Harvey Weinstein has entered a treatment facility in Arizona to deal with what he describes as a “sex addiction.” I call BS, and so do many, many others.
In reading numerous articles about Mr. Weinstein and about the way the notion of “sex addiction” is used to justify certain wealthy, connected men’s compulsion to violate consent, one thing has become clear: the only thing Harvey Weinsten is addicted to is power.
In an article by James Hamblin for The Atlantic, the author writes that “some people go to prison” for crimes like rape and sexual assault, while “others go to rehab,” and he adds that “the ability to even sell this narrative [that the acts were due to a “sex addiction,”] is a luxury disproportionately afforded to powerful men.”
Mr. Hamblin goes on to say that “the more glaring problem with the narrative is the mischaracterization of the incidents [by Weinstein] as “sexual” – and [driven by] an addiction to that sex.”
He states that “these [incidents] are… problems of power and status that manifest as a violent disregard for others – a failure to acknowledge the autonomy of women… and a compulsion to revoke it by force.”
Mr. Hamblin finds it “especially jarring to hear… [Weinstein] professing a lack of agency in these acts.” In Mr. Hamblin’s opinion, the only compulsion Mr. Weinstein and other men like him could be diagnosed with is “an inability to hold oneself accountable.”
In a Huffington Post article by Lindsay Holmes, she writes that “compulsive sexual conduct is separate from violating consent in sexual relations.”
She quotes Chris Samuels, director of the Sexual Addiction Treatment and Training Institute in New York, who explained that “the perpetrator (of sexual misconduct) is opportunistic… motivated by power dynamics… self-justifying and remorseless.”
Ms. Samuels adds that “the sex addict, by contrast, is… dealing with compulsive urges to act out as a coping modality, [and] is seeking emotional relief from stress rather than seeking to exercise power over another, and is rarely without shame or guilt about his or her behavior.”
Ms. Holmes quotes another expert, Kathryn Stamoulis, a licensed mental health counselor, who says that “sexual assault is not the same as sex. The consent piece is crucial.”
Ms. Stamoulis adds that “if someone has repeatedly harassed, chased [or] masturbated in front of someone who is clearly uncomfortable or saying no, there may be another diagnosis more appropriate, such as… sexual sadism disorder.”
In an article by Sophie Roberts for The Sun UK, the author quotes Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavioural addiction who says that “in my view high profile celebrities use ‘sex addiction’ as an excuse for being sexually unfaithful to their partners… [and] Harvey Weinstein appears to fall into this group.”
Dr. Griffiths adds that “saying that you have a sex addiction is used to justify the individual’s serial infidelity.” He’s convinced that men only use this excuse, like Tiger Woods did, when they get caught with their pants down.
In an article by Susan Matthews for Slate, the author writes that “the idea that Weinstein’s “punishment” would be hours and hours of “counseling” was simply another frustrating manifestation of the extreme privilege given to powerful men like him.”
She quotes Douglas Braun-Harvey, a sex educator and counselor, who says that the sex addiction excuse “provides the person something outside of themselves [upon which] to initially place responsibility. It’s very common.”
Ms. Matthews also quotes psychologist and sex therapist David Lee, who stresses that “sex addiction is a moralistic pseudoscience that is used to excuse the selfish behaviors of those who hold sexual privilege, in order to protect them from the consequences of their choices.”
Ms. Matthews writes that “there is no formal diagnosis for “sex addiction” and that the sex therapists she spoke with call this pseudo-diagnosis “a get-out-of-jail-free card for behavior that is harmful to others.”
In the same article, the author quotes Samantha Manewitz, a certified sex therapist, who says that “this type of sexual violence isn’t about sex. It’s about power.”
Braun-Harvey is quoted as saying that “it is possible for people who have participated in nonconsensual behavior to seek counseling,” but that it’s a different treatment than “sex-addiction rehab,” and he adds that “there’s no way of knowing” who will or won’t respond to treatment.
In referring to Weinstein, Ms. Matthews writes that “when it comes to reform, there’s only one type of accountability that matters: his honesty with himself. And he doesn’t seem to even be trying. He’s just looking for somewhere else to place the blame,” and in my opinion as a psychiatrist, this is the only reason why men like Weinstein claim “sex addiction.”
In an article by Maggie Fox for NBC News, the author writes that with regard to Mr. Weinstein’s behaviour, “experts contacted by NBC News said that whatever he may have done, he’s not a sex addict. And most say there’s no such thing as sex addiction.”
Ms. Fox quotes David J. Ley, a clinical psychologist, who says that “sex addiction” “is a concept that has been used to explain selfish, powerful, wealthy men engaging in irresponsible impulsive sexual behavior for a long time.”
Ley adds that with regard to centers such as the one Mr. Weinstein has entered, “after 40 years of sex addiction treatment, there is still no published evidence that this treatment works,” and that “this is an [exploitative] industry that loves to capitalize on these celebrity sex addiction scandals so they can get referrals.”
From all of the above, as well as my own professional experience, it’s obvious that the “diagnosis” of sex addiction is nothing less than what powerful men claim when they want to continue escaping responsibility for their crimes involving the abuse of their power and the violation of other people’s consent.
Sign up here for my free monthly wellness newsletter. November is all about growing self-compassion.