Addicted to lovin'

Wednesday, May 6, 1998. p.A15

Putting aside their professional ethics which require that they meet and fully assess an individual, psychologists, psychotherapists and sex specialists have been quick to offer "expert opinions" on what ails Bill Clinton. Based on nothing more than unsubstantiated reports of kissing in the Oval Office or exposing himself in a hotel room, they have diagnosed the President as a patient.

These mental health experts seem to agree that he has a problem. Some call it a compulsive disorder. Others refer to an underlying anxiety. At least one offers the cliché theory of childhood trauma, suggesting a history of sexual abuse. But the most popular diagnosis, by far, is "sex addiction."

Dr. Douglas Weiss, recovered sex addict from Fort Worth, Texas, who is now a sex addiction specialist, has recommended treatment: "We have nothing but compassion for (Mr. Clinton), and hope that he seeks help."

What is sex addiction? Some compare it to the uncontrollable emotional and physical urges for drugs or gambling. The treatment of so-called sex addicts has become a multimillion dollar facet of the psychology industry in the past decade. Where once the clergy offered moral counsel to adulterers and philanderers, now sex-addiction counsellors provide therapeutic services. Over 2,000 "sex addicts anonymous" groups have sprung up across North America. And, there’s even an Internet site exists ( where help can be found.

The president’s alleged affairs have provided tremendous free advertising for both the would-be therapists and the idea of sex addiction. But there are some who dismiss this pathologizing of the president’s behaviour, seeing it instead as a clear example of the abuse of power. Their reasoning is that Mr. Clinton was in a more powerful position than Paula Jones or Monica Lewinsky, so therefore these women are victims of harassment or assault.

Mr. Clinton’s power can’t be denied; as the phrase goes, he is the most powerful man in the world. But does this mean that he necessarily used, let alone abused, this power? So far, there is nothing in the accusations against him to suggest that he extorted consent or made promises that were contingent on sex. In fact, he seems to have backed off quickly, like an embarrassed school boy, at the first utterance of the word "No" from any of these women.

One reason the "abuse of power" theory is so favoured in gossip circles is because it is

a favoured invention of the left-leaning feminists, who want to cast women as victims of the men who have status in a patriarchal society, and of the right-leaning conservatives who want to establish a sexually repressive culture. And a gullible public unthinkingly accepts these notions.

Men, who have historically assumed positions of greater authority and responsibility, are being accused of abusing their power when they have intimate relationships with women in lower power positions. This moral tyranny has stolen from women one of their gifts (weapons?), one that was most prized historically - the ability to seduce men.

The "power" theorists want to deny that bedding a powerful man is incredibly arousing for some women who feel their power in seducing him. As Jeanne Safer a New York psychoanalyst once said: "You look really good when a powerful man desires you, and it is a traditional way for women to have power."

Might this not be why Ms. Lewinsky bragged to her untrustworthy friend about her relationship with the President? If so, who has the power; the sexually aroused President or the sexually-arousing female staffer?

But such a view of women is no longer politically acceptable. For feminist activists, the promotion of images of men-as-aggressive and powerful/women-as-weak-and-vulnerable has aided them in getting many gender-biased laws established.

And, for the psychology profession, the diagnosis and treatment of sexual disorders to support ideological programs is big business. For example, Douglas Weiss, who wants Mr. Clinton to get help, runs Heart to Heart Counseling Centers and a small empire of workshops, books, tapes and a newsletter, all focused on sex addiction.

Of course, extorting sexual favours is wrong and sex-crazed criminals do exist. But none of this remotely describes Mr Clinton. Even the courts have said that while he may be boorish, he isn’t a criminal. Or crazy. The worst you can say is that he’s a dirty old man. But then maybe all he suffers is a healthy libido.

@ Dr.Tana Dineen

by Dr. Tana Dineen, special columnist,