Over the last four years I have written no less than eight posts* in an effort to understand and counter the claims of a fairly small but zealous segment of professionals who are on a mission to protect an unsuspecting world from what they see as a dangerous conspiracy. No, it’s not vaccinations or GMOs. The claim is that those of us who have a sub-specialty in sex addiction treatment are perpetrating a hoax on our clients. The motives they attribute to us are financial (that we’re getting rich by convincing people they are sex addicts) and moral (that we want to force people into a repressive, narrowly defined idea of healthy sexual behavior.) In other words, we are deceptive, unscrupulous, greedy and we live in a Norman Rockwell painting.
The deniers’ unfounded obsession
First of all, the deniers are wrong about the hoax part. There is considerable evidence that sexual behavior can become an addiction. This is not limited to a particular behavior but includes almost any kind of sexual behavior such as online porn, cybersex, commercial sex etc. etc. As the evidence continues to mount, the attacks on the addiction model will eventually become pointless.
In the meantime the sex addiction treatment community has recently countered the idea that there is a lack of evidence. A recent post on the IITAP website provides a link to a host of sex and porn addiction studies. It links to dozens of papers on the following:
- Neuroscience studies on Internet pornography users and those with Compulsive Sexual Behaviors
- Literature reviews on Internet pornography addiction and Compulsive Sexual Behaviors
- Studies reporting relationships between porn use or sex addiction and sexual dysfunctions, low libido, and decreased arousal to sexual stimuli
- Studies reporting relationships between porn use and less sexual or relationship satisfaction
The myth of the money grubbing con game
What about the motives the deniers project onto us, like getting rich? Well I suppose the larger rehab corporations catering to wealthy addicts, are making a good deal of money. Well respected drug and alcohol programs have been doing the same thing for decades. But the vast majority of sex addiction therapists are just doing what other therapists do. The only difference is that we’re swamped with people wanting help because there aren’t enough of us. Typically, our clients are using sex as a drug, they can’t stop and it’s taking over their lives.
The damage to people who experience sex or porn addiction
My colleagues are increasingly posting useful information aimed at protecting those recovering from sex and porn addiction from low-information attacks by the deniers. My colleague Todd Love has a recent post called How does the AASECT discounting of Sex & Porn Addiction affect the 12-step community? Another useful article by my colleague Kenneth Adams is entitled The Sex And Porn Addiction Controversy provides some useful guidelines for clients to use when evaluating the overt or covert theoretical bias of a particular therapist.
The most passionate charge is the moral one
Deniers seem preoccupied with the idea that we are out to judge and repress people and impose on them a particular kind of sexual behavior. This is delusional. I had a client whose fantasies revolved around raping women. He couldn’t give up violent rape pornography even when he was in a relationship and he deliberately picked partners who were sexually repressed (so he could feel like he was overpowering them). He had seen a sex therapist who told him not to worry about it.
This client was relieved to find me because I took him seriously. I did not judge this client, nor did I find it appropriate to normalize his situation by hooking him up with a particular kink community as some would suggest. This client did not lay any moral judgments on himself; he did not have to learn to “accept” his sexual preferences. He just wanted to have a good relationship with a partner but his intimate relationships never seemed to work out. Helping him to stop escaping into porn addiction long enough to confront his deeper trauma and intimacy issues was the point.
Why do they love to hate us?
The most dedicated deniers are not coming from any rational place. They are driven by their fears. They don’t want to stop attacking us much less have a reasoned dialogue. As I said, this is a concentrated group of zealots. A recent post by a denier who blogs on Psychology Today, bragged about how the “official” policy stand that was recently published by his professional organization came about through his own manipulation and subterfuge. These maneuvers were necessary because it was the only way to convince membership to go along with the “statement”.
Rebellion, conformity and political correctness
This fear that sex addiction treatment is brainwashing has echoes of the resistance to conformity and the rebellion against “political correctness” which is now so fashionable.
But sex addiction treatment has nothing to do with taking away sexual freedoms. Nor does it have to do with denying our sexual differences or imposing a narrow model of intimacy or relationships. People in recovery will likely have greater degrees of sexual freedom. A client once said “when I was an addict I always knew how sex was going to turn out, it was always the same.”
If deniers paint the sex addiction treatment process as repressive and retrograde then they are surely condemned to fight it forever. To the extent that they can let go of their defensive posture and come from a rational place, they can spend their energy helping to shape the future of the field. Until then, we as sex addiction treatment professionals have better things to do than to talk to people who can only see sex addiction treatment as the enemy.