Sex Addiction Is Not An Excuse For Predatory Behavior

By Britni de la Cretaz 11/13/17

Recent allegations have many wondering if sex addiction is really at fault for sexually predatory behavior. 

Harvey Weinstein

The recent waves of sexual assault and harassment allegations towards powerful men has resulted in many of these men claiming they have a sex addiction and seeking treatment as a result. After dozens of women have accused Harvey Weinstein of improper or non-consensual sexual behavior, he reportedly entered therapy at a facility in Arizona.

In October, actor Kevin Spacey was accused of making sexual advances on a then-14-year-old actor. Since the initial allegation, multiple men have come forward with similar accusations and now Spacey has reportedly entered rehab for sex addiction. Last week, a New York Times investigation led to comedian Louis CK confirming that he did masturbate in front of five women.

For years, former Senator Anthony Weiner was embroiled in numerous sex scandals, which eventually culminated in a 21-month prison sentence for sending sexts to a minor. Weiner, who pled guilty, and a lot of the Hollywood players who stand accused, have blamed sex addiction for their actions—but is it really to blame?

As the sexual harassment claims continue to roll in, people are beginning to ask whether a sex addiction is really at fault for their pattern of sexually predatory behavior. 

"There is no evidence that sexual harassment or sexual assault are related to the proposed features of sexual addiction," neuroscientist Nichole Prause told Vice. "For example, people committing assault generally do not feel they are out of control [like those who are addicted]—they value harassment or assault because they feel in control."

It’s worth noting that “sex addiction” is not a diagnosable condition; it is not included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Prause’s research seems to support this lack of inclusion, and casts doubt on whether compulsive sexual behavior can be classified as an addiction at all.

A key component of a substance use disorder diagnosis is an inability to control the use of that substance, which is outlined in the DSM’s diagnostic criteria. But Prause told Vice that the opposite is actually true for those claiming to suffer from a "sex addiction"; while they "report feeling they are not in control,” they actually “show better control of their sexual urges in lab studies than people who are not distressed."

The other aspect of “sex addiction” that differentiates it from an addiction to substances is the lack of physical withdrawal. It is not comparable to say that raping a person to stave off “sex addiction” is the equivalent of someone who robs a liquor store to stave off alcohol withdrawal—which can be fatal, as James Hamblin writes in The Atlantic.

As Maia Szalavitz writes in Vice, “Sure, a sex addiction could make you more likely to overspend on prostitutes or strip clubs or exclusive types of porn. It might isolate you from your family, destroy your relationships and maybe even ruin your finances. But it's not going to make you start harassing—let alone raping or otherwise sexually assaulting—others.”

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
britni headshot.png

Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.