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The Myth of Sex Addiction [Hardcover]

David J. Ley
1.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 Mar 2012
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.

Frequently Bought Together

The Myth of Sex Addiction + Understanding and Treating Sex Addiction: A comprehensive guide for people who struggle with sex addiction and those who want to help them + Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (9 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442213043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442213043
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 839,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


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).

Customer Reviews

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1.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Unhelpful 4 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
No author I know of denies personal responsibility for behaviour especially in choosing the activities that lead to addiction. Addiction helps to explain why it is so difficult to break the cycle without help. But the fact is 12 step programmes are not therapy and they focus on taking responsibility not just for the specific addiction but for the underlying personal problems; such as selfishness. If addiction truly removed all responsibility then addicts would need therapy or medicines and no 12 step or behavioural course could possibly help. Sexual addiction isn't just sexist male behaviour (and isn't confined to men) and while it would be wrong for an immoral but healthy person to hide behind the addictive label, I think it is wrong and unhelpful to try to destroy the concept entirely. Read Patrick Carnes or David Hawkins instead.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Ley's Myths about Sex Addiction 22 Mar 2013
By anon
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Here's a quote from the book:
"If sex is inherently dangerous, as the theories behind sexual addiction allege, then why does it feel so good? It’s kind of a silly question perhaps..."

No, Dr. Ley - it's a moronic question.

I bought this book with an open mind. I had been through some treatment for sex addiction with which I did not feel satisfied and I was ready to hear an alternative point of view to the one I had got from my therapist. I had heard a radio interview with Dr. Ley where he asserted that:
a) "sex addiction" as a label prevents therapists from getting to the deeper issues that their individual clients are dealing with and
b) "sex addiction" as a label encourages people not to accept responsibility for their own behaviours.

I hoped that the book would discuss those ideas in more detail. I was, however, totally disappointed. Mainstream theories of sex addiction, for all their many flaws, do NOT claim that sex is inherently dangerous. Maybe some religious fundamentalists in the USA do make that claim, but unfortunately for Dr. Ley they do not represent the whole field of sex addiction.

He goes on at length about how sex addiction theories must define what is "healthy" sex. Again, nonsense - surely it's about the problems that one's sexual behaviours are causing in their individual lives not about what is defined as "healthy" by professionals.

When discussing the role of secrecy in compulsive sexual behaviours, we get this little gem:
"Diogenes, the “dog philosopher,” who was one of Alexander the Great’s mentors was infamous for masturbating in public, in the town square, to show his intentional rejection of social rules.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
If you feel that your sexual behaviour - whether solo or not, porn addicted or 'sex addicted' - is affecting your self-worth and life overall in ways that do not make you feel good about yourself then you need to be aware that there is a growing movement of men who are taking back control of their sexuality. Google 'NoFap' to find them and empower yourself.

This community is changing lives. Online censorship, 'addiction' (or not), all the labels and debates that are flying around pale into insignificance beside a group of men who are actually doing something about this through personal choice. The changes they are making ripple out to affect their partners, colleagues and children.

Be a part of it. It's not what you read - it's what you do, and what you change.
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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 27 Jan 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 8 April 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 14 April 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 22 May 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.
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Testimonial Not A Review 17 Feb 2013
By Donald F. Sullivan TN Technologies - Published on
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. Which leads to his conclusion that the concept of sex addiction is really more of an attempt to impose a set of values on society that are driven by religious and or feminine ideals than science and, which are in conflict with the true nature of male sexuality.

In the final chapter of the book Dr. Ley does a great job of showing how the sex therapy treatment industry and the mass media have colluded to try and foist the idea of sex addiction on the public and how dangerous this is to both the individual suffering from some of these behavior problems and society as a whole.

I stated that I meant this review to be more of a testimonial to the book and a comment on the transformative experience reading it was for me. I find it difficult to put the reasons for this experience into words. I mentioned some of the parts that I found remarkable, but for me reading it was more of a holistic experience rather than an educational process.

Ley's style is a bit formal and probably would be better in a text book, but he presents his information in a clear and concise matter. This is not a self-help book and if you are looking for that you will have to go to the sex addiction bunch of 12 stepping people that he mentions and decries.

In summary, I would strongly recommend The Myth Of Sex Addiction to both those who have experienced the needless pain, shame and guilt that can accompany a diagnosis of sex addiction and for those who wish to better understand how this diagnosis has gained such currency in todays world.
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