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Title: A discursive analysis exploring constructions of sex addiction in clinical text and 'addict' accounts
Author: Briggs, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 8936
Awarding Body: University of Lincoln
Current Institution: University of Lincoln
Date of Award: 2014
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Introduction: Numerous accounts have been developed which portray sex addiction and the sex addict. These in turn have led to screening tools, said to be capable of accurately distinguishing the sex addict from non-addicts. However, there are a wealth of various, diverse and conflicting understandings of addiction, sexuality and sex addiction. Sex addiction also carries moral implications, leading some to argue the term is used as stigmatising label for those who deviate from a socially constructed sexual standard. Despite the clinical significance of the growing use of the term, to date there has been a dearth of research which has critically reflected on sex addiction as a concept, and the meaning for those who identify as sex addicts. Objective: This study aimed to explore a seminal text and screening assessment’s description of sex addiction; as well as sex addicts and nonaddicts’ own descriptions of their sexual behaviour and perspectives on sexual addiction; using a qualitative methodology sensitive to the adaptable and social and historical contextual aspects of discourse. Design: A primarily Foucauldian Discourse Analysis approach was taken in the analysis of data from text and semi-structured interviews. Method: Data was collected from the book “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sex Addiction” (Carnes’, 2001), and the “Sex Addiction Screening Test – Revised” (Carnes, Green & Carnes, 2010), as well as from nine interviews conducted with men identifying as sex addicts and non-addicts from both the UK and USA. Results: The findings demonstrated three main discourses: A Loss of Control, ‘Good’ vs. ‘Bad’ sex, and a Cultural Imperative to Intervene in Sex Addiction. The study demonstrated expert, addicts and non-addicts talk about sex addiction show a number of similarities and some select distinctions. The ways in which sex addiction was talked about were complex and at times inconsistent. Scientific, psychological and moralistic discourses were commonly drawn on to position sex addiction as distinguishable from ‘normal’ sexual behaviour. Health and biomedical discourses were also drawn on to manage accountability, and to construct the sex addict as sick, naïve and disempowered. Correspondingly there was a reciprocal-construction of experts as credible and impartial in being able to identify sex addiction. These experts and wider society were necessitated to identify and protect against a projected exponential rise in sex addiction, catalysed by the advance and accessibility of Internet pornography. Discussion: The study offers new understanding on the discourses of sexual addiction and the subject positioning, actions and subjectivities it creates and restricts for those identifying as sex addicts. Those discourses identified correspond with contemporary discourses surrounding addiction and sexuality; though offer novel permutations which invite further research. The results of this study ascertain that there is a need for healthcare professionals to reflect upon the risks of uncritical acceptance and practice using the sex addiction label, given the breadth and diversity of discourses it encompasses.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: C840 Clinical Psychology