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The Myth of Sex Addiction [Hardcover]

David J. Ley

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Book Description

March 9 2012 1442213043 978-1442213043
The media today is filled with powerful men in trouble for their sexual behaviors, and invariably, they are diagnosed as sexual addicts. Since Adam first hid his nakedness from God and pointed the finger at Eve, men have struggled to take responsibility for their sexuality. Over the past three decades, these behaviors have come to reflect not a moral failing, but instead, evidence of an ill-defined disease, that of “sexual addiction.” The concept of sexual addiction is a controversial one because it is based on questionable research and subjective moral judgments. Labeling these behaviors as sex addiction asserts a false, dangerous myth that undermines personal responsibility. Not only does this epidemic of sex addiction excuses mislabel male sexuality as dangerous and unhealthy, but it destroys our ability to hold people accountable for their behaviors. By labeling males as weak and powerless before the onslaught and churning tide of lust, we take away those things that men should live up to: personal responsibility; integrity; self-control; independence; accountability; self-motivation; honor; respect for self and others.   In The Myth of Sex Addiction, Ley presents the history and questionable science underlying this alleged disorder, exposing the moral and cultural judgments that are embedded in the concept, as well as the significant economic factors that drive the label of sex addiction in clinical practice and the popular media. Ley outlines how this label represents a social attack on many forms of sexuality—male sexuality in particular—as well as presenting the difficulty this label creates in holding people responsible for their sexual behaviors. Going against current assumptions and trends, Ley debunks the idea that sex addiction is real, or at least that it is as widespread as it appears to be. Instead, he suggests that the high-sex behaviors of some men is something that has been tacitly condoned for countless years and is only now labeled as a disorder as men are being held accountable to the same rules that have been applied to women. He suggests we should expect men to take responsibility for sexual choices, rather than supporting an approach that labels male sexual desire as a "demonic force" that must be resisted, feared, treated, and exorcised.  

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Ley, a clinical psychologist and director of a behavioral health clinic, examines the position that the diagnosis of sex addiction is heavily influenced by social norms and values and is not a legitimate medical condition. He shows how what is labeled sex addiction is based on culture's social norms and covers a multitude of mostly male behavior. The fact that this behavior may be in conflict with social norms does not mean the individual has a psychiatric condition. In addition, the author argues, telling people their behavior is uncontrollable is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In chapters with titles like "Gender and Libido" and "Ignored Aspects of Masculinity," Ley examines the range of male sexuality and how that range is different from that of females. When norms are set based on female behavior, normal male behavior can be construed as pathological. "The label of sex addiction," writes Ley, "undermines our efforts to enforce expectations of responsibility, holding ourselves, and especially men, responsible for their choices and actions." The writing style is personal and easy to follow, and the book is well referenced with frequent case histories to clarify points. Summing Up: Highly recommended. (CHOICE)

Sex addiction and its attendant diagnosed celebrities and reality TV shows may have been wholeheartedly embraced by the media, but this work of pop psychology takes issue with what clinical psychologist Ley (Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them) deems a dubious disorder. Here, Ley asks whether sexual addiction is really a bona fide ailment or merely a "culturally bound concept reflecting changing social views of sexuality rather than medicine or scientific research." Ley suggests that the label of "addiction" removes the issue of morality from the conversation, whereas in fact--whether we like it or not--he asserts that "sexual behaviors involve choice." However, Ley acknowledges the appeal of calling it an addiction, quoting an anonymous ex-spouse of a so-called sex addict, who affirmed that it would've been easier to cope with her husband's serial infidelity had it been the product of impulses literally beyond his control. Ley makes a thoughtful and persuasive argument, using case studies and ample references to the work of other psychologists to flesh out his case. While serving as an excellent resource on sex addiction, Ley's study also sheds light on the myriad cultural and sociological factors that influence relationships. (Publishers Weekly)

Ley has clearly thrown down the gauntlet, and hopefully the debate will continue. (CNN)

I cannot stress enough how important this book is, not just to the helping professionals but to the general public who get the read and hear (incessantly) about someone famous who is called a "sex addict"....If you are a teacher, therapist, or just a sexual person, I cannot encourage you enough to read this book. It contains an enormous amount of data, is well written, and has a great index and endnotes. (Electronic Journal Of Human Sexuality)

For anyone who has cringed once too often at the term “sex addiction”—or questioned the blanket use of “addiction” as an explanation for behavior that is really a matter of moral choice—Ley’s demolition of the bad science and worse reasoning behind the sex addiction industry will be refreshing. (The Weekly Standard)

Dr. David Ley raises crucial questions in his latest book—questions that demand serious consideration before we allow American society to drift even further toward declaring all pleasure potentially dangerous and pathological. Ley shows that the puritanism underlying our politics may also be distorting our medical sciences. This book is well informed, well argued, and well worth your time. (Christopher Ryan Ph.D, Co-author of Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality)

David Ley's book raises one important question after another about the nature of sexuality, the social phenomenon of "sex addiction," and the effects of our pathologizing so much of Americans' sexual feelings and behavior. (Marty Klein)

This book’s exploration of the available science will fascinate any reader. Beyond observing that there is no credible body of evidence to support the notion of sexual addiction, David Ley describes many historical problems in attempting to define it.... Ley’s writing style is highly accessible and entertaining. The structure and layout are excellent. He is meticulous in providing citations for his assertions, often preferring direct quotes to summaries. (ATSA Fourm)

About the Author

David J. Ley is a clinical psychologist in practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He provides clinical and consultative services in numerous other states. Dr. Ley currently serves as Executive Director of a large outpatient behavioral health agency in Albuquerque and maintains a current caseload of clients. He is the author of Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009).

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly destructive and shortsighted Jan. 27 2014
By Justin M. Wright - Published on
By demonizing people with sexual compulsive problems, Dr. Ley both over-simplifies the answer, and disregards the facts and analysis that are contrary to his thesis. He doesn't adequately deal with the neurobiology and physical symptoms that make sex addicts comparable with other addictions, does not deal with the anecdotal evidence that is contrary to his points, and apparently is trying to differentiate himself in the field by "making a splash."

The problem here, is that he's demonizing a group that already has immense shame and fear, and now he is telling them, "you have a moral failing." The premise, arguments, and logic, are self-serving and indicates a lack of experience with those he talks about.

I am concerned that those with a sexual compulsion who read this book, would feel hopeless, and spin back into an acting-out pattern. It is difficult to discern how this book is helpful to anyone other than Dr. Ley.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Contribution April 8 2012
By Noah K. Kaufman - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Primitive human behavior (sex, aggression, fear, eating) is fascinating and yet difficult territory to chart because strong beliefs survive as to why these behaviors exist and what should be done to manage them. Science increasingly offers a fresh perspective on the genesis of these behaviors (think nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and other phylogenically-older parts of the brain), which can greatly inform understanding of them. What I enjoyed about Dr. Ley's book is that he weaves some of this science into the discussion of human sexual behavior while also applying his perspective as a seasoned sex therapist. Ultimately, I found his book uplifting, optimistic, and educational. For anyone interested in going beyond the current dogma about human sexuality, this is an important book to read.

Noah K. Kaufman, Ph.D., FACPN, ABPdN
Diplomate American Board of Professional Neuropsychology
Diplomate American Board of Pediatric Neuropsychology
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The demystification of a modern myth April 13 2014
By Antonio Mena - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An original approach to a sensitive subject, away from stereotypes and clichés. A brave and useful book that sheds light and opens perspectives for understanding the complexity of human sexuality in today's society.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Challenge to the Addictions Industry May 21 2014
By Darrel W. Ray - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am glad to see Dr. Ley challenging the addictions industry. His analysis it on target and based on the current scientific evidence. The entire concept is deeply involved with religious ideas about sex and sexuality. In short, the notion of sex addiction is largely a religious one, though he does not make that claim as strongly as I would like. It is not coincidence that recent research demonstrates the more religious you are, the more likely you are to self diagnose as a sex addict. Part of the answer is, get rid of your religion and learn who you are without superstition. You may find your guilt and shame melt away and your sexual needs change and become much more manageable if not disappear entirely. While my own work only deals tangentially with this issue, I came to the same conclusion years ago. (see Sex and God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality). If you are interested in the back story and what to know how the idea of sex addition is quite harmful, read this book. If you think you are a sex addict, think again and stay away from addictions treatment. Deal with the shame and guilt or other emotional issues you may have with a good secular psychologist, and you will probably find it is not nearly as difficult to gain control of your life as the addictions pushers would have you believe.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Back To The Dark Ages May 12 2014
By Melvyn Bowler - Published on
This book is full of ignorance, lies, misleading statements and a prejudice bordering on pathology. Far too many for me refute one by one, but the author's "proofs" are not founded in fact, and are basically a misrepresentation of what sex addiction means.

Sex addiction is about loss of control over sexual activities that cause life problems, yet continues to be repeated. It is well documented, and has nothing to do with morality or choices.

I am amazed at the ignorance of those who applaud it. Sex addiction is not about what he says it is. I repeat - he lies all the way through in order to make his point. Read Hope and Recovery, or go to an open meeting of Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous. It is not difficult to understand what sex addiction is, and does to men and women, and their loved one's. But facts and reality play no part of this revolting and unethical book.

The book is a disgrace, and useless to anyone interested in helping those who need help in this matter.

And a final word to Sex Therapists and Sexologists - who are mainly to blame for the confusion surrounding the definition of a sex addict. I repeat, sex addiction is about loss of control behaviours and the consequent results. Loss of control behaviours are not in your field, and it would be nice if you stuck to what you are supposed to know about, and not try to take over a field of which most of you have no understanding.

In other words - get honest.

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