many readers will be suspicious that sex and porn can be genuinely addictive. However, the greater problem for Garza is her interpretation of herself as being unhappy. One might think that one can at least know if one is happy or unhappy, but Getting Off presents a case of someone who seems to have plenty of success, plenty of friends, family harmony, and no material struggles. She certainly has a lot of sex and uses a lot of porn to masturbate with, and through her teen years and her twenties most of her relationships were rather short. So it might be that she is not well-suited to settling down with one person -- that's not so unusual. She does go through periods of using a lot of alcohol and many drugs, leading to more disinhibited behavior that she might regret looking back. But she managed to avoid being sexually abused. Arguably she was used by many men, but it seems equally true that she used many of her sexual partners.
It is the chapter about her experiences in Bali that especially makes it hard to sympathize. Garza has reached her mid or late twenties, and has recently lived in London and New York, partly supported by her parents, her boyfriends, or work as a part time writer and private tutor. Now she gets into yoga and meditation and learns more to accept herself. She visits a therapist and she starts off saying she wants to grow. When pressed by the therapist about what she wants, she says "I guess I want to find my power." The therapist tries again to get her to come up with something substantial, and she says "I never feel satisfied. I jump from one relationship to the next, but I never feel worthy. The only pleasure I have is what my body can give me, but the pleasure never lasts. I feel empty and terrible about myself." (p. 118).
Garza says very little about this emptiness or why she feels bad about herself. She does refer to shame quite often, and she says she identified strongly with the main character in Steve McQueen's movie Shame. So there is something there, but it is hard to know what it is. She speculates that needing to be in a back brace for several months was traumatic for her when she was 12 years old. She says she benefited from a therapy called the Hoffman Process, which involved revisiting her life when she was 12, but she almost nothing about that either. The book ends after about 150 pages, and the reader is left perplexed about what it was all about. Her bio says that she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and child, so presumably she worked out how to have long term relationships, but there is little explanation about how that came about.
Ultimately Getting Off is not a helpful or informative book about sex and porn addiction. The writing is concise and Garza recounts her eventful life with a distinctive style, so it isn't boring. There are a few more scientific footnotes that refer to some research about sex addiction, but they are not systematic. So this is not the book for those who really want to get some insight into sexual addictions.
© 2018 Christian Perring
Christian Perring teaches in NYC.
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