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The Myth of Sex Addiction [Hardcover]

David J. Ley
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 9, 2012 1442213043 978-1442213043 1
The media today is filled with powerful men in trouble for their sexual behaviors, and invariably, they are diagnosed as sexual addicts. Once, these behaviors were considered a moral failing, but now they are viewed as evidence of a fictitious disease, that of "sexual addiction." The concept of sexual addiction is a controversial one because it is based on poor research and subjective moral judgments. Despite claims to the contrary, sex addiction is not a medically or scientifically accepted diagnosis. Sex addiction is a belief system, supported by faith, conviction and religious principles, that represents an attack on sexuality. Labeling these behaviors as sex addiction asserts a false, dangerous myth that undermines personal responsibility. Not only does this supposed epidemic of sex addiction 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 of desire and the 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, Dr. David Ley presents the cultural history, moral judgments and junk science underlying this alleged disorder. He exposes the subjective values 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. 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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Editorial Reviews

Review

Ley asks whether sexual addiction is a bona fide ailment or merely a "culturally bound concept." Ley suggests that, like it or not, "sexual behaviors involve choice." Ley makes a persuasive argument, with case studies and ample references to the work of other psychologists to flesh out his case. Publishers Weekly

Psychologist David Ley's rousing new book, "The Myth of Sex Addiction," expresses concern over the slippery ease with which America's mainstream media and burgeoning "addictionology industry" have seemingly conspired to transform a debatable diagnosis into a foregone conclusion. Ian Kerner, CNN Health

I cannot stress enough how important this book is, not just to the helping professions but to the general public. 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, has a great index and end notes.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

Ley argues that the label of sex addiction undermines our efforts to enforce expectations of responsibility. The writing style is personal and easy to follow, and the book is well referenced with frequent case histories to clarify points. Highly recommended. . Choice - American Library Association

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)

From the Author

The public is inundated with the labels of sex addiction, inappropriately and unethically applied to public figures involved in sex scandals. The media and countless addiction professionals present this disorder as though it is real, supported by science and accepted by the medical community. But, the reality is that sex addiction is NOT a valid diagnosis, is not accepted by the American medical, psychiatric or psychological communities and associations. There are many treatment centers and sex addictionologists who will take your money to treat sex addiction, but there is NO scientific evidence that their treatment works, or is worth your money. There is a strong scientific and medical skepticism and disdain for the idea of sex addiction, a debate that is not represented by the media. Instead, the media uses black and white junk science concepts like sex addiction to grab the audience's attention, creating a moral panic and using fear of sex to command a share of audience attention.

Though there are countless popular books that will tell you that you, your husband, wife and political leaders are or might be addicted to sex, there are no books that carefully examine the reality of the claims made by the true believers in sex addiction. This book was written to present the other side of the argument. I believe that the realities of this debate need to be public and transparent, to allow people to see that sex is not a disease, and that sexuality is a healthy, integral and important part of people's lives. Treating sex as dangerous, unhealthy and destructive stigmatizes many people, including men, women and the LGBT community. The label of sex addiction gives false excuses for the selfish, narcissistic and destructive acts that some husbands, leaders and celebrities engage in, and distracts from the real issues involved in their choices.

We need to demand that instead of simply calling someone a sex addict, we start asking the real questions of why and how people make the choices they do, whether it involves sex or not. And we need to demand responsibility and ethics, from our husbands and wives, from addiction treatment providers, from the media, and from our political leaders. This starts by exposing sex addiction as a shell game, a game that is using smoke and mirrors to hide moral judgments and to deny personal responsibility.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; 1 edition (March 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442213043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442213043
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #705,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David J. Ley Ph.D.

Dr. David Ley is a clinical psychologist in practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Dr Ley earned his Bachelor's degree in Philosophy from Ole Miss, and his Master's and Doctoral degrees in clinical psychology from the University of New Mexico. Dr. Ley is licensed in New Mexico and Nevada, and has provided clinical and consultative services in numerous other states.

Dr. Ley currently serves as Executive Director of a large outpatient behavioral health agency in Albuquerque. Dr. Ley has been treating sexuality issues throughout his career. He first began treating perpetrators and victims of sexual abuse, but began to expand his approach to include the fostering and promotion of healthy sexuality, and awareness of the wide range of normative sexual behaviors. Insatiable Wives is his first book and won a Silver Medal in the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year contest for 2009. Dr. Ley wrote Insatiable Wives following two years of interviews with couples around the country. He is currently working on a second book, challenging the concept of sexual addiction. He may be contacted at the following address: nmpsychologist@yahoo.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly destructive and shortsighted January 27, 2014
Format:Hardcover
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.
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12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Contribution April 8, 2012
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
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The demystification of a modern myth April 13, 2014
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.
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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
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.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Back To The Dark Ages May 12, 2014
Format:Hardcover
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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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Testimonial Not A Review February 17, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was going to write a review for Dr. David Ley's new book, The Myth Of Sex Addictions, and then I realized that what I really wanted to write was more of a testimonial, but there was no category listed for that. So maybe I can combine the two in such a way that my intentions will be clear to you.

Ley's book was one of maybe three books which I have read, that I can say without any reservation, had a transformational effect on my life. The other two were AA's Big Book and Self-Defeating Behaviors, by by Milton Cudney and Robert Hardy (Jan. 1993).

I have been fighting what I called maladaptive sexual behavior for over sixty years. I am currently seventy-two years old. I stopped drinking and using illegal drugs in 1986 and conquered a three and a half pack a day cigarette habit in 1987 so I am familiar with how difficult it can be to overcome self-defeating behavior.

Ley addresses three key points in the debate about sex addictions. His first point is that there is no clinical or hard science that supports the addictive nature of the sexual function in human beings. Secondly, he shows how normal sexuality varies greatly and is related to many social, physical and genetic factors and is expressed much differently by gender.

I was especially impressed by Chap Two of the book that delineates the difference between true addictions, alcoholism or other drugs, and behaviors that may be thought of as addictive, sex, food, gambling, shopping ad nauseam.

Throughout the book Dr. Ley uses case study examples to illustrate how male sexuality is and has always been different from female sexuality for reasons that are related to both physical factors and Darwinian evolutionary forces.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice review
This is the counter point to the suposed guru of sex addiction, Patrick Carnes. Sex addiction failed rto make it as a qualified diagnosis in the recent DSMV. Read more
Published 5 months ago by richard lieberman
4.0 out of 5 stars The Myth of Sex Addiction
This read is truly provocative insight into the concept of sex addiction. It is a must read for all self defined sex addicts who are open to examining their own sexuality and being... Read more
Published 12 months ago by DONALD ROY
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, provocative book
Dr. Ley takes on an entire "industry" that is labeling and treating a complicated issue in a simplistic way. Read more
Published 15 months ago by ThinkingCritically
5.0 out of 5 stars Aces all around!
Regardless of my opinions about the reality or mythology of sex addiction, I take my hat off to Dr. David Ley for confronting a very controversial subject with candor, wit, and... Read more
Published 16 months ago by AlwaysThinking
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Thank you Dr. Ley for writing this book. I have to admit that you are mostly preaching to the choir in my case as I've always been a little skeptical of many so-called addictions... Read more
Published 20 months ago by David DN
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Voice for Reason and Evidence
Dr. Ley's new book is a must-read for all helping professionals and lay people who have been frustrated by the growth of an industry that is founded on a fundamental myth -- that... Read more
Published 21 months ago by GloryBee
5.0 out of 5 stars Myth of sex addiction
He nailed it! As men we don't take our sex, our relationships as an important part of who we are. Yes we are thinking about sex all the time we don't tell our wife how what we... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Jim Stimpfle
1.0 out of 5 stars SO WRONG!!!!
SO WRONG!!!! First of all, Addiction is defined as the continued use of a mood altering substance OR BEHAVIOR despite adverse consequences. Read more
Published 22 months ago by M. D. Sanfilippo
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