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Ethlie Ann Vare Headshot

It's A Shame About Michael Fassbender

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Write a book about sex and love addiction -- particularly your own sex and love addiction, as I have -- and people are going to look at you funny. I knew that when I started the project. I didn't know how much it was going to bother me. I am considering having t-shirts printed up for public appearances: "But I'm Not Going to Sleep With You." I may use a shorter form of "sleep with".

People joke that if you have to have an addiction, sex is the one to pick. Those people have never been addicted to anything. Trust me: the cycle of craving, obsession and withdrawal isn't anywhere near as much fun as you'd think, whether the object of your compulsion is tantra, Twinkies or Twilight novels.

Which is why the movie SHAME was so disorienting for people. The NC-17 rated film gets released on video next week; on April 17, I will be speaking on a panel in Santa Monica alongside Chris Donaghue, the host of BAD SEX on Logo, and Alexandra Katehakis, the director of the Center for Healthy Sex. We will presumably talking about the causes and effects of sex and love addiction. The audience will presumably be there to see Michael Fassbender having sex.

Michael Fassbender will be having plenty of sex. But he won't be enjoying it, and neither will you. Because he isn't having hot sex; he's having cold sex. His character uses sex as a means to disconnect, to disassociate, to feel nothing. And that is as unnerving to watch as it is to experience. Insanity just isn't that all enjoyable. I say this as a formerly insane person.

The more I research sex, love and other "process addictions," as they're becoming known -- eating disorders, compulsive gambling, compulsive shopping -- the more I am amazed at how difficult it is to convince the world that these things can be as addictive as drugs and alcohol. Food and sex are lodged in the most primal reward centers of the brain. They are all about survival. It makes perfect sense to me that some brains elevate their importance beyond all reason. Literally beyond all reason, in that the decision-making pre-frontal cortex gets left out of the loop.

Of course food and sex can be as addictive as drugs and alcohol. It should be much harder to convince the public that drugs can alcohol can be as addictive as food and sex.

So if you're grabbing a DVD copy of "Shame" to get a look at Michael Fassbender's penis -- and it is quite a lovely penis (or penis prosthetic; I wasn't there) -- keep in mind that, for a change of pace, the problem isn't that this character is thinking with his little brain. He's thinking with this big brain. The problem is, his big brain is broken.