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"Shrinks Who Kink: When You and Your Therapist Love BDSM"

on Thursday, 26 May 2016. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Broadly

by Alice Sanders

Finding a therapist can be a major problem for anyone who's into BDSM or fetish. The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, updated in 2013, is the first version in the 62-year history of psychiatry's diagnostic bible that does not classify BDSM as a marker of mental illness. But surveys show that far more people are into kink than commonly assumed: A 2008 survey from Durex found that 36 percent of people in the US deploy masks, blindfolds, and bondage tools as part of their sexual repertoire.

Kinky people need therapy to deal with the stresses of life just as much as their vanilla peers, but they can run into problems when trying to find a therapist who knows the difference between a dungeon monitor and a domme. Demand for kink-identified therapists has led to websites like LGBTQ-oriented Pink Therapy in the UK and the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom in the US. On the NCSF website, therapists are divided into three classifications: kink friendly, kink-aware, and kink-knowledgeable.

"By stating that you work with kinky clients you're raising the possibility that you're also kinky," says Joanna*, an integrative therapist working in London. "Some clients will make that assumption, especially if you have a high level of kink knowledge." She goes on to say that she's comfortable outing herself as a BDSM practictioner to a client if they have explicitly told her that they are part of the community.

There are good reasons to do this. Clients often come to her having already had a bad experience with a therapist who lacked BDSM understanding. Katie*, a psychodynamic therapist also working in London, tells me that she sees one kinky couple who have been through four previous professionals. "I believe they've been treated poorly by the therapists they've approached."

More than just a simple lack of knowledge of kink, vanilla therapists can sometimes bring their own negative preconceptions of BDSM to sessions. It's something both Joanna's clients and friends have had to deal with in the past. "Therapists have suggested that kink is externalized self-harm; that's it's problematic playing with power, that it's a form of unhealthy risk taking." She explains that some keep bringing up kink as symptomatic of a deeper mental health issue, but kink-positive therapy means that "clients can reveal this information in passing, and it's accepted as a normal healthy part of their relationship."

Kink can sometimes involve behaviors that someone not in the scene may struggle to wrap their head around (toenail fetishes, anyone?) and clients often don't want to waste time educating a kinky therapist on the terminology and dynamics of the scene. When a shrink come out as kinky, it's not just to assure their clients that they won't have a bad experience in therapy, but to show they can have a positive one.

"There's often an assumption that BDSM-ers are attempting to re-enact childhood abuse, whereas no studies have ever found any correlation," Joanna explains of non-kinky therapists. With those who do incorporate S&M into their personal lives, however, "there's a better understanding of the differences between consensual kink and an abusive dynamic, which may be more difficult for therapists who aren't kinky themselves." In fact, a recent Northern Illinois University study showed that those who participated in BDSM are far more likely to understand key issues of consent.

But identifying yourself as a kinky professional can come with its challenges, too. Therapist and client will usually have zero relationship outside of the therapeutic space, but that isn't possible in places with small kink scenes. It brings with it the risk that the client will learn personal details about a therapist. Katie suggests that any extra information revealed to a client can tamper with the therapeutic process. "You can get into a bit of a problem if a client is able to glean so much information they can say, 'That person is like me, that's why I'm going to them.'"

Therapy relies on the client being able to create their own reality around the 'blank screen' of the therapist—the fears and emotions that a client projects onto their shrink can be very useful as insights to work with—and real information about a therapist can ruin the process. It might be harder for a client to open up if they know that they shop for spanking paddles at the same leather hardware store. As Kate puts it: "There's a reason it's easier to pick up the phone and call the Samaritans than a member of your family." ...

"6 Sexology Credentials You Need to Know About"

on Thursday, 31 March 2016. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

When you dedicate your professional life to working with human sexuality, you know from the beginning that you are working with a lightning rod topic. Have you ever been at a party, and someone casually asks you what you do? When you answer that you are a sex educator, a sex coach, a sex therapist, have you noticed how ears perk up around the room? People are fascinated, and people are opinionated. Like everything to do with the base level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, everyone has an opinion, and their own private battles, with sex.

 

We’re also still in the formative stages of an emerging trend – we’re seeing today the explosion in sex related information becoming available to the public at large. We’re seeing a proliferation of helping professionals specializing in sexual concerns. We’re seeing more people undertaking study of sexology in depth and building their knowledge beyond their own experience. Never before has the science of sexology and the knowledge it produces been more available to more people.

 

This is an extremely positive development. It means that people no longer need to suffer in silence alone. With the Internet in more homes around the world every year, even proximity is no longer a factor – people can access expert advice from professionals worldwide from the comfort of their own homes.

The other side of this coin, though, is that in this field terms are generally not regulated and standards of education vary. This means that, currently, anyone can call themselves a sex educator, a sex coach, or even a sex therapist. What we see now is highly educated and well trained professionals, mixed together under the same professional designators as pick-up artists and folks that have watched a couple of TED talks and decided that they are a sex expert.

This means that, if you are a human sexuality professional, there has never been a more important time to have credentials. You have invested a lot of time and money to develop competency in understanding sexual concerns and working with clients, and you have every right to want to set yourself apart from those that have not. It is therefore essential that you are aware of the sexology credentials available today, and have the information you need to decide which credentials are appropriate for you.

Here is an overview of 6 important sexology credentials available to human sexuality professionals today:

Kink Aware Professionals (KAP) Designation

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) formed in 1997 with the aim of fighting for sexual freedom and privacy rights for adults who engage in safe, sane and consensual behavior. Today, NCSF has over 50 Coalition Partners, over 100 Supporting Members, and over the years has formed alliances with other organizations that defend sexual freedom rights, including the ACLU, American Association of Sex Educators, Councelors, and Therapists (AASECT), Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), and the Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, among others.

A key program of the NCSF since 2005 has been maintaining an online directory of Kink Aware Professionals. While sexologists and sexuality professionals are listed, the directory includes an incredible diversity of professionals – from accountants to doctors to realtors. The Kink Aware Professional designation signals to clients that a professional is accepting of diverse sexualities, forms of sexual expression, and sexual communities. The Kink Aware Professionals directory has grown to include over 800 professionals in the United States, Canada, and worldwide.

 

To receive the Kink Aware Professional designation, the following is required:

Membership in the NCSF, where there are 3 levels of membership available

Meet ALL requirements listed for Kink Aware Professional designation

To embrace the KAP Statement and to understand and agree to its terms

Once listed, Kink Aware Professionals can display on their own websites this status and membership, to show clearly their acceptance of diversity....

Savage Love Cast

on Thursday, 24 March 2016. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Episode 491

by Dan Savage

Dan Savage comments on the George Mason University case and reads NCSF's Statement, adding, "No need to panic. They're not coming for our whips and our chains."

http://www.savagelovecast.com/episodes/491

"The Ties That Bind"

on Saturday, 13 February 2016. Posted in Consent Counts, NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Columbia Spectator

BY NORA MATHISON

Arya Popescue has a better elevator speech than you. Or at least an introduction that isn’t going to be easily forgotten. The School of Engineering and Applied Science junior is from Romania. She's kinky, trans, and genderqueer. She’s a mechanical engineer, and she leads Converso Virium, Columbia’s BDSM and kink club.

 

BDSM is a composite acronym standing for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. Practitioners don’t necessarily participate in every aspect of BDSM, nor do they necessarily pick one. Kinksters often explore different sexual practices.

 

Sitting at a table on the Lerner Hall ramps, Popescue wears hiking boots, jeans, a T-shirt, and a leather dog collar. She says the collar signifies her submissive role in her current relationship but explains that collars can mean different things for different people. She wears hers constantly.

 

“I’ve kind of known I was kinky forever,” Popescue says. She knew she was kinky—having untraditional sexual interests—before she knew she was transgender, but came out as trans before she came out as kinky. “I didn’t know there was a word for [BDSM] or a community for it until I came here at Columbia and I actually saw CV at the activities fair.”

 

“I don’t remember it like it was yesterday,” she says, but she does remember it was the third of Sept. 3, 2013. Popescue remembers details.

 

Popescue came out as kinky on National Coming Out Day in 2013. Since then, she has constructed her Internet presence as a kinkster. In her profile picture on Facebook, she peeks through her brown hair toward the camera, wearing her collar. She has a FetLife page (like Facebook, but for kinksters), where she can specify her interests within BDSM, who her play partner is, who her toy is, whose toy she is. She has a blog; among her posts are a pasta recipe and a video expose revealing why her Kindle stops working when she plugs in her vibrator.

 

Popescue has never missed a CV meeting. Well, maybe one or two, maximum. “President of Conversio Virium (CV), Columbia University’s Kink Club” is plastered on her résumé. CV meets on Monday nights in Hamilton Hall. It is the oldest BDSM club in the country, founded in 1994. It has even taken heat from conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

 

Popescue’s participation in CV, and the lifestyle as a whole, is driven by her personal inclination towards kinkiness and the fact that, well, she finds BDSM intensely erotic. “I find [BDSM] fun … I find it appealing …  I find it hot as hell.” Her voice slows down as she says this last part.

 

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about whether BDSM is overtly sexual. Emma Bippart-Butler, a first-year at Barnard who attended several CV meetings but does not necessarily identify with the community, observes that kinky practices certainly seem “overtly sexual.”

 

Popescue adamantly disagrees. “It doesn’t have to be sexual,” she argues. She says that limiting kink to the realm of sex is a common misconception cast upon kinksters by vanilla, or non-kinky, outsiders. She points to “munches,” casual gatherings where kinky people “can talk about their jobs or the weather.” Popescue says that more often than not, her own kinky “scenes,” or BDSM encounters, do not arouse her sexually. Rather, she enjoys “the pure fun of the physical sensation and forming a physical connection.”

 

Susan Wright, the founder of and spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, and Michal Daveed, media representative for The Eulenspiegel Society, the largest BDSM community in New York City, both see a strong correlation between kink and sex. But they do leave some wiggle room. Daveed knows several asexual people who participate in BDSM, but she also acknowledges the complexity of the asexual identity.

 

Wright knows kinksters who participate for “spiritual cathartic reasons” as well. She points to suspension, during which consenting participants hang from ropes fastened to their body piercings as an act of physical and spiritual endurance.

 

For Bippart-Butler, curiosity was the only draw to kink. At her first CV meeting, she was surprised by how many of the attendees identified as queer. Daveed confirms that there is a trend of young kinksters increasingly identifying as queer.

 

Wright also observes an overlap between the kinky and the LGBTQ communities. She points to the gay leatherman population as an example of overlapping identities and the intersectionality that permeates BDSM. “They’re part of the gay community, but they’re also part of the kink community,” she says.

 

“We have similar things in common, like the discrimination and the persecution we’re fighting,” Wright continues. “The success of gay marriage, I think, also had an impact on the kink and non-monogamy community, because it’s even more accepted now that your personal, private life really is no one else’s business. … The LGBT community has really paved the way and opened the doors to allow us to be moving forward now, kind of talking about sexuality more.” ...

"BDSM vs the DSM"

on Thursday, 14 January 2016. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

The Atlantic

by MERISSA NATHAN GERSON

Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.

 

This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.

 

The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.

 

“A sexual sadist practices on non-consenting people,” explains NCSF founder Susan Wright, while “someone who is kinky is having consensual enthusiastically desired sex.” The problem with the earlier DSM: It didn’t draw a distinction between the two. A 1998 survey from the NCSF found that “36 percent of S&M practitioners have been victims of harassment, and 30 percent have been victims of discrimination.” As a result, the organization’s website says, “24 percent [have lost] a job or a contract, 17 percent [have lost] a promotion, and 3 percent [have lost] custody of a child.”

 

“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”

 

Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.

 

The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.

 

The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

 

“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”

 

With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.” ...

 

 

“I knew there were therapists around the world diagnosing practicing consensual sadomasochists with mental illness,” he says.

 

At the time that the new DSM was published, Baldwin and Bannon were planning to attend the 1987 march on Washington, D.C., in support of gay rights; after the new criteria came out, they decided to host a panel discussion for mental-health professionals in the State Department auditorium, where they announced the launch of what would come to be known as “The DSM Revision Project.” ...

"Beyond Safe Words: When Saying 'No' in BDSM Isn't Enough"

on Saturday, 12 December 2015. Posted in Consent Counts, NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Broadly

by Trudie Carter-Pavelin

Miss Jackie* sits in the back of a dingy Leeds café in England, sipping tea and speaking urgently. She describes herself as a T-girl (a transgender woman) who has been a veteran of the BDSM scene for over 20 years, save for a seven-year break in the early 2000s.

 

When she returned in 2010, she barely recognized it. Jackie moved to a new town and joined her local munch, an informal pub meetup for the community to socialise and play. "To begin with, the play was very mild, people hardly hit each other. After a while, this couple turned up from one of the other munches in the county, and just seemed to take over," she says. "The woman injured my foot, and flogged me on the back of the head, which is a real no-no. She was falling off her high heels because she was drunk, but she'd more or less appointed herself safety monitor."

 

This behavior went unnoticed by other, inexperienced members, whose knowledge of BDSM came mostly from internet porn. Jackie shudders when she recounts the couple. "They were pushing limits." The man is now banned from a number of British clubs, after an incident when a woman was tied up and touched without permission.

 

Miss Jackie soon became aware that much had changed since her departure from the scene. "I was topping for a friend who was a prostitute, and she seemed surprised that I was polite to her afterwards," she says with a tinge of irony. "She didn't realize that was the norm. She'd had experiences in London where people had forced ketamine on her, and kept her against her will for days."

 

In the BDSM community, to 'grass' or out kink abusers is to isolate yourself. When Jackie appealed to prominent figures to help, she was met with outright hostility. In one email exchange seen by Broadly, one of the country's most influential munch figures told her that any "perceived abuse" was likely just part of a normal master/slave interaction in a power exchange dynamic. "A decent master is not going to want to harm their property on any level," he wrote, much to Jackie's horror.

 

 

"I have never been the same person since I first read that," she says. "If a dom breaks the law, it's considered vanilla law, and nobody will acknowledge it." ...

 

... At the moment, the community is trying its best to self-police. Consent Counts is a network of kink activists aiming to do just that—to open a dialogue and introduce an ethical system of care to the scene. "BDSM subcultures need to develop an ethics of care for ourselves and others, and this can only be achieved through collective efforts and networks of support," a spokesperson explains. "In part this will act as a deterrent from abuse, and show potential abusers that their behaviour will not get buried in the sand and forgotten easily. A collective voice is much more powerful than that of an individual."

 

"Practitioners of BDSM Found To Be Psychologically Healthy"

on Friday, 04 December 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tess M. Gemberling, M.A.

 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

 

Response: Many stereotypes of BDSM (bondage and discipline [B&D], dominance and submission [D/s], sadomasochism [SM],) exist; however, research with practitioners suggests these stereotypes are largely unfounded. Preliminary evidence implies BDSM practitioners are psychologically healthy individuals. This study was conducted to further evaluate these results.

 

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

 

Response: Along with other findings, the majority of results indicates practitioners are well functioning. Overall, participants are healthy in the mental, emotional, and interpersonal aspects of their lives. In addition, practitioners are often victims of violence but are not perpetrators of violence.

 

 

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

 

Response: Instead of stereotypes, we propose BDSM be thought of as a specialized interest, enjoyed without detriment. Therefore, practitioners should be treated with respect. For health professionals, this can be enacted by providing medical advice on BDSM practice only when requested by the patient or when unsafe activities are readily apparent. Instead, clinicians should remain focused on the presenting concerns.

 

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

 

Response: Additional research can provide a more detailed understanding of practitioners’ functioning, such as how victimization relates to mental health. Further, future analyses can compare practitioners to other populations to understand how practitioners relate to others.

 

Citation:

 

Psychological Functioning and Violence Victimization and Perpetration in BDSM Practitioners from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom,”

"Kinky people are mentally and emotionally healthy"

on Thursday, 03 December 2015. Posted in NCSF in the News!, Front Page Headline, Media Updates

WMBF (Myrtle Beach, SC)

 

University of Alabama and University of Central Florida researchers surveyed over 800 kinky people recruited by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) and found they were mentally and emotionally healthy.

 

"I was curious about the stereotypes from a mental health standpoint and we found that these kinky people are well functioning, with little mental health concerns," says Tess M. Gemberling, M.A., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. "They also have healthy romantic relationships."

 

The study, "Psychological Functioning and Violence Victimization and Perpetration in BDSM Practitioners from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom," also investigated people's preferences for BDSM activities and fantasies, and explored whether violence is perpetuated against kinky people. It joins a growing body of research that refutes the stereotype that people who are kinky are inherently dangerous to themselves and others, which is at the root of the discrimination and persecution that kinky people experience.

 

"I wanted to explore more about how the stereotypes interface with reality," says Matt R. Nobles, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Central Florida. "Although more than half of the people in this study have been victims of violence or aggression, extremely few had perpetrated such themselves."

 

In the study, 7.7% of participants reported they had been victims of a BDSM-based hate crime, while 10.2% of participants reported they had been victims of an LGBT-based hate crime.

 

"Parallel to my work with sexual minorities, my interest is in looking at the nature of identity and mental health in a vulnerable group of people," says Robert J. Cramer, Ph.D., Co-Principal Investigator, University of Alabama. "Contrary to popular perceptions, our study shows kinky persons are largely mentally healthy when it comes to conditions such as depression, anxiety and suicide."

 

The study also confirms that for these kinksters it's primarily about consensual power exchange, with 98% preferring to take a specific power exchange role during BDSM. The most commonly reported practices were spanking, slapping and biting, and the use of sexual toys and equipment.

 

"Lawmakers can help by legally recognizing informed consent as the basis of healthy BDSM behavior," says Susan Wright, spokesperson for NCSF. "BDSM is intended to be a mutually beneficial experience that is done by consenting adults."

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