Finally, a sceptical take on sex addiction. The Times just published an excellent article examining the problem with the concept of being ‘addicted to sex’, something that has almost entirely been an invention of private treatment clinics and the media.
There is virtually no published research on ‘sex addiction’ and it isn’t an officially recognised diagnosis, but it has become fashionable to describe compulsive or non-mainstream sexual tendencies in these terms.
Partly, as the article notes, because addiction has become the 21st century’s label of choice for people who want to medicalise less acceptable sexual behaviours, especially when someone gets ‘caught in the act’.
Dr Philip Hopley, an addiction specialist at the Priory Hospital at Roehampton, southwest London, and a consultant psychiatrist for LPP Consulting, says that public scepticism is ‚Äúunderstandable‚Äù. He says: ‚ÄúThe major concern is where sex-related problem behaviour is labelled an ‚Äòaddiction’ when in fact poor decision-making and/or impulse control lie at the root of the problem. What constitutes normal, average or healthy sex? There is no recommended limit for adults as there is for, say, alcohol – and if there was, would it be different for males and females?‚Äù
Phillip Hodson, a Fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, points out that the whole idea of having an addiction to a natural drive is problematic. ‚ÄúThe excuse, of course, is that nature wants us to have sex to make babies and isn’t bothered about rationing the drive. It’s the same with eating. You cannot really be ‚Äòaddicted’ to normal drives. What’s the cure – to stop procreating or eating?‚Äù Yet perhaps one can’t really blame people for using the term ‚Äúaddiction‚Äù, because compulsivity or mania don’t have quite the same ring. ‚ÄúSex maniac‚Äù sounds like something out of a Carry On film.
The media love sex addiction and go to great lengths to quote media-hungry rent-a-quotes who can make it sound valid.
Unfortunately, the media tends to like people who have already media connections, and so the dissenting voices barely get a byline.
This article is interesting because it is written by Jed Mercurio, a TV drama writer currently researching a book on JFK, so he’s prime ‘get in the papers’ material.
Interestingly though, he used to be a doctor, and knows a fadish medical concept when he sees one. Hence we get a rare sceptical look at a current media obsession.
Link to ‘JFK, Russell Brand and the myth of sex addiction’.