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Is sex addiction to blame in sex crimes?

With the inexplicable self-destructive acts of Anthony Weiner, which have culminated now his 21-month prison sentence for sexting, sex addiction certainly seems to be a plausible explanation. But the short answer to the question about whether sex addiction can take some or all of the blame for sex crimes is “maybe but probably not,” according to current standards.

Sex addiction and addiction to pornography, have been given as explanations for the inability of some criminals to control their behavior. According to Psychology Today, notwithstanding uncertainty around sex addiction, defendants’ claims of sex and pornography addiction have been offered in criminal defense cases as ways to explain how their criminal acts become possible for them. In the case of Jared Fogle, a TV personality, who was charged with possession of child pornography and other sex crimes, presented evidence in his defense that his hypersexuality explained, in part, his child sex crimes. Other notorious criminals have claimed that addiction to sex and pornography caused them to lose control of their minds and their lives, and led them to commit their crimes.

Caution may be advisable, however, for therapists and mental health professionals who insist on diagnoses of sex addiction, even when such diagnoses are presented as plausible defenses by defendants and their experts. The role of sex addiction in criminal cases appears to arise in the context of matters pertaining to guilt or criminal responsibility. Even in sentencing, sex addiction is given as a reason to give a defendant a shorter sentence. For some, low recidivism of acts by sexual offenders is offered to assuage fears of the likelihood of repeat acts.

As argued in Psychology Today, however, “claims of sex addiction fail to meet legal standards of expert testimony.” Nonetheless, some who have experienced the damaging effects of pornography and sexual crimes may insist that it has played a major role in their own criminal behavior. No matter one’s position, the jury is still out on the role of sex addiction in the commission of sex crimes.

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