EXPERTS QUESTION WEINSTEIN’S ‘SEX ADDICT’ DEFENCE; POLICE LOOK INTO CLAIMS,
Weinstein headed to rehab clinic
Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein’s conduct was coercive, exploitative, manipulative and menacing. What he isn’t, experts say, is a sex addict.
Weinstein has reportedly fled to an Arizona sexaddiction clinic, soon to join the ranks of alumni Tiger Woods, Anthony Weiner and David Duchovny.
But the field of sexual science has in no way reached a consensus on whether sex addiction is real. What’s more, “this wasn’t somebody masturbating in front of a computer for hours at a time,” says psychotherapist Doug Braun- Harvey, author of 2015’s Treating Out of Control Sexual Behaviour: Rethinking Sex Addiction. Rather, he says, the allegations of predatory behaviour made against Weinstein this month in investigations by the New York Times and The New Yorker would constitute sexual assault.
Positioning the behaviour as a disease, Harvey argues, is an attempt to evoke empathy rather than disgust, which may partly explain why the people who most identify and agree with the notion of sex addiction as a legitimate mental diagnosis are also highly religious — it’s a way for them to excuse their moral lapses.
Like others before him, Weinstein appears to be pleading the sex addict defence as a way to slough off personal responsibility for allegations of harassment and assault spanning decades, observers say.
“I gotta get help, guys,” Weinstein told reporters outside his 22- year- old daughter’s Los Angeles home Wednesday night. According to TMZ, Weinstein has checked into an in-patient treatment program at a clinic that offers a program called Gentle Path. According to the centre’s website, treatment involves individual, group and “experiential” trauma therapy, in which participants “l earn to release painful emotions and heal the parts of themselves that have been shamed, neglected or abandoned in the past.”
According to the clinic, which embraces the 12- step Alcoholics Anonymous model of addiction, “sex addiction is real,” defined as a “pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience” that afflicts a seemingly astonishing “17 to 37 million people.”
Sex addiction is absent from psychiatry’s official nomenclature of brain illnesses, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In addition, the official stance of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists is that no sufficient empirical evidence exists to support the classification of sex addiction as a mental health disorder, nor does it find “sexual addiction training and treatment methods and educational pedagogies to be adequately informed by accurate human sexuality knowledge.”
“I hold the entire sex addiction industry to task,” Braun-Harvey says.
Although he stressed he’s never met or diagnosed Weinstein, “I disagree that a non- consensual and highly exploitive human behaviour can be considered an addiction.”
Some proponents argue sex addiction is a behavioural response to some historical trauma in the person’s life that alters the brain’s circuitry so it operates the same way it would in the drug- addicted. Others have found rats with a damaged prefrontal cortex become compulsive sex-seekers. ( The prefrontal cortex is thought to act as a brake on self- destructive behaviour.)
But the science behind the neuro- brain theory for sex addiction is widely criticized.
The traditional definition of addiction confines it to external substances, like alcohol or heroin, that cause biochemical changes in the body, forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford says. People become addicted as a result of those changes and genetic vulnerability.
Over the years, that definition has expanded to include compulsive behaviours such as gambling. But sex addiction doesn’t fit these parameters, Bradford says.
“People like myself look at not sexual addiction, but whether somebody has hypersexuality — in other words, their sex drive is higher than it should be and as a result they have trouble controlling their sexual appetite,” he says.
That might spin over into excessive pornography consumption or even sexual harassment issues in the workplace, he says, “but it doesn’t necessarily translate into criminal behaviour.”
Weinstein’s alleged acts are more likely rooted in a personality disorder, such as narcissism or anti- social personality disorder, Bradford posits. The mogul’s alleged psychological, if not physical, coercion of women “sounds to be much more personality disordered than hypersexuality or even, in theory, sexual addiction,” Bradford says.
“There are a lot of whitecollar people who are in positions of power that have a lot of traits that you see in people who have criminal anti-social personality disorders, except they don’t break the law” — traits such as callous disregard for the feelings of others and abuse of power, he says.
There are clear distinctions between Woods and Weinstein, Bradford adds: Woods “had a beautiful wife, lots of money and he spent most of his life with hookers, many of them far less attractive than his wife. That carries much more of the context of hypersexuality.”
If Weinstein’s behaviour crossed into the criminal domain — three women have accused him of rape — “it just points toward the level and degree of personality disorder,” Bradford says.
There’s l i ttle evidence treatment for personality disorders work.
“If I’m right, he may not come out of ( rehab) with a glowing endorsement that he’s now cured,” Bradford says. “It’s going to be a hell of a lot more difficult.”
A flood of claims of sexual harassment, assault and rape by Harvey Weinstein has surfaced since a recent report alleging a history of abusive behaviour.