My Time With Dr David J. Ley

david ley

Last Friday I had the pleasure of meeting (Video interview) Dr. David J. Ley!  The clinical psychologist who’s book, The Myth of Sex Addiction has been a lightning rod of chatter!  What a fun opportunity to get to know him, and talk with someone who enjoys to discuss the issues of sex, sensuality, porn culture, and helping others.  My Church culture is one where sex addiction is always spoken of as a fact.  Just last month I spoke to Ministers in our City on the topic (They named it, not me)!  So it was very exciting to talk to someone who thinks otherwise.  Why would I do such a thing right?!
Of course we don’t see eye to eye on everything, but the man has a heart for people (Though he admits that he is known as quite the block of dynamite)!  So I had a feeling we would have a pretty good time.  Which I did.  Here is an example from his book which shows his heart for those wanting help.

“This diagnosis (Sex Addiction) poses a real risk of stigma and shame to innocent people, simply because their sexual behaviors do not fit what is defined as the social norm (though we truly have little data about what the norm actually is.)  page 3, The Myth of Sex Addiction

I tend to always feel as though I should learn from those that have thought much through these issues.  And the best advice I had before entering the time with David was simply to ask him questions and listen and learn.  Good advice.  I notified David for the interview, and he obliged graciously.
One of the idea’s that he really was hitting home on concerned this shaming of an act, instead of looking at the inner heart behind the act.  I could tell he is frustrated in a ocean of sex addiction culture that tends to judge an act as wrong first, and then later go to the heart issues, if at all.  He would like to see that approach reversed.  This no doubt is due to the research he has referenced in his book on the multi level of issues that predominately come out in a person who self diagnoses themselves with sex addiction.

“This is the problem for the concept of sex addiction.  Surveys of sex addicts show up that up to 40 percent have anxiety disorders, 40 percent have substance abuse disorders, and 70 percent have mood disorders.”  pg 46, The Myth of Sex Addiction

I understood his point.  What if a person comes to me and I simply avoided his marriage issues, or the stress he’s (or she) under, or maybe the tragedy’s he has experienced in life, and in turn, concluded, he could be healed by simply throwing out his computer?
There is a time to throw out the PC, but there is much fallow ground to break up first.  Like getting to know a person and his life and behaviors.  I think of my own life, and how I relate to porn.  Most of the time I don’t even think about wanting to watch it.  But there are certain times that it tantalizes me.  Not just any porn, but certain kinds.
If I asked you why you ate today?  How would you respond?  And you have to be honest, ok.  Most of us would have to admit that we eat for many of the same reasons we do many things.  Comfort, release stress, bored, supposed to be good for me, its just what we do and it keeps me in shape (but what kind of shape right)!  All these and many more answers would be the same for viewing pornography or the like.
My point is there are many things we do to which we do not have good reasons for them, or  simply do them out of  a consistent behavior over time.  And we can all agree that changing a behavior is not easy, let alone changing a persons paradigm of there entire life!  So I can see David’s point.  He seemed concerned that those in the sex addiction camp treat everyone alike, which I assume is too simplistic of an opinion.  But I certainly understand his heart.  And I like that approach.
Again Dr. Ley on this topic:

As one sex therapist and clinician described to me, “The sex addiction diagnosis is a lazy diagnosis.  It ignores more relevant emotional and psychiatric issues to focus exclusively upon a person’s sexual behavior.” pg 47, The Myth of Sex Addiction

I don’t think all sex addiction models focus exclusively upon a person’s sexual behavior in therapy or counseling any more than a Biblical counselor would.  I personally as a Pastor can only go over what the Bible teaches about sex, sexuality, sensuality, gender, God and the like.  And it is through these talks, were able to get into so many foundation area’s of life, dare I say, all area’s of life.  Though I am readily admitting that the person’s sex choices have become extreme and damaging.
As David was kicking back in his chair dialoging with me, there was something he said that I would have loved to talk to him about the entire time.  The subject turned to objective and subjective truth as it relates to the sex addiction model.  Let me explain here.  Dr. Ley was frustrated at the sex addiction model for reasons of inconsistency in its reasoning for why certain sex acts are bad.  As he saw it, there is a chink in the armor, and so they have changed there tune a bit.  Again, let me explain.  He sees the S.A. model changing it’s reasoning as to why pornography or other alternative sex is bad, from morality arguments from 30 years ago, to today, where the stress in the argument lies in public health (i.e. Fight the New Drug, Texas house resolution 112).  I brought up the seemingly similarities to the prohibition movement from a century ago, and he nodded, in agreement.  This was nothing new to me.  I teach a presentation every semester at the Jr. College on issues like this. The Kefauver Senate hearings of 1955, in addition to many things shared, commented on the damages to porn on the youth culture, as adult material was being delivered in the mail!
“In some of this rude material the purveyors lured children into ordering and paying for, in the larger percentage of cases however it has not been ordered at all. It is the sales solicitation material which in itself, is usually debauched and rankly obscene, and it goes to children as young as eight years old, because their names land on the mailing list…”
“All this may I say is utter and deadly nonsense; our society has many provisions that protect minor children from corrupting them or dangerous influences. Preventing the peddling of pornographic material to children is no more a violation of civil liberties than is preventing the sale of liquor or dope to these children.”

The Kefauver Senate Hearings of 1955

But the committee did did not have the research that we have today to tote out on the ever changing brain, especially in young people (i.e. your brain on porn).  It is very true that the argument has changed when it comes to obscenity, as it had in the prohibition movement so many years ago.  Drinking too much was a moral issue, but when it could not be passed as such, they changed the propaganda.  And using the public health card, won the day.
David sees this change as a move from objectivity to subjectivity.  And certainly loosing credibility in doing so.  I asked him would be give the S.A. proponents more clout if they stayed consistent with the morality argument?  And he said absolutely!  What bothered him, from what I gathered, was the change of emphasis to how the brain is wired or rewired.  To him, this revealed a leak in the overall foundation of his proponents.  And in turn a revealing not only a crack in the foundation, but one that affects other people, through shame based redirect, which seemed so important in the past, but no longer is worthy as a contender in the ring of public opinion.  The morality argument is dead.  But what about those needing help?  How can we help them, if we are inconsistent with why the behavior is wrong in the first place?  This is where I saw the conversation going.
It made me think about the importance of staying consistent.  Why do I think a sexual act is wrong?  Is is because of what the Bible says?  I personally have chosen to come under it’s ideas on mankind.  But in doing so, I have put myself under a system that I can never achieve in this life!  As C.S. Lewis has said in Mere Christianity, “but we believe we will receive help in this life.”   He is correct of course, but even with the help given, we find a inconsistency, which humbles us immensely.  And hopefully this humility leads us to a compassion.  I hope it does so in me.  And I bet you too.

“Christianity is strange.  It orders man to recognize that he is vile, and even abominable, yet orders him to seek to be like God.  Without such a counterbalance, that elevation would make him horribly vain, or that humbling would make him terribly abject.”  The Christian Life, Blaze Pascal

Lastly, I wanted to press about the help for wives of men who have come to him.  Of course I was hoping to glean some things from him, as my heart goes out to many of the women in our Beauty For Ashes group (wives of those in recovery).  I came at it from the angle of understanding that within the inner workings of counseling with a person with sexual issues, if married, there are certainly behaviors in which a wife will have to review herself…if she is willing and desiring to move forward in the marriage.  And this is what I was hoping to get a revelation on!  Maybe he had seen something work really well to help the wives learn about discussing sex and sensuality, which we knew is seldom done at all in a marriage.  But instead of getting the enlightenment I was hoping for, he simply put his hands up behind his head and had a puzzled look on his face…  I know that face well, as it is one I have had before in counseling.  At that moment I knew what he was going to share.  And it was honest!  He let me know that there was not much hope in that area he had seen.  What he meant, (my opinion) was that it seemed just as the overall U.S. culture is so schizophrenic (un-predictable) concerning sexual issues, so a spouse too, is a person who has not only been hurt immensely, but now needs to start the process of healing which includes there own battling of those inner demons (i.e. I refer to fear, hate, disappointment, control, insecurity).  Which if  you ever have participated in this kind of counseling, is no easy task to do.  I did not push it.  I could tell that topic was important to him, but his overall push in the culture has been to work on a different battle front.  Not that it is not important to him, but simply his energy has been used up elsewhere.
Working in any area of helping people requires much from you.  At times, all of you!  And he really seems to have a passion for those that are desiring help, and for that I commend him.  Of course, we are not going to agree on all things, but I am still trying to agree with Jesus on everything (haha)!  My mind does, but my body says otherwise at times!
This last quote from Dr. Ley will show you that he too is open to dialog.  So much so, he had a chat with me!

“There is not just one answer to the question of sex addiction.  It is not just an impulse or a compulsion.  It is not just the effect of testosterone or dopamine.  The reason the concept of sex addiction is so challenging to pin down is the many different social and moral concepts that are embedded within it, where the only commonality is that the issue of sexual behavior is involved.  The other issues that are involved, whether it be emotional functioning, brain functioning, relationship skills, or adaptability, are ignored by the extreme focus on sexual behaviors.”  pg. 206, The Myth of Sex Addiction

As you can read, this was fun for me.  Learning is fun. Hearing people talk about things your interested in can be very intellectually thrilling.  I hope others too will not shy away from peaceful dialog on the issues at hand in our society.  For we both are just human beings.  The greatest of these (gifts) is love, so the Bible tells us!  And for that reason alone, its worth the chat!