Either David Ley is my evil twin, or I am his. He is about to release a book called THE MYTH OF SEX ADDICTION, and is forever writing articles on the topic. As the author of LOVE ADDICT: SEX, ROMANCE AND OTHER DANGEROUS DRUGS, I am forever writing articles about that decidedly different perspective.
My argument is not with Dr. Leyâ€™s expertise or even with his premise, although it is admittedly difficult to prove a negative. No, my argument is with his faulty logic. Take, for instance, the frequently reprinted article originally published in the London Telegraph on January 8, 2012.
Dr. Ley begins by saying that, in a decade of work as aÂ psychologist, he has â€œnever diagnosed anyone, ever, asÂ being addicted to sex.â€ I donâ€™t doubt it for a minute. IÂ also believe it is the last entirely accurate statement inÂ the piece.
Let me share a few of his lapses in mental continuity. InÂ regard to people such as myself, he says â€œThe mistake allÂ these â€˜expertsâ€™ make is to try to apply the characteristicsÂ of drug and alcohol addiction to sex, claiming too muchÂ sex works like a drug, causing cravings, withdrawals,Â tolerance (the need for increasingly powerful â€˜hitsâ€™) andÂ a downward spiral in which sex â€˜takes over their life.â€™â€Â First, we â€œexpertsâ€ never said that too much sex worksÂ like a drug. We said all sex works like a drug. You can beÂ an anorexic sex addict who hasnâ€™t gotten laid since theÂ Carter administration — orgasm still creates the sameÂ neurochemical reward cascade in the limbic region ofÂ the brain that cocaine does. I have the fMRIâ€™s to proveÂ it. So does the intoxication of romantic infatuation. ItÂ has nothing to do with the amount of, the variety of,Â or the type of sex youâ€™re having. Itâ€™s all about the brainÂ thatâ€™s receiving the input.
â€œMost importantly,â€ continues Ley, â€œunlike those whoâ€™veÂ become dependent on alcohol or drugs, an individualÂ who has been labeled a sex addict faces no seriousÂ physical consequences if he or she suddenly goes â€˜coldÂ turkey.â€™ Nobody in history has ever died from wantingÂ sex.â€ Indeed, you cannot die from blue balls, no matterÂ what your high school boyfriend told you. However,Â thatâ€™s not what proponents of the disease model of sexÂ addiction said. We said the addiction can kill you.Â How do you die from sex and love addiction? You dieÂ when the lover you canâ€™t bear to leave beats you oneÂ too many times. When you canâ€™t keep away from backÂ alley trade, until one cuts you for your wallet. WhenÂ you contract HIV/AIDS from compulsive, impulsive,Â unprotected encounters. When you commit suicideÂ because he doesnâ€™t call, or because you just canâ€™t lookÂ at yourself in the mirror any more.
I believe itâ€™s the inductive fallacy Ley falls prey toÂ when he says that â€œI donâ€™t deny that porn is a powerfulÂ stimulant. But is it addictive? Porn exposure is almostÂ universal in men and if it had the destructive effectÂ that doomsayers claim, we would be awash with sexÂ crime.â€ Addiction to pornography is neither proven orÂ disproven by sex crime statistics; there is no correlationÂ between them. Addiction to pornography is correlatedÂ to addiction to pornography.
He concludes, â€œIf male sexuality is inherently addictiveÂ and dangerous, then a healthy male is one who hasÂ no sexuality. Thatâ€™s a frightening and emasculatingÂ concept.â€ I agree. Luckily, treating sex and love as moodÂ altering and potentially addictive has nothing to doÂ masculinity. I, for instance, am a woman. You can checkÂ under the hood. Nor do addiction counselors attemptÂ to desexualize either gender. There are churches thatÂ do, but then there are churches that forbid the use ofÂ alcohol, caffeine and lipstick. Because some churchÂ groups treat sex addiction, and some church groupsÂ decry sexuality, it does not necessarily follow that thoseÂ who treat sex addiction decry sexuality. I believe thatâ€™sÂ the deductive fallacy.
Ley concludes his piece by inviting high-libido men toÂ â€œsee their sexuality as something that is in their control,Â just like any other aspect of their life.â€ He could makeÂ the same invitation to heavy drinkers, I suppose, butÂ I doubt any respected therapist today would suggestÂ such a thing. We know now that some of those drinkersÂ wonâ€™t be able to stop, no matter how much they wantÂ to or hard they try. Itâ€™s the very definition of addiction.