Sex addiction isn’t a thing.
Sure, most of us have heard cheaters and even abusers blame their behavior on their “sex addiction,” but the media hasn’t done a great job unpacking what that actually means. The term is simplified and well, sexy, making it a seductive distraction and more plainly, an excuse.
To talk about sex addiction as if it’s something that actually exists is a total fallacy. Here’s why:
- It’s not in the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the encyclopedia of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the U.S., nor is it explicitly covered by insurance. Sex addiction is talked about as if it is synonymous to drug and alcohol addiction, but by definition, sex addiction doesn’t constitute what most researchers understand as “addiction.” Simply put, sex addicts don’t experience withdrawal symptoms if they don’t get their daily dose of porn or fucking in the way other addicts do. They might be really, really agitated, but they won’t have an impactful chemical imbalance in their brain. Compulsive behavior isn’t the same thing as addiction.
2. More often than not, sex addiction treatment centers are informed by faith more so than science, meaning these programs are the results of puritanical thinking and fear about sex, more than they are of science. These institutions posit sex addiction as a scientific problem but then go about treating it as a moral weakness. Most outspoken advocates about sex addiction are informed by their own neo-conservative Christian beliefs (despite the messy sex scandals many of this same demographic get themselves into).
3. As Dr. David Ley, clinical psychologist and author of the 2012 book “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” has repeatedly told me: sex is never the problem; sex is always the symptom. Focusing one’s treatment on “sex addiction” ignores important underlying problems like depression or obsessive compulsive disorder. This is evident in the recent case of Harvey Weinstein, who checked into rehab after his status as a serial sexual assailant was revealed. He referred to himself as a “sex addict,” which was an attempt to minimize and subvert his humongous capacity for sexual violence.
4. If sex addiction is an actual disorder, then why do famous people suffer from it in such great hordes? Also, if sex addiction were real, wouldn’t more women claim to be sex addicts too? The reality is that sex addiction isn’t a disease or physiological condition, but a public relations concept afforded to the privileged– rich, white, cis-male professionals who can call themselves “addicts” so that once they go to “rehab,” their public status is deemed “cured.” On average, 90-95% of reported “sex addicts” are men, and almost all of these men are white professionals. The small percentage of men of color who identify as sex addicts also happen to be celebrities, and when celebrities self-disclose their sex addiction, it’s their image they’re rehabbing, not their sexuality.
5. Conversations about human sexuality have always centered around wealthy white men, largely because these are the guys who wrote a lot of the human sexuality texts we still use today. This idea of “sex addiction” is just another self-serving language game imposed on society by powerful men who don’t want to be accountable for their actions.
Writer: TIERNEY FINSTER