As he topples from the heights, Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein blames his behavior on sexual addiction, but is it sexual addiction or is it simply coercive control? Is Weinstein in any way a victim, or is he just a predator trying to excuse his destructive behavior?

After decades of popular use, the term “sexual addiction” now seems like a real psychiatric diagnosis. Those who suffer from this condition have no choice but to helplessly follow their desire. So, it may be surprising to find that the essential reference text of American psychiatry, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, has never included this alleged disorder.

In 2016, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists published a statement rejecting the diagnosis. The concept does have some support among professionals – the authors of a peer-reviewed journal, Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity, for instance – but there is little scientific evidence supporting the condition. There is also no trial supporting the efficacy of therapy for sexual addiction.

There is a significant danger in assigning a psychiatric justification to anti-social behavior. Compulsive theft has long been classified as “kleptomania”, but does an urge to steal mitigate crime? Should serial killers go free, because they are unable to inhibit their appetite for murder?

The test for responsibility in law is that an act was committed intentionally: murder is the deliberate, planned killing of another person, where manslaughter is accidental. Harvey Weinstein was surely aware of his actions, and their unwelcome consequences. He is intelligent enough to know that the inducements he could offer were powerful, and that the women he assaulted had a great deal to lose if they refused his advances.

Weinstein is the latest in a long series of predators to use the casting couch as a means of audition. Singer Tom Jones says that the music industry is also rife with sexual harassment. In the simplest terms, there are predators in the Arts who use coercive control to satisfy their despicable appetites.

While a compassionate society must try to rehabilitate predators, our first concern must be to protect the innocent. At Open Minds, by exposing undue influence and coercive control, we work towards a more ethical society.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about sexual coercion that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!