Is Harvey Weinstein the Jerry Sandusky of the Entertainment Industry for Women?
Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual violations and harassment now being revealed in the media has rekindled the debate of the relevance of sexual addiction as a label in describing certain patterns of sexual behavior. Does the sexual behavior being revealed document that Harvey Weinstein is a sex addict? Or is he a predator, like Jerry Sandusky, stalking his prey in a setting that allows easy access to a vulnerable and dependent group of victims who don’t dare speak up for fear of not being believed or of repercussions. The Harvey Weinstein story has brought forward many issues that are now being discussed.
Is Harvey Weinstein a Sex Addict?
The sex addiction label continues to stir controversy, though the majority of clinicians and sex researchers agree that there are individuals whose sexual behavior meets the criteria for addiction. This criteria includes:
- A compulsive pattern of sexual behavior used to medicate unwelcomed feelings and moods
- Unsuccessful attempts to stop the behavior
- The continuation of the behavior in spite of the consequences
- The development of tolerance as the sexual behavior once pleasurable becomes increasingly less so
Typically inherent in this pattern is a cycle of shame and regret that reflects a degree of empathy and a desire to stop. While rationalization and minimization are part of the cycle, sex addiction does not include the type of cognitive beliefs and distortions that we see with sex offenders or predators. While Harvey Weinstein may have compulsivity in his sexual behavior pattern, the reports suggest a pattern of sexual offending.
What Are the Differences Between a Sexual Predator or Offender and a Sex Addict?
Sex offenders are opportunistic and look for individuals that are vulnerable in some way that they can prey on. The more dependency built into a relationship with a power differential at its core, the more vulnerable individuals are to sexual offenders or predators. It could be an unsuspecting person who has been targeted by someone exhibiting himself. Or an individual with a tremendous position of power, like Harvey Weinstein, who intrudes or forces his sexual behavior on those vulnerable to him. Offenders typically do not attempt to stop their sexual behavior or feel remorse. They tend to lack the shameful regret we see with sex addicts. Further they lack the capacity for empathy we see with the recovering sex addict and have cognitive distortions that blame the victim e.g., “ the way she was dressed told me she wanted it” or “she knew what she was getting into when she spent time with me.” Sex offenders are unwilling, if not unable in some cases, to take responsibility for their own behavior.
So what are some the characteristics that would drive someone to sexually offend?
- A malignant or fragile narcissistic core self in which feelings of inadequacy and fears of rejection hide behind a grandiose image portrayed to the outside world
- A lack of or capacity for empathy for others
- An entitlement that underlies a belief system of arrogance that allows the exploitation of others with little to no healthy shame
Are Sex Addicts Like Harvey Weinstein?
No, most sex addicts are not like Harvey Weinstein. While sex addict’s behaviors often violate the implicit and explicit trust agreements between people that can result in hurt and violation, they do not share the same cognitive distortions that we see with sex offenders and predators. Further, sex addicts often feel a need for treatment (though resistant to it often) while offenders often do not. It is critical that the right assessment and treatment course be decided on when sorting out the type of complexities that are reflected in the Harvey Weinstein story.