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The Sex Addiction Myth Exposed

by | Abuse Literacy

The Sex Addiction Myth Exposed

Chances are, if you’re here, at one time or another you’ve been told that your partner or ex-partner has a sex addiction. Secret porn use and other sexual acting-out behaviors, including intimate betrayal have been labeled as “sex addiction” by therapists, coaches, clergy, and others for years to the detriment of victims.

While pornography use and other behaviors are absolutely addictive, labelling only as sexual addictions isn’t solving the problem – in fact – it often enables abusers to keep abusing and further harms victims.

Kate is back on the BTR podcast, taking a deep dive with Anne to expose the sex addiction myth. Read the full transcript below and listen to the BTR podcast for more.

Intimate Betrayal, Including Porn Is Abusive, Period

Too often, intimate betrayal, including pornography use, is only considered a sexual addiction issue. The problem here is that while these behaviors are absolutely addictive, the underlying and even more serious issue is abuse.

When abuse isn’t correctly labelled and dealt with, abusers are enabled and victims are further harmed.

Pornography is addictive and we both agree that pornography use in and of itself is abuse. And then also the behaviors around it: the gaslighting, the lying, the manipulation, all those types of behaviors around it constitute emotional abuse, psychological abuse, and sexual coercion.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

But What If He Really Is Addicted To Sex?

Some victims worry that their husbands or partners are actually sex addicts and that by using the sex addiction label, the abusers will be able to get the help they need to stop abusing their wives and children.

As Anne explains:

The reason why I just prefer to use the word abuse in all contexts is because addiction to me kind of says, this is what he is experiencing. He is experiencing an addiction. I don’t really care what he is experiencing. I’m not so concerned about that. I am more concerned about what the victim is experiencing.

Anne Blythe, founder of Betrayal Trauma Recovery

The Sex Addiction Model focuses so largely on the “illness” of the abuser that the abuser’s victims are largely ignored and/or blamed for the abuser’s behaviors. By correctly labeling the abuser’s behaviors as abusive rather than just “acting out” addiction, women and children can get the help that they need to heal from abuse.

BTR Is Here For You

At BTR, we understand how frustrating it is to try to find help in a world where pornography use and intimate betrayal are widely accepted as “normal”.

We will always believe you. We will always be on your side.

Our BTR Group Sessions are a safe place for you to process your trauma, share your story, and ask questions. Join today and begin your journey to healing.

Full Transcript:

Anne (00:56):
Before we get to today’s episode, there are a lot of so-called betrayal, trauma therapists or coaches or groups out there, but they don’t actually know how to help women in session. Some of them do great online presentations or YouTube videos, but once you get in session, you realize they’re not helpful here at BTR. We know how to actually help you. During our daily group sessions, our coaches are not only professionally trained in trauma and abuse, but they’ve been through it themselves. So when you access our group coaching sessions, you’re not only getting help from our incredible coaches. You’re also joining a community of other women who are currently going through it too.

Anne (02:44):
Kate is back on today’s episode, we are going to talk about basically combating the common myth that people think that the friends and family of porn users should do in order to quote unquote help the porn user.

“Porn Is Addictive & Porn Use In And Of Itself Is Abuse”

Anne (03:39):
And during this conversation, we’re also gonna talk about my preference for saying the word abuse and let’s start with the terms, abuse and addiction. So to put words in Kate’s mouth really quickly, we both agree that pornography is addictive and we both agree that pornography use and in and of itself is abuse. And then also the behaviors around it, the gaslighting, the lying, the manipulation, all those types of behaviors around it constitute emotional abuse, psychological abuse and sexual coercion. So we both agree on that point. I prefer to use the word abusive. And before we recorded this, when we were talking before Kate said, no, I actually like the word addiction. So Kate, can you talk about why you like using the word addiction?

Kate (04:24):
Well, I actually like both. I think I like both. I know there are some people out there who are like, maybe, maybe it’s not an addiction. Maybe it’s a compulsion. And so we’ll just get rid of rid of the word addiction and call it all abuse. But I actually like using both because one, it does fit the definition of addiction and the research on the brain does show that it is an addiction. Um, but I like to call it addiction simply because if you call it like enough compulsion, like some people have been doing, it kind of is like, well, anything could be compulsive. Did he eat a cake? Is he compulsive with a cake? Does he bite his nails compulsively? Like when you say, oh, my husband has a compulsive issue, it just doesn’t hold as much seriousness as addiction does. It’s kind of like if somebody were to say, I have an illness, if they had cancer like saying, oh, I have an illness, EV you know, they say it to their family.

Kate (05:17):
Some people might be like, oh, is it a serious illness? And other people might be like, oh, maybe she’s a common cold. I don’t know. But the word addiction does have more seriousness to it than even like compulsion. But as far as like either or abuse or addiction, like I just use both because they feed off each other so much. I don’t think you can have sex addiction without some type of abuse. I don’t know about other addictions. I’ve heard from other people who said that they, their husbands were maybe alcoholics and weren’t sex addicts and they weren’t abusive. Right. But for some reason, with the sex addiction, I even did a poll once 99% of betrayed wives experienced some type of abuse from their husbands.

Secret Porn Use Betrays Trust

Anne (05:59):
Right? Well, and I think the porn use in and of itself is abuse. It’s abusive for trust. It’s abuse of that. Your marriage contract of saying, hey, you made marriage vows to be faithful, for example, and not cheat on me. And I consider porn use to be cheating. And so therefore it’s an abuse of those vows. So the reason that I prefer abuse and I’ve kind of dropped the word addiction is not because I don’t think that porn is addictive. Right? So I absolutely think that porn is addictive, but the reason why I just prefer to use the word abuse in all contexts is because addiction to me kind of says, this is what he is experiencing. He is experiencing an addiction and I don’t really care what he is experiencing. I’m not so concerned about that. I am more concerned about what the victim is experiencing.

Anne (06:49):
So from her point of view, she is not feeling addiction per se, which, there’s the cause. And then there’s the effect, right? So the effect to her and what she feels and the way that she experiences, all of his behaviors is always abuse. There’s no other word for it. So that’s why I prefer to say, okay, this is abuse because of its effect on the victim of this scenario. Most of the time I’ve dropped the word addiction just completely. And I always call it abuse. Not that I don’t say it every once in a while, but I don’t want people to get the wrong impression that I don’t think it’s addictive cuz I do. But I just think the word abuse really gets to the heart of what the wife is really going through rather than focusing on him and what he’s going through.

Does the Word “Addiction” Enable Abusers?

Anne (07:41):
For me, anytime someone says the word addiction, there’s this sort of like, oh, poor him. He’s got an addiction. You know? Or like, oh, like if someone tells this story and they’re like, you know, this guy, he stole this car and he rammed into this stuff and he, and he went around and he did all these bad things. Right. And people would be like, horrified, oh wow, what a jerk or something. But if you say, oh, they got addicted to cocaine when they were really young. And then they ended up stealing a car and doing all these bad things and you say the same exact stuff. And they harmed all these people in the process. They ran over a bunch of people, you know, all this stuff that they did. And they’re like, oh, well it’s not as bad because he was addicted to cocaine.

Anne (08:22):
And he was under the influence of a cocaine. And I just think, I don’t want there to be any pity for the addict. And the reason why is that they feed off of that and use that to victim blame and groom other people and all kinds of other things. And so that’s why I prefer to not use the word addict mainly for those purposes is to help keep victims safe. And also I think the word abuse helps keep them more accountable. This is abuse. And I don’t care if you’re an addict or not. Who am I to say how you are experiencing this? Because that is up to him. I don’t know what you’re going through. You claim you’re an addict, whatever. But what I’m concerned about is how your behaviors are affecting me.

“The Main Focus Is That What Is Happening To You Is Abuse”

Kate (09:09):
Yes. I actually, a hundred percent agree with everything, everything you said, I use the word addiction mostly because when I’m interacting with other women and if they’re like, hey, my husband, is this an addiction? Or is this, you know? So it’s like, yeah, there are times to use the word addiction. But yes, the main focus is what is happening to you is abuse. It’s not addiction. That’s happening to you. It is abuse. Ugh. I love that. I love what you said that

Anne (09:32):
Even if a woman said to me, Hey, is my husband an addict? This is what’s going on. I would be like, well, whether he’s an addict or not, I don’t know. But what I do know is all of these behaviors are describing, are abuse. Have you ever considered that? You’re a victim of abuse. I might say that. That’s probably what I would say rather than, oh yeah. He is an addict. And are you a victim of abuse? It’s got like 60,000 women in our community. Right. And women are listening to this podcast. So my concern is what words are going to help victims get to safety and what words are going to sort of get trip them up a little bit. And from my perspective of this like 10,000 foot view of like thousands of Sheros across the world or survivors or victims or whatever you wanna call us is that the word addiction sort of is like, oh, well then let’s get him into 12 step. Let’s do this, let’s do this. And they start managing his recovery rather than saying, okay, this is abuse. And I’m not sure what he’s gonna do. But my first thing I gotta do is get to safety.

“The Two Things That Motivate Victims Are Safety & Truth”

Kate (10:38):
Yeah. I actually wouldn’t call it managing recovery. For some reason, I feel like that always has like a negative connotation. Maybe because the 12 steps made it kind of a negative connotation. I would see it more like they were kind of forced into it or just out of desperation from being starved for so long. It’s not them.

Anne (10:55):
It’s their first attempt for safety in their home. I would say that it’s a victim’s first attempt to get help and to get to safety. Because the two things that motivate victims are safety and truth. So anything they do, they’re motivated by that. They are not motivated by control. They’re not. So if they follow their husband around and they’re motivated by safety and truth, that’s a completely different story. Then an abuser following a victim around in order to control where she’s going or what she’s doing

Kate (11:28):
Completely different. One is, one is out of self defense. One is not .

“He Just Starts Grooming More Or Lying More”

Anne (11:33):
Right, right. So I would say it’s the victim’s first attempt to get to safety. She is trying to see if, if he goes to a 12 step program or if he does this or that will that make her more safe, meaning will that change him into a safe person? She’s hoping that through her attempts for safety, he will turn from being an unsafe person to being a safe person. Right. And that, and technically speaking, if he did that, then that would solve her safety problem but the unfortunate thing is, he just starts grooming more or lying more and other things and it actually creates less safety. And she doesn’t know that.

Kate (12:15):
Yeah. Because if you think about it, you could even say, yes, your husband is being abusive. They’re gonna go online. And it’s actually a good thing. They’re trying to be proactive about their lives. So they’re gonna go online, they’re gonna search up things and they’re gonna come across sex addiction and they’re gonna be like, maybe it’s sex addiction. And then they’re gonna, well, it’s like, where’s the help? Like, okay, my husband needs help. There’s gonna be more help in the sex addiction field than there is in the abuse field, which sucks. And it shouldn’t be that way.

Check Out Center For Peace

Anne (12:40):
For their husband. Yes. Right? Yeah. Center For Peace, is the only program we recommend. I’m not saying it’s the only program that like other programs have worked for people. Right. So I’m not trying to say that. It’s just the only one that we can ethically recommend because it’s the only one that we know of that uses the abuse model rather than the addiction model. And other than that, there really isn’t anywhere that people can go to treat their treat. I put in quotes, “sex addiction” that uses the abuse model. Everyone else uses the addiction model, which is kind of scary. Let’s talk about why it’s scary. So the addiction model, um, to victims, they don’t see the partner as a victim. It more sees them as like a COAD. How would you describe it?

Kate (13:27):
Well, I’ll kind of start at the beginning first off. When people think of addiction, they think, oh, he can’t help it. That is actually not accurate. Um, there was even people back before AA started that even believe this, that that is not accurate, that they can’t help it. Yes. They have a brain disease. In some aspects you can verify that with brain scans, whatever, but it is a self-inflicted disease. If a smoker happened to smoke 12 packs a day, got lung cancer, could the, would that smoker be like, oh, I can’t stop smoking. The cancer is making me do it. No, everyone would be like, that’s insane. Or they could be like, oh I can’t go and get treatment cuz the cancer’s not letting me. So why is it that we do that when it comes to addiction? Oh, well they can’t, they got a disease. They can’t help it. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. They still have agency. They still have choice. It is a self inflicted disease. Their choices caused it, not the reverse. So that is like the foundation of a lot of the whole addiction world, especially sex addiction, sex addiction world ends up like hijacking it and making it even more ridiculous. I don’t know why, but it does

This Is Why The Sex Addiction Model Doesn’t Work

Anne (14:38):
With the sex addiction model, they don’t really know what to do with the victim. They say they use the trauma model, but then they won’t admit where the trauma is coming from. So they’ll be like, yeah, she’s traumatized. But they refuse to say she’s traumatized by abuse.

Kate (14:54):
It’s awful. It is awful. Like you say the word abuse in this sex industry. And they’re like, how dare you say that? You’re shaming the addict. And it’s like, what? I’m just literally stating a behavior. That is what they’re doing. That is not shaming them. I don’t know why this is such a big deal. It’s it doesn’t have to be such a taboo thing. Let’s talk about it. You guys are making it more taboo by being all hush, hush about it. It’s making it worse. And the whole industry is addict centric.

Anne (15:23):
Yes. It is not victim centric.

Kate (15:26):
It is not at all. You, it, I don’t, even if somebody says, oh, I’m a betrayal trauma therapist. Um, sometimes that might mean that they do understand trauma, but if they’re coming from the sex addiction industry, it means that they are still in the sex addiction industry trying to tackle the trauma. But why it’s still acentric cuz it’s like, we’re gonna help you handle your trauma so that you can help your husband or so you’re not shaming your husband or so you’re not triggering your husband so he can get into recovery. And it’s like, that’s not what it should be at all

“You Should Not Help A Victim Become Desensitized To Abuse”

Anne (16:01):
Right. Or even, um, so that your husband’s abusive behaviors aren’t triggery to you. That’s the thing I see the most. So for example, the husband is still abusive and the like a sex addiction, professional, even a betrayal trauma so-called not somebody at our organization, betrayal, trauma recovery, but like a so-called betrayal trauma expert will be like, okay, well you’re just still being traumatized from the past when he used to use porn, but now he’s not using porn anymore. So I don’t know why when he says these things to you, it’s upsetting. It’s just, you’re just being triggered. So let’s work on your triggers, but they’re not recognizing that what’s happening is he’s gaslighting her. He’s manipulating her. He’s still emotionally and psychologically abusing her. And she’s still a victim of sexual coercion. Of course she’s going to be triggered. You should not help a victim become desensitized to abuse.

Anne (16:55):
And it feels like that is what the sex addiction industry is trying to do in their treatment of victims is like let’s desensitize you to this abuse and let’s help you be tolerant of the abuse because otherwise marriage is gonna fall apart. You wanna keep your marriage right? Instead of saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. You’re a victim of abuse. He is an abuser. The worst case scenario is happening now, right now the worst case scenario, isn’t divorce. It’s you being in an abusive relationship. Let’s get you to safety. Let’s see if he can choose a non abusive lifestyle and a non abusive thought patterns. It’s unlikely. But you know, maybe he’ll be able to pull it off. Who knows? He’s gotta want that for himself. But I think that is where they need to go. And they refuse to go there because they don’t use the abuse model

BTR Can Help You Find Healing & Safety

Kate (17:42):
I’ve had, I can’t even count how many friends I’ve had who have gone to very, very popular, and you know who I’m talking about, very popular betrayal trauma companies, whatever organizations. And they’ve had therapists –

Anne (17:59):
That aren’t us, let’s say that –

Kate (18:01):
Not BTR at all. And they have told them in front of the husband, your husband’s not abusing you after she had just spent how long months trying to convince her husband that it’s been abused and he finally believes it. And then you have a therapist saying, no, what your husband did? You is not abuse. What’s gonna happen. I guarantee the husband is gonna be more abusive. Then he’s gonna be more entitled. You’d be like, oh, I’m not abusive. A therapist said so like it is so dangerous. And so damaging to do that.

Anne (18:34):
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. Until next week stay safe out there.

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