EX­PERTS QUES­TION WE­IN­STEIN’S ‘SEX ADDICT’ DE­FENCE; PO­LICE LOOK INTO CLAIMS,

We­in­stein headed to rehab clinic

National Post (Latest Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - Sharon Kirkey

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.”

VALERY HACHE / AFP / GETTY IM­AGES FILES

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.

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