Let Us Not Praise Famous Men
(But James Franco Might Be Okay)
I normally have little to no sympathy for famous and powerful men who cry “sex addiction” after they’ve been caught with their dick in their hands one too many times, and throw themselves on the mercy of The Meadows or The Hills or The Ranch to some other rehab. Back in 2017, when Harvey Weinstein was finally publicly accused of what everyone in Hollywood knew he had been doing for decades, I wrote a column called “Don’t Let Harvey Weinstein Give Sex Addiction A Bad Name.” To quote myself:
“Here’s my highly educated but technically non-professional opinion: Harvey Weinstein is not a sex addict. Harvey Weinstein is an abusive asshole. Some sex addicts may be abusive assholes. Some abusive assholes may be sex addicts. But they are two very different things. [Harvey Weinstein doesn’t] need Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. [He needs] Abusive Assholes Anonymous – but AA is taken, and AAA will really upset the Automobile Association of America.”
The latest celebrity to self-define as a sex addict is actor James Franco and you know what? I do believe him.
In a cringingly intimate, widely publicized interview with veteran entertainment journalist Jess Cagle, Franco admitted to sleeping with his acting students (which cost him a $2.2 million lawsuit settlement) and cheating on every girlfriend he’s ever had (which cost him every girlfriend he’s ever had.) He says he would likely have continued this behavior, until his sister-in-law gave him a book about sex addiction.
“When I read this book, it hit me like a bullet. It was like ‘oh my god, that’s me’.”
Now, I would like to think it was my book LOVE ADDICT: SEX, ROMANCE AND OTHER DANGEROUS DRUGS that switched on the light bulb, but I suspect not. Love Addict is more about love addiction (no surprise) than sex addiction. Still, feel free to give him a copy if you run into him.
Here’s why I believe him: Franco has been sober in a 12-step program since he was 17 years old. “I went to meetings all that time,” says the now 43-year-old actor. “I even tried to sponsor other people. So in my head, it was like, ‘Oh, I’m sober. I’m living a spiritual life.’ Where on the side, I’m acting out in all these other ways, and I couldn’t see it.”
That was also my story, and a story I’ve heard from a number of people who crawled into sex and love recovery groups with a decade and more of sobriety. I was sober AF, working a program — a good program, if I say so myself — and still had this incredible blind spot where my sexual and romantic life was concerned. Eventually, as as Franco put it, “the behavior spun out to a point where I was hurting everybody.”
Once Franco saw sex and romance within the framework of addiction, he made a decision to move towards recovery.
“Once I couldn’t use alcohol to fill the hole, I got addicted to validation. It’s such a powerful drug. Attention from women, success with women, became a huge source of validation for me. The problem is that, like with any drug, there’s never enough. I’m just trying to fill that hole and it never gets filled. It’s never ending.”.
Cagle takes Franco to the woodshed over his acting-out behavior, and thank god most of us don’t have to make our amends quite so publicly. As much as we all want to be famous, there is a down side… It’s a tough listen at times, but it’s also a service - if he can survive this, surely we can live through telling our roommates we slept with their boyfriends.
You did that too, right….?
Franco talks about fear of intimacy, he talks about withdrawal, he talks about what life is like when you stop living out a pattern of sex and love addiction: “My god, I have to get to know James now? I had the social skills of a 13-year-old. I hid behind the facade of my fame.”
It sounds a lot like what you hear in a recovery group. It sounds like self awareness, which is something I don’t hear from some other famous dudes who turned themselves into sex addiction rehab - not your Weinsteins, not your Kevin Spaceys, not even a pathetic mess like Anthony Weiner.
“I’ve used my recovery background to kind of start examining this and changing who I was,” says Franco. “You’re trying to fill that hole with all these outside things, because there’s something deeper going on - I just couldn’t see it at the time. There’s probably an iceberg underneath. It isn’t going to be solved overnight. I’ve been doing a lot of work.”
I believe you, kid. Welcome to the club. Good luck.
And fuck Harvey Weinstein.