Some Researchers Argue that Shame Should Be Used to Treat Sexual Compulsions
Oh noes. This article won’t go over well with the extreme anti-Purity Culture warriors or the secular, left wing feminists, who run around screaming about “slut shaming,” and how nobody anywhere should judge any woman’s sexual behavior or choices (except for women celibates or women virgins, then such groups feel perfectly fine judging such women and ridiculing their choices).
This article maintains that some researchers or doctors think that shame can be of use in stopping people from engaging in harmful sexual behavior.
(Link): Should Shame Be Used to Treat Sexual Compulsions? by J. Singal
The concept of “sex addiction” has become deeply embedded in our culture — people toss the term around pretty easily, and it’s the subject of TV shows, documentaries, and a profitable cottage industry of treatment centers.
The problem is, as Science of Us has noted before, the scientific evidence for sex addiction being similar to alcohol or drug addiction is very, very thin, and it may be the case that people who believe or are told they have sex addiction actually have other stuff going on.
And yet, it’s undoubtedly the case that many people show up at therapists’ offices worried about sexual behavior that feels compulsive. How do therapists who are skeptical of the idea of sex addiction deal with these patients? That’s the question at the center of an (Link) interesting article in SELF by Zahra Barnes.
Barnes does a good job laying out the strong majority view that “sex addiction” shouldn’t be viewed in the same way as other, more scientifically validated forms of addiction, and she also contrasts the way different sorts of therapists deal with sexually compulsive behavior. As she explains, therapists who hew to the majority view often take a “harm reduction” approach to patients who are complaining of compulsive behavior.
“It’s humanistic, meaning it privileges the subjective experience of a person and doesn’t try to apply some external model on what they’re describing, and it’s culturally libertarian, meaning as long as they’re not hurting anyone, you allow people to behave the way that they want and give them the space to do it,” said Michael Aaron, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York City and author of Modern Sexuality.
This method can work for people troubled by their sexual urges and those with compulsive sexual behavior. “Rather than trying to change something, we need to acknowledge it and embrace it,” Aaron says.
He offers the example of someone who has fantasies of traumatizing children sexually or being sexually violent toward women: “The harm reduction approach asks, can you play out some of these themes (Link): with a consenting partner?” The aim is to satisfy these desires with a willing partner instead of suppressing them, which can just make them stronger, he explains.
Therapists who do believe in the addiction model work differently, and where this difference manifests itself most strongly is in their approach to shame. While Aaron and other harm-reduction researchers try to stay away from shaming their patients, which they say can worsen compulsive behaviors, believers in the sex-addiction model see things differently:
“Sex addicts need to feel some shame about what they’re doing, because they are shameless. When people are shameless, they rape and murder and steal and pillage and get into politics,” [says Alexandra Katehakis, clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex.]. But this is different from shaming someone, she says.
“Shaming in an unprincipled way is out of bounds [for a mental health professional],” she explains. That would include saying or even implying that someone is disgusting based on what they’re doing. Rather, she asks questions designed to make someone reflect on what their actions have wrought, like, “What do you think that feels like for your partner?” It’s helpful, not damaging, she explains, because, “It challenges them to see what they’re doing, and it brings them into the reality of their behavior.”
(( read the rest of the article here ))
I wrote in a much older post that shame can be used to quell sexual sin, but most people today – even in conservative Christianity – are loathe to use that approach.
(Link): Preacher Mark Driscoll Disparages Virgins and Virginity (Again) – The Feelings of Fornicators Always Take Precedence With the Anti-Purity Culture, Anti-Slut- Shaming, and Pro- Cheap Grace Crowd
(Link): Secular, Left Wing Feminist Writer Marcotte on Anyone Choosing To Be a Virgin Until Marriage: “It’s a Silly Idea” – What Progressive Christians, Conservative Christians, Non Christians, and Salon’s Amanda