Rachel Resnick on America's Culture of Sex
Rachel Resnick is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller Go West Young F*cked-Up Chick and Love Junkie. She has published articles, essays, and celebrity-profile cover stories in the Los Angeles Times, Women's Health, and BlackBook, The Time of My Life, Damage Control, The Dictionary of Failed Relationships, The Best American Erotica 2004, Women on the Edge, L.A. Shorts, and Absolute Disaster. She is also a contributing editor at Tin House magazine. Resnick is the founder and CEO of Writers on Fire, provider of luxury writing retreats both in the United States and abroad.
Question: Is the U.S. a uniquely addictive culture?
Rachel Resnick: It seems to me that it’s pretty clear that America is an addictive culture and there’s a distinction between process addictions and substance addictions, and we’re much more comfortable and versed with substance addictions. Someone shooting up, someone’s, you know, knocking back booze, popping pills. But this kind of stuff where it’s about a distorted relationship or bonding with handling of money, with love, with sex, relationships with shopping frankly that they can be use by people to serve the same functions that substance addictions do which is about not really relating with people where you have a more intense bond with these activities, and that you’re using them to avoid things about your life whether it’s feelings. With addiction, it seems that there’s a desire to get quick fixes, to have a passive kind of experience whether it’s transcendental, whatever that may mean or transformational, but without doing any of the rigorous work, ‘cause we as a capitalist society, as consumers, we’re kind of the just buying, buying and watching TV and online where how much activities that actually are going on or action that’s not a passive kind of response to stimuli. So, if you already have a propensity to be addictive, and by the way, there are tons of cross addictions. It’s almost like you have a bag full of seed or something, you push it one direction and it starts pushing out the seams of the other. So, for example, If I’m working, since I’m a love junkie and that’s my primary, that’s my drug of choice, and for me the love addiction is braided in with sex. There’s no question. But I need the emotional and romantic component for my particular cocktail to flourish the chemicals that will drop down. If I’m handling that though and I’m not really vigilant, I will notice, “Oh! I’m drinking a lot. Wow! Didn’t even know I had an issue with that.” Because if you’re not getting at the actual root of whatever the problem is, so I think I kind of tossed out a lot of other things, but I think there’s no question that the society is also in love with “love” and I say “love” in quotation marks, because the presentations we get in film and TV and shows frankly a distorted picture of love. It’s not true, mature love, my issue in these years of acting out, oh, my God, years of indulging in a love addiction had to do with confusing sex for love, confusing intensity for intimacy and confusing passion, you know, and it was all about drama and distraction.
Question: Do Americans have anything healthy to contribute to sex?
Rachel Resnick: Well, luckily, I have lived abroad and I lived in Italy for awhile and I had first-hand experience of this much more free and easy sense of bodies and expressiveness too, because if you go back to this idea that addiction is a way of avoiding feeling your feelings and that can be sexual as well as just emotional, just a wide range of emotions, and I think there’s no question that there’s this puritanical… hasn’t worked with [sinkholes]. It’s kind of like burbling underneath and it really does continue to affect us. I mean, look at the blue-red divide of this country. I mean, there’s a very strange schizophrenic split that seems to be happening on political level as well as a psychic level, the struggle between can we separate church and state and all the claptrap that goes along with religion. I think there’s a cultural double bind specifically for women concerning sex. I think that a lot of women are love and sex relationship romance addicts without having realizing it because there’s this confusion about I’m supposed to be a good girl and that’s how I’ll meet someone and have love that we all think it’s our right as American citizens and happiness, but no one will be attracted to me if I’m not sexy and open about my sexuality, but that’s an evil thing or that’s out of control or that’s, you know, associate with prostitutes or… So, they’re not really integrated. They’re really is that Madonna-whore complex more alive and well here it seems even though we have those origins in Italy and other places as well. In the United States, I think there’s no question that women are kind of have absorbed culturally this split within themselves and the self hatred, frankly, and this self hatred can manifest in this kind of addiction where you’re trying to connect with other people in a way that’s not really revealing who you are.
Recorded on: September 30, 2008.
Rachel Resnick explores America's culture of addiction
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