More: Did you think you would stop once you took vows?
RJ: I wanted to be faithful and good. But there were things my wife didn’t want to do in the bedroom. I was unhappy about that . . . and then I saw an ad where a woman indulged men in phone sex while they masturbated and I thought, "This is safe and not cheating."
More: So what happened?
RJ: As your dependence on porn grows, it interferes with your ability to be intimate with someone else and you’re really hurting yourself. Having exchanges with someone on the phone or exchanging pictures with them is not really harmless, even if you don’t perceive it as cheating. It's still hurtful to your partner, whether they know it or not. It’s very unhealthy . . . you need more and more stimulation, and more frequent stimulation, and eventually it takes over your life, much in the way substance abuse does.
More: What did online sex do for you?
RJ: It relieved anxiety. If [your addiction] is undiscovered, you keep doing it because you don’t believe you’re hurting anyone. The anonymity made it easy and comfortable . . . you feel protected, and you can be whoever you want and discuss any topic, because none of the women I talked to knew who I was. Deep down I felt, if they really knew who I was, maybe they wouldn’t find me attractive.
More: You say people don’t understand sex addiction.
RJ: Right. It’s not about sex. It comes from low self-esteem. If you ask me personally, it goes back to when I was much younger and couldn’t get a girlfriend and my insecurities about that. The Internet allows me to express myself in that pathological way. [Online sex] makes you feel attractive and makes you feel like a virile kind of guy, and it’s an ego boost. You become insatiable for it.
More: There doesn’t seem to be a lot of sympathy out there for you and Congressman Weiner.
RJ: People say you’re a pervert, that your desire is abnormal, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I had a lot of performance anxiety and I was taking Cialis and Viagra. You feel inhibited. It’s the same human, just a different part.
More: How did you get caught?
RJ: My wife saw one of my deleted e-mails. I was stupid not to erase the e-mail or change my password. She assumed it was from a girlfriend, not a service. She wouldn’t even let me explain what actually happened. That it was part of an addictive pattern. It was not sex; it was validation.
More: What was your reaction to her finding the e-mail?
RJ: I was angry that she had invaded my privacy, that she interfered with my fantasy world. [The e-mails] were not appropriate, but it was for me to fix my shit. But I was screwed. The fact that she peeked into my e-mail didn’t look so bad compared to what I did. Today I don’t know what’s better, openness or privacy. In your mind, you are entitled to your fantasy world in your head, but it has to stop there.
More: What’s it like to be outed?
RJ: There’s a double pain there. You’re ashamed and embarrassed because you don’t like this about yourself and also because you’ve hurt someone else so deeply.
More: Have you tried to apologize to your wife?
RJ: There’s no amount of pleading that my wife will accept; she wrote me off immediately. What if I was an alcoholic or a drug user? I think she would have been more understanding. A woman wouldn’t get mad about a bottle of Scotch because it’s an inanimate object, but she is terribly hurt by the idea of any type of sexual interaction with another woman. Because it’s sexual behavior, that makes it impossible to forgive. She has to accept at some level that it’s about her, too.
More: Wait, you said it’s not about her.
RJ: This was a beautiful woman—other men were jealous of me—but behind closed doors she was inhibited sexually. I had my own issues with performance anxiety, which only made things worse.