My name is Neil Watkins and I am a sex addict
Neil Watkins is a sex addict and an acclaimed performer. His play – The Year of Magical Wanking – has been called beguiling and poetic, intense, funny, and astonishingly brave.
“I am Neil Martin Watkins and I am a sex and love-addicted innocent.” That’s how I begin my autobiographical monologue about my sexual shame as a result of growing up in Catholic Ireland.
Of course, it was all just the norm then. An altar to Mary and Jesus on the window sill. A holy water font in the hall. Our mother anointed us every morning before school.
Morning prayers, evening prayers, Mass every morning during the season of Lent. And of course I played Jesus several times in the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. I lived and breathed Catholicism.
God was watching me.
And by the time I became sexually responsive, I was convinced that I was going to hell. The church that had loved me, that I had loved, was telling me that I was evil.
I was damned.
I prayed for a cure for homosexuality. This was my first thought on waking up every morning throughout my teenage years and into my 20s.
Often I begged God to forgive me after masturbating.
Despite being a high achiever intellectually, my brain was filled with the irrational belief that I was a monster. I was 33 and barely living.
It took a meeting with a Native American Shaman by the name of Sweet Medicine Horse Nation to change things. “You are what my people call Winkta,” he said.
There’s a certain point in depression where you will try absolutely anything. You’ll even get spiritual despite the fact that you’ve lost all faith. When you’re at the point of wanting to end your life you just have to try the mad stuff.
Sweet Medicine told me that gay people were highly regarded in the traditions of the indigenous people around the world - they have a place of honour for the “twin-spirited being”.
Twin spirits could be men or women. They showed both masculine and feminine traits. They were seen as angelic beings and their presence was vital at all major ceremonies. They blessed every birth and death and marriage.
Funny that we know so many members of the clergy who are gay. I’ve heard stories of absolute gay decadence from the Vatican. Now there’s a case of internalised homophobia.
So what hope had I coming out to my Catholic parents as a 17 year old when they had been conditioned to view homosexuality as the work of Satan? Hetero sex was already marketed as original sin. What hope was there for gay sex? And at what point in history was the indigenous view of homosexuality altered?
Why should the idea of sex for pleasure’s sake continue to offend?
Practices like yoga, meditation and therapy have helped me understand and accept myself.
And my self expression has brought me from absolute poverty and despair to a very liberated place. It all still takes work and practice. And I fall on and off the wagon. But the foundation is much stronger.
I went to see the film Shame the other night. Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of a man with sex addiction was subtle and sublime. To see such an honest and compassionate interpretation of such a taboo subject was healing.
It’s very easy to dismiss sex addicts as greedy or the Catholic Church as tyrants. But the more compassion I find for my own story, the more space I have to understand that everyone has theirs too.
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