Sexual addiction is defined by one recovery-program website as “any compulsive or impulsive sexual activity that falls into one of three categories: shameful, secretive or abusive.” Well, that’s a bit of a party-killer, isn’t it? Beyond the fact that this defines as illness so much common sexual activity (affairs, hookups, kinks, masturbation), can they really expect sex without shame? Isn’t that what we have religion for? (As director John Waters memorably put it: “I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.”)

Into the fray steps director Steve McQueen with “Shame,” which takes a cool, unsparing look at textbook sex addiction. The title hangs over the film like a question: Is the addict ashamed of his behavior, or does some deeper past shame give rise to his urges?

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