Thought is an infection. In the case of certain thoughts, it becomes an epidemic. - Wallace Stevens
Back in February I published “Not an Addiction”, in which I criticized the popular confusion of the word “addiction” with the related concepts of habituation and obsession. I was (and remain) especially critical of the concept of “sex addiction”:
Craving something the body (food, water and oxygen) or mind (sex and companionship) actually needs is not and cannot be an “addiction”, though it can certainly become an obsession if one thinks about it to the exclusion of all else and indulges in erratic, inappropriate or even dangerous behavior to gain access to whatever it is he is obsessed with. In the late ‘90s certain pop psychologists started throwing the term “sex addiction” around, and though it is totally impossible to be “addicted” to sex…the term has nonetheless become very popular in the general public and even a few psychological professionals have adopted it (though only for use in popular articles). What makes this improper term even more damaging than such asininity as “internet addiction” is that A) it is confused with the real and serious psychological disorder which the DSM-IV calls “hypersexuality” (and which was previously called “nymphomania” in women and “satyriasis” in men); and B) it has been co-opted by neofeminists to mean “sexual behavior which falls well within the normal range of male behavior but outside the normal range of female behavior.” We’ve previously discussed the damage done to society by neofeminist pathologization of normal male behavior; the application of the very strong term “addiction” to behavior characteristic of two-thirds of men is more of the same and should be fought by every man and every woman who loves men.
Given Newsweek’s fondness for promoting hysteria and willingness to jump on the neofeminist anti-sex bandwagon in its increasingly-yellow pages, it will surprise absolutely no one to hear that on November 25th it published a scare-story under the title “The Sex Addiction Epidemic”. Holy mixed metaphors, Batman! Author Chris Lee writes that this supposed affliction “wrecks marriages, destroys careers, and saps self-worth” and ominously warns that “Americans are being diagnosed as sex addicts in record numbers”; considering that “sex addiction” is not a valid diagnosis (it doesn’t appear in DSM-IV and, as I confidently predicted in February, was rejected for DSM-V), this statement is roughly equivalent to “record numbers of Americans are being diagnosed with orgone deficiency.” But because the truth rarely supports hysteria, Lee eschews interviewing reputable psychologists and instead quotes religious counselors, the director of a “reality” TV show about “sex addicts”, the staff of for-profit “sex addiction” clinics and other quacks.
Salon, on the other hand, published a Tracy Clark-Flory interview with clinical psychologist David Ley entitled “Don’t Believe the Sex Addiction Hype”; it starts out strong:
The sexy alarmism of Newsweek’s latest cover story is irresistible — but it should be viewed with extreme skepticism. Mental health experts haven’t come to the consensus that sex addiction even exists, let alone that it’s an epidemic. The cultural phenomenon of sex addiction, which I first wrote about in 2009, is just that: A cultural phenomenon, not a legitimate medical diagnosis, and the release this week of the much buzzed-about “Shame,” a sex-addiction drama starring Michael Fassbender, further secures the concept’s place in the zeitgeist. Never mind that it was rejected from the upcoming revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychiatry’s bible.
…and it just gets better when Dr. Ley comes in:
…The sex-addiction concept is a belief system, not a diagnosis; it’s not a medically supported concept. The science is abysmal…over the past year or two, [proponents of the sex addiction model] have started trying to use brain science to explain it. They’re now talking about morphological changes that supposedly happen in the brain as somebody watches porn or has too much sex. The reality is, careful scientists will tell you they are absolutely unable to identify any brain differences between these alleged sex addicts and non-sex addicts…[and] that the brain changes constantly — any behavior that a person engages in, especially repetitively, changes your brain. So, identifying changes related to this sexual behavior and distinguishing it from anything else is absolutely ridiculous…
And better still:
They are typically unable to put forth a healthy model of sexuality, and when they do, it is so transparently conservative and religiously driven that it’s frightening. Most of the leaders of the sex-addiction movement are themselves recovering supposed sex addicts and religious folks…what they’re advocating for is a moral system, not a medical one. For a while, they were pushing the idea that if you had an orgasm once a day, every day, that made you a sex addict — but they finally had to back off on that because data was building up showing that there are lots of people who have sex once a day and have no problems. That’s the other big hole in their argument: For every one of the behaviors they raise as addictive — whether it’s porn, strip clubs, masturbation, infidelity, going to prostitutes — I can present 10,000 people who engage in the exact same behavior and have no problems, and they can’t explain why that is…This is a moral attack on sexuality…They [want] people to…develop fear of sex. Because they think that if we’re not afraid of sex, people are going to go out and have lots of sex. God forbid.
And best of all:
Instead of examining the application of the concept of monogamy over a 30- or 40-year marriage, and looking at how male sexuality works, it’s much easier to say: “Well, it’s a disease.” I include a quote in my book where a woman says, “When my husband was cheating, it really was a comfort to consider it a disease and that it really wasn’t his fault. Finally, I had to realize that it wasn’t a disease, it was just him being selfish and treating my life and health casually”…There’s incredible risk of pathology here — we only need to look at the history of nymphomania to see that. Women had their clitorises removed, they were subjected to electroshock therapy, all kinds of medication. When female sexuality was diagnosed as a disease. Now male sexuality is diagnosed as a disease, only instead of getting electroshock therapy they get the country-club treatment for 30 days.
If you have time, you really ought to read the whole article; Flory writes well and is consistently sex-work friendly and skeptical of anti-sex propaganda, and Dr. Ley has the balls to buck the politically correct narrative and call a spade a spade. The public sphere needs more people like both of them to help combat the rising tide of ignorance which threatens to engulf us all.
(Thanks to regular reader Marla for calling my attention to BOTH articles!)
One Year Ago Today
“Courtesan Denial” is a species of historical revisionism spawned to resolve the cognitive dissonance caused by the knowledge that courtesans, temple prostitutes and the like were highly respected in their times, coupled with the belief that all prostitution is degrading.