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Sex Addiction and Legal Proceedings – A New Article by Ley, Brovko & Reid


I’m a big fan of David Ley, PhD. He is the author of The Myth of Sex Addiction and Insatiable Wives: Women Who Stray and the Men Who Love Them. I’ve just finished reading a scholarly article written by him, Julie M. Brovko and Rory C. Reid and published in the journal “Current Sexual Health Reports”. The title of the report is Forensic Applications of “Sex Addiction” in US Legal Proceedings. This excerpt from the abstract sums up the focus of the article –

The current paper presents several case examples to illustrate how the concept of “sex addiction” is having a significant impact in US legal proceedings. The authors offer some commentary about the relevance of these cases as they pertain to matters of criminal, civil, and administrative law.

The article discusses the problems with the label of “sex addiction” and looks at specific case studies of legal proceedings to see how it has been used and impacted those cases. I wanted to share a few selected passages with you.

I have been a long-time critic of the term “sex addiction.” This passage underscores some of the primary reasons I fight against use of this term –

In the development of DSM-5, “sex addiction” was challenged as a construct meeting the strict criteria for a pathological condition [3••]. A proposal for “sex addiction” was considered, but rejected, by the DSM-5 Addictive Disorders Workgroup [2]. A proposal for Bhypersexual disorder^ presented sexual behaviors and problems in a manner intended to present a clinical syndrome without relying solely on one model, including addiction. Hypersexual disorder was proposed by the DSM-5 Committee on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders for DSM-5. However, hypersexual disorder was excluded by the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association for an array of reasons [4]. Moreover, the DSM-5 contains the explicit statement: “groups of repetitive behaviors, which some term behavioral addictions, with such subcategories as “sex addiction”, “exercise addiction,” or “shopping addiction,” are not included because at this time there is insufficient peer-reviewed evidence to establish the diagnostic criteria and course descriptions needed to identify these behaviors as mental disorders” [5].

(I have not included the references in this post. The DSM-5 or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – Fifth Addition is the officially recognized source of mental health diagnoses in the U.S.)

The article looks at the specific legal cases and identifies numerous issues and challenges that the use of the term presents in legal proceedings. The conclusion of the article summarizes those nicely and this passage describes some of the challenges we face going forward.

Given the many questions and concerns about the concept of “sex addiction” and related formulations, it is important that the role of “sex addiction” in legal proceedings be critically examined. Because “sex addiction” is often accepted and endorsed in the general media, and because attorneys are mostly concerned with the outcome of cases, it is understandable that court proceedings may be faced with addressing the legitimacy of this concept. It remains to be seen whether, in the long run, claims of “sex addiction” and related concepts will prove useful in court cases, or whether they will be regarded as fruitless efforts, and abandoned as an ineffective legal stratagem.

I want to thank the authors for their continued work on this important topic. The use (or mis-use) of the term “sex addiction” continues to contribute to the sex-negative perspective of our culture and is too often used as a tool to support shaming of sex as a healthy part of human life. If you would like to read the full article it is available here – http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11930-015-0049-7?sa_campaign=email/event/articleAuthor/onlineFirst.


All quotes are from: Ley, D., Brovko, J., & Reid, R. (2015). Forensic Applications of “Sex Addiction” in US Legal Proceedings. Current Sexual Health Reports, 7(2).

photo credit: Justice Gavel via photopin (license)

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