'Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity' Journal to Pick New, 'Theory-Neutral' Name

'Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity' Journal to Pick New, 'Theory-Neutral' Name

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The prestigious academic journal in the field of sexual health known until this year as “Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity” has announced that it will “undergo a name change to reflect a theory[-]neutral examination (i.e., no bias on a journal level) of problematic sexual behavior and associated sexual health considerations.”

Earlier this month, sexual health expert Dr. James P. Olsen, a board member of the Society for Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH), which publishes the journal, circulated an email making the announcement, asking applications for the position of Editor-in-Chief and heralding a “new direction” for the influential publication.

Theories regarding “sex addiction” and “porn addiction," discredited by a large part of the scientific community, are routinely promoted as real by anti-sex crusaders and religiously motivated War on Porn activists. Online forums obsessed with the debunked Victorian notion of semen retention — under its 21st-century version, #nofap — also contribute to the pop culture spread of these models for behavior treatment.

With its new, yet-unannounced name, the SASH journal makes a commitment to “theory-neutral examination,” that is, not starting off a diagnosis presupposing a linguistic equivalence between chemical addictions — e.g., narcotics, alcohol — and self-harming, compulsive behavior regarding sex.

Religion-based counselors, particular among Evangelical Christians, are insistent on the efficacy of “addiction” models to modify sexual behavior.

Neurological studies, especially in the area of dopamine release, have not been conclusive about a scientific equivalence between actual addictions and exposure to pornography or desire for sex.

At Pacific Behavioral Healthcare, an outpatient mental health clinic in Bellevue, Washington, Dr. Olsen treats “problematic sexual behaviors and co-occurring mental disorders.” He has multiple credentials in developmental psychopathology, ethics in health care and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the Mental Health Law & Policy Journal.

Instead of “addiction,” Dr. Olsen’s statement announcing the change of direction in the academic journal uses “problematic sexual behavior and associated sexual health considerations” as a theory-neutral way of describing what he and his colleagues treat.

XBIZ spoke with Leah Briick, PhD, Executive Director of SASH, who stressed that the new, theory-neutral direction does not mean that the organization or the journal have stopped believing in the sex addiction model. 

“We believe it is not appropriate to have a journal focused on one theoretical approach,” Briick told XBIZ. “We want the journal to focus on a problem and wrestle with that problem without theoretical bias.”

SASH, according to its executive director, “finds it unfortunate that so many organizations can’t embrace thoughtful dialogue regarding the various theories. SASH wants to be a place where dialogue can respectfully occur from diverse perspectives.”

“Renaming the journal is not about turning towards or turning away from a theory but instead emphasizing all perspectives,” Briick added.

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