The New Sexual Pyschobabble

by Tommi Avicolli-Mecca on March 10, 2010

America is truly a schizophrenic country. On the one hand, Americans believe that sex is for procreation and that too much of this good thing is a bad thing. On the other hand, Americans think constantly about sex, partly because they are bombarded with sexual imagery and innuendo.

Just look at TV. Even stations such as Fox that blather on and on about wholesome American family values, run programs that tease us with partial nudity and sexual situations. According to studies, men think of sex every seven seconds. The Kinsey Institute says that men are always thinking of it. Women don’t think of it quite that often, but they, too, have it on their minds a whole lot.

So it strikes me as truly odd that the latest changes proposed to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5), the bible of the psychiatric world, include two new sexual conditions: “hypersexuality” and “paraphilic coercive disorder.”

Both are pure psychobabble.

It’s anybody’s guess what distinguishes “hypersexuality” from someone who just has a healthy libido. What actually puts the “hyper” in “hypersexuality?” Is someone who takes viagra or any of the other popular aphrodisiacs on the road to “hypersexuality?” Is a couple that does it every day “hypersexual?” Is Charlie on “Two and a Half Men” a prime candidate for the old, “My name is Charlie and I am a sex addict?”

As for “paraphilic coercive disorder,” it’s apparently a sexual attraction to objects, suffering and nonconsensual sex, such as rape. Sounds like a great way for rapists to develop their defense: “The paraphilic coersive disorder made me do it, your honor!”

At least the shrinks had the common sense to discard “sexual addiction” as a disease.

The popularity of sexual addiction groups is just one more manifestation of our society’s new psychobabble religion. Confess the sin and promise never to do it again. Rely on a higher power to keep you abstinent or only doing it once a month or whatever is deemed “normal” by the determiner of all things normal.

Then there’s the matter of drugs. Even as NA (Narcotics Anonymous) groups espouse their gospel of clean and sober, the profit-mongers at the pharmaceutical companies are getting us more and more hooked on substances to cure new diseases, such as “hypersexuality.”

Is PNA (Pharmaceutical Narcotics Anonymous) far behind?

Psychiatrist Allen J. Frances, one of the most vocal critics of many of the changes proposed for DSM 5, summed it up best in his article, “Let’s save normalcy from the psychiatrists.” DSM 5 would “extend the reach of psychiatry dramatically deeper into the ever-shrinking domain of the normal.”

“This wholesale medical imperialization of normality,” he wrote, “could potentially create tens of millions of innocent bystanders who would be mislabeled as having a mental disorder. The pharmaceutical industry would have a field day – despite the lack of solid evidence of any effective treatments for these newly proposed diagnoses.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca is co-editor of Avanti Popolo: Italians Sailing Beyond Columbus, and editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation, which has been nominated for an American Library Association award. His website is

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