There's no such thing as sex addiction! And we never landed on the moon.
Great news! If you’ve spent decades staring at pornography and masturbating, or most of your savings on sex workers; if you’ve blown up your marriage or abused scores of women with intriguing, infidelity and objectification; if you’ve wrecked your career or productivity with compulsive sexual behaviors... relax. This just in:
There’s no such thing as sex addiction!
Don’t take it from me; I’m no authority. Take it straight from an organization no less lofty than the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists. (That’s right, the first word in that title is “American,” so you know it’s solid as Plymouth Rock.)
In a recent “position statement” (nothing Freudian about that nomenclature, eh?) from AASECT, the group set every self-identified sex addict straight. The association does not believe there is enough evidence to accept that problematic sexual behavior and abuse of porn can be referred to as an “addiction.”
The professional group went on to say that human beings never landed on the moon, that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were actually an ultra-real hologram that was the result of a joint venture between the Federal government and Industrial Light & Magic, and that real estate magnet and star of “Celebrity Apprentice” Donald Trump is president of the United States. (What did you say? Oh my God, really?)
AASECT’s argument is nothing new. And it's not alone. “Sex addiction” is still not recognized as a disease by the American Psychiatric Association. You know, the folks who classified “homosexuality” as a mental disorder until 1973. Who still don’t recognize any behavior as an addiction — with the exception (for some reason) of gambling.
As a rule, I’m a big believer in credentials. I am not one of those anti-snob snobs who looks down his nose at someone learned simply because she got several degrees and many years of training. At the same time, I don’t think the length of the letter string after a person’s name is necessarily in direct proportion to her wisdom. So let’s look at some of the more common reasons for insisting there ain’t so such animal as sex addiction.
- It doesn’t involve a substance.
Oh no? What about endorphins, some of the most powerful opiate-like chemicals known to science and nature? Do their manufacture inside the brain rather than in a covert laboratory mean they’re less involved in the addictive cycle? (Hm, “covert laboratory.” An excellent description of the active sex addict’s brain.) For what it’s worth, I’ve heard dozens of sex addicts who suffer from multiple addictions describe quitting compulsive sexual behavior as more difficult than kicking horse or cocaine. Or alcohol.
- It’s not the problem: it’s a symptom of an underlying issue.
What isn’t? The heroin or meth addict’s problem is not strictly heroin or meth. The gambling addict’s problem is not merely spending two weeks without a break inside Caesar’s Palace. Let’s stipulate that every single sex addict has a problem underlying their compulsive dysfunctional sexual behavior, and get the sex heads as much help as the meth heads.
- We don’t want to pathologize sex.
“Pathologize” means to treat something as psychologically unhealthy. We certainly wouldn’t want to do that with the behavior of a man who gives up his marriage, his career and his entire bank account to patronize streetwalkers, and who eventually commits suicide over his demoralization. After all, it didn’t involve a substance and it was probably just a symptom of an underlying issue. And if you think those who do recognize the reality of sex addiction — say, the group Sex Addicts Anonymous (See? It's right in the name) — wants to denigrate sex and sexuality, consider these words from their official handbook:
Most of us have no desire to stop being sexual altogether. It is not sex in and of itself that causes us problems, but the addiction to certain sexual behaviors. In SAA we will be better able to determine what behavior is addictive and what is healthy. However, the fellowship does not dictate to its members what is and isn't addictive sexual behavior. Instead we have found that it is necessary for each member to define his or her own abstinence.
…abstinence does not imply the complete elimination of sexuality from the addict's life, whether married, partnered or single; rather, it lays the foundation for learning a new approach to the experience of sex and relationships which is non-compulsive and non-destructive.
The simple truth is that sex addiction isn’t about sex, and sex addicts in real recovery don’t judge fetishism, or kink, or BDSM, or anything else. Likewise sex addiction isn’t about acceptance or stigmatizing of these behaviors by addicts or others. It’s about addiction: what Patrick Carnes called “the pathological relationship with a mood altering experience.” Notice how the word “sex” doesn’t even rate a place in that sentence?
Okay, let’s say the scientific arguments insisting sex addiction is not a disease don’t hold much water. Why then would these professional guilds have so much trouble labeling this disease as exactly that?
I don’t know. I do have a good guess.
I’m not claiming that psychiatrists, psychologists or the like have found a way to turn on the moolah tap by resisting the classification of sexually compulsive behavior as a disease. But once a disorder winds up in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — which it did not this past year despite lobbying efforts to the contrary — it puts a lot of pressure on giant insurance companies to cover it for their customers. Insurance companies hate to spend money, and typically pressure those in charge of the official diagnosing to keep costs down. Just saying.
Meanwhile, thousands of people continue to suffer a malady that looks like an addiction, walks like an addiction, smells like an addiction, and kills like an addiction… but technically isn’t an addiction. Worse, they stigmatize the sufferers by not calling their irresistible syndrome a disease.You heard me right. Learning there’s a name for what they suffer from, and that it’s a disease, often brings a tremendous surge of relief and a release from shame to sex addicts and hastens the day when your colleague can safely say, "I'm a sex addict in recovery" just as surely as they can say, "I'm an alcoholic. Ten years sober."
Ask yourself if you’d rather hear that you’re in constant pain because you have cancer — or because you’re a fundamentally bad person whose problems are directly connected to your worth as a human being. Cancer is bad, but it’s not your fault. It is your responsibility to take care of it, and in many cases it’s treatable. Not so with evil, which is how many sex addicts who have hit bottom feel about themselves. And if you’re innately evil, why stop your behaviors?
The attitude of societies like AASECT when they spout nonsense like this reminds me of those who opposed gay marriage on the ground that it cheapened all matrimony. I wonder if those who stand against classifying the terrible disease of sexual addiction as just that, a disease, feel it will somehow dilute the gravitas of alcoholism or crack abuse.
Right. And the moon is made of green cheese.
Hey, don’t tell me I’m wrong. Neither you nor any other human being has ever been there.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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