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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom

NCSF Survey on Consent

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) wants to hear from you! Please take our Consent Counts survey and tell us what you think about consent: www.ncsfreedom.org/survey.html

As part of decriminalizing BDSM in the legal codes, we need to be able to articulate a clear definition of consent that the BDSM communities believe in. The results of this survey will assist in the creation of a statement on consent that will be presented for the consideration by the BDSM communities at LLC in Seattle in 2013.

NCSF needs your input on defining consent. What do we mean by consent? When is consent invalidated? Does “safe, sane, consensual” still work as a community creed? Are there behaviors that the BDSM communities don’t accept? What is your experience with consent in the BDSM communities?

To participate in discussions of consent online with kinky people both in the US and around the world, join our Consent Counts group at https://fetlife.com/groups/46202  NCSF is committed to supporting and encouraging people to discuss ethical consent so we can move to a more thorough understanding of what consent is, and can provide better education for people who are interested in exploring their sexuality.

NCSF has actively participated in changing the social discourse of BDSM since 1997. The term “consenting adults” is a commonly accepted standard for sexuality today due in a large part to our work. NCSF has pledged to continue to lead the change in political discourse until all consenting adults need not fear prosecution or victimization because of their sexual behavior.

Published in Press Releases

By Susan Wright

The 2008 survey saw a total of 3,058 responses collected. Of those, 2,412 respondents resided in the United States (83.4%). Of the remaining 480 respondents, a total of over 42 other countries were represented. Where appropriate, the data is compared to the 1998 Violence & Discrimination Survey Against Sexual Minorities which collected over 1,000 responses to similar questions over the course of a year. The 1998 survey did not cover business or event-related experiences of harassment, nor did it ask about Internet experiences. The 2008 survey also included more questions about sexual activity and identity.

Table 1. Gender 2008 1998
Women 51% 46%
Men 45% 51%
Transgender 5% 1%
Intersexes 1% 2%

 

Table 2. Sexual Orientation
2008 1998
Heterosexual 41% 40%
Bisexual 35% 36%
Gay/lesbian 22% 22%
Other 7% 4%

 

A total of 1,146 (37.5%) respondents indicated that they had either been discriminated against, had experienced some form of harassment or violence, or had some form of harassment or discrimination aimed at their BDSM-leather-fetish-related business. Of the respondents who reported some form of persecution,

  • 476 (41.5%) identified as male
  • 615 (53.7%) identified as female
  • 9 (.8%) identified as intersexed
  • 78 (6.8%) identified as transgendered

(Sexual orientation, like gender, was a question which required some answer, but allowed respondents to choose as many as they felt might apply, so the percentage totals more than 100%.)

Of the 1,146 respondents who indicated that they had either been discriminated against or had experienced some form of harassment or violence,

  • 380 (33.2%) identified as heterosexual,
  • 440 (38.4%) identified as bisexual
  • 292 (25.5%) identified as gay or lesbian.
  • 97 (8.5%) indicated that they identified in some other way from heterosexual, bisexual or gay/lesbian.

(Sexual orientation, like gender, was a question which required some answer, but allowed respondents to choose as many as they felt might apply, so the percentage totals more than 100%.)

The sexual orientation of respondents who were discriminated against or had experienced some form of harassment or violence is compared in Table 6.1 to the total percentage of respondents who identified their orientation. It is interesting to note that Gay/lesbian, Bisexual and Other respondents have slightly higher rates of persecution than their average percentage of total respondents, while Heterosexuals are less likely to be discriminated against.

Table 3. Sexual Orientation
and Discrimination
Total Percent
2008
Respondents
Percent
Persecuted
Gay/lesbian 22% 25.5%
Bisexual 35% 38.4%
Heterosexual 41% 33.2%
Other 7% 8.5%
Total 105% 105.6%

 

In 1998, the survey asked: "Are you completely 'out' about your involvement in sexual minority practices? "62% stated they were not "completely out." That is statistically almost the same as the 59.5 and 59.7% of respondents in the current survey who said they weren't out to work and/or family. 
 
11.3% (346) of the total number of respondents (3,058) reported being discriminated against by professional or personal service providers. That is 30% (346) of the respondents who were discriminated against (1,146). Those respondents could check one or more of the specific ways they were discriminated against (Table 8.), with 48.8% discriminated against by a medical doctor, and 39.3% discriminated against by a mental health practitioner.
 

Table 4. Discrimination by Professionals
Medical doctor 48.8%
Mental health practitioner 39.3%
Police or govt. employee 25.4%
Other Professional service provider 8.4%
Lawyer 7.8%
Other Personal service provider 6.1%
Dentist 1.7%
Building contractor 1.7%
Accountant 1.2%
Other 6.9%

 

In total, 203 (6.6%) respondents stated their business had been harassed or discriminated against.

Respondents could check one or more of the specific ways they were discriminated against
(Table 5.).

Table 5. Business Discrimination
Negative media coverage 26.1%
Harassment by police/author 22.2%
Harassment by neighbors 20.7%
Harassment by organizations 20.2%
Loss of lease 17.7%
Refused credit card services 14.8%
Loss of business 13.8%
Refused insurance coverage 8.9%
Loss of occupancy certificate 4.9%
Arrest 3.0%
Fines 2.0%
Other 24.6%


When asked, "Have you curtailed your use of the Internet for fear of prosecution?" More than one-third of the respondents, 1,065 (34.8%) of the 3058 respondents, said "yes". Respondents could check one or more of the specific ways they curtailed their Internet use (Table 10.).

Table 6. Curtailed Internet Use
Didn't post image 71.5%
Didn't visit website 45.7%
Didn't post text 43.4%
Didn't link to website 38.7%
Didn't join email group 31.0%
Posted 18-over warn 25.7%
Barred users 16.1%
Didn't add meta-text 8.0%
Other 11.0%

 

9.3% of respondents, 285 out of the total returned surveys, reported that US 2257 had an impact on their use of the Internet. Of the 1,065 respondents who indicated that they had curtailed their use of the Internet regarding BDSM activities, 214 (20.1%) reported that US 2257 was a significant reason for that curtailment. 

When respondents who experienced violence and/or harassment were asked, "Did you press charges?" 90% said no as compared to 96% of the respondents in the 1998 survey who did not press charges. 

Table 7. Reasons Declined To Press Charges
Fear of further harassment 41.0%
Fear of family disapproval 24.1%
Fear of job safety 22.2%
Fear of legal repercussions 21.9%
Fear of losing child custody 10.6%

 

Copyright Susan Wright, Survey of Violence & Discrimination Agaisnt Sexual Minorities (2008)
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
917-848-6544

 

Published in BDSM Survey

NCSF was asked by the DSM Paraphilias subworkgroup to respond to their proposed changes to the DSM's consensual paraphilias.  This is our letter to the editor of the Archives of Sexual Behavior that was published on July 15, 2010. 

Depathologizing Consensual Sexual Sadism, Sexual Masochism, Transvestic Fetishism, and Fetishism

[Letter to the editor]

Archives of Sexual Behavior


Archives of Sexual Behavior
July 16, 2010
DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9651-y 
The final publication is available at www.springerlink.com


Corresponding author:
Susan Wright
National Coalition for Sexual Freedom
410 Guilford Ave, #127
Baltimore, MD 21202
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Depathologizing Consensual Sexual Sadism, Sexual Masochism, Transvestic Fetishism, and Fetishism

[Letter to the Editor]

         The DSM-V Paraphilias Subworkgroup's suggested revision to differentiate between paraphilias and Paraphilic Disorders appears to be a step forward in depathologizing unusual sexual interests. Paraphilia diagnoses are regularly misused in criminal and civil proceedings as an indication that individuals cannot control their behavior; these individuals turn for assistance to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), a national advocacy organization that advances the rights of, and advocates for consenting adults in the BDSM-leather-fetish, swing, and polyamory communities. 

         One recent child custody case referred to NCSF illustrates the common misunderstanding that legal and social service professionals have with the DSM-IV-TR, and is the first documented reaction to the proposal to differentiate between paraphilias and Paraphilic Disorders. The children were removed in July 2009 while psychological evaluations were performed on the mother and the children, which concluded there was no mental illness.[1} However the case worker with the Department of Social Services Children's Division in the Midwestern state where this case occurred sent the following January 21, 2010 letter to the mother’s court appointed psychologist: (DSS, 2010):

         "With regards to [mother's] alternative lifestyle; can she separate this from her parenting? There has been some questions arise from other team members regarding her sexual sadism. These are as follows:

         "We were made aware at the last FST meeting that while all parties involved have seen the information provided regarding [mother's] blog and website, no action has been taken to determine how it affects the children or is factored into the stated case goal of reunification with [mother]. The following information is relevant:

A. Sexual Sadism is considered a form of paraphilia in accordance with the DSM-IV-TR.

B. [Mother] admitted in court on March 9, 2009 that she was a "domme" – slang for a female sexual sadist.

C. Sexual Sadism involves inflicting pain and suffering on another individual in order to achieve sexual arousal." …

         "Sexual sadism on the web has the following information: 'The essential feature of sexual sadism is a feeling of sexual excitement resulting from administering pain, suffering or humiliation on another person. In extreme cases, sexual sadism can lead to serious injury or death for the other person. According to the DSM these catastrophic results are more likely when the paraphilia is diagnosed as severe, and when it is associated with antisocial personality disorder.[2}  They may experience distressed or impaired functioning because of the sadistic behaviors or fantasies. This distress and impairment may be due to the fact that the partner is not consenting. The diagnosis of sexual sadism is complicated by several factors, beginning with the fact that most persons with the disorder do not voluntarily enter therapy.'"

         "[Mother] indicated she gave up this lifestyle in March. However the blog and stories that were found were posted to her website in May. There are concerns that she is still a moderator of the [BDSM] yahoo group. I have attached pages from her website in hopes that you can explore with [mother] her current involvement with this alternative lifestyle."

         The CPS letter concludes with the recommendation that: "Even though [mother] is complying with attendance in therapy, we feel the above issues need to be explored and addressed."

         At the final permanency hearing in February, 2010 the mother's lawyer submitted to the judge the proposed revisions for the DSM-V to separate the paraphilias from Paraphilic Disorders, resulting in a court determination to re-evaluate her entire case. The judge specifically chastised the Department of Social Services for not being aware of the proposed changes for the DSM-V. Based on the proposed revisions, in March the mother was awarded custody of three of the children, with the father retaining custody of one child in order to take advantage of his health care coverage.

         As this example shows, when individuals who practice BDSM are brought to the attention of authorities, they are regularly misdiagnosed with a mental disorder. In 2009, NCSF was asked for help by 132 people regarding child custody/divorce issues directly involving their alternative sexual practices (NCSF, 2009). The year before, a total of 157 individuals contacted NCSF for help with child custody/divorce issues (NCSF, 2008).  In total, almost 500 people each year request help from NCSF because of discrimination or persecution due to their alternative sexual practices.

         Therefore the implications of "ascertaining a paraphilia" and "diagnosing a paraphilic disorder" are critical to depathologizing consensual paraphilias. I am concerned that if sexual sadism receives its own diagnosis code separate from Sexual Sadism Disorder, social services and legal professions will continue to think that anyone who practices consensual sexual sadism (or sexual masochism, fetishism and transvestic fetishism) therefore has a mental disorder.

         The consensual paraphilias should be mentioned as the healthy comparison to a Paraphilic Disorder, much like various sexual behaviors are referred to in the proposed Hypersexual Disorder. Cybersex and masturbation don't have separate diagnosis codes in the DSM, and it is equally erroneous to assign separate codes for the paraphilias when they are not mental disorders or of clinical concern. For the same reason, the consensual paraphilias shouldn't be listed among the V-Codes.

         Separating sexual behaviors (paraphilias) from the mental disorders (Paraphilic Disorders) is the first step in depathologizing consensual alternative sex. The second step is defining what exactly constitutes clinically significant distress. NCSF often consults with individuals who suffer distress and impairment in their social and occupational lives (ie. interpersonal difficulties) because their desires conflict with current societal standards. These standards stem in a large part from the DSM itself: pathologizing unusual sexual interests has led to increased discrimination and discouraged individuals from seeking treatment for physical and mental health problems (Wright, 2008).

         A distinction must be made in the DSM-V between distress imposed by societal stigma, and distress that is generated internally. As seen in the above referenced child custody case, mental health professionals are not the only ones who consult the DSM. When attorneys, judges, and social workers read the diagnoses in the DSM, they see "distressed or impaired" as the determiner of mental illness. Without a comprehensible definition, they look at the individual who is on trial or in a child custody battle, and that individual certainly appears distressed. They even speculate that if the individual gave up their BDSM practices, then their life wouldn't be in disarray, so clearly they must be suffering a mental disorder because their sexual behaviors are obligatory or "obsessive" (DSS, 2010).

         Therefore the current list by which distress and impairment are diagnosed must be rejected: 1) are obligatory, 2) result in sexual dysfunction, 3) require participation of nonconsenting individuals, 4) lead to legal complications, or 5) interfere in social relationships. Legal complications and interpersonal difficulties are common consequences of the stigma and discrimination against BDSM practices. In the Second National Survey of Violence & Discrimination Against Sexual Minorities, a total of 1,146 (37.5%) of the respondents indicated that they had either been discriminated against or had experienced some form of harassment or violence (Wright, 2008). As a result, 60% of the 3,000 respondents are not "out" about their BDSM interests; the stress of being closeted and/or coming out promotes distress and impairment in these individuals, similar to that experienced by homosexuals.

         In addition, once a Paraphilic Disorder is diagnosed, can it ever be in remission? If so, what are the mechanisms for determining that? If the distress and impairment are resolved, does the individual go back to the ascertainment category? As of now, once a mental disorder is diagnosed, it appears to apply for the lifetime of the individual.

         Finally, it must be made clear that Paraphilic Disorders are extremely rare. In particular, the descriptive text for Sexual Sadism Disorder needs to clearly state that it is limited to forensic populations, and, as Krueger (2009) states, "virtually all of the published papers using DSM criteria for Sexual Sadism have been done on studies of forensic populations." This will help prevent the conflation of those who practice consensual paraphilias with those who have a Paraphilic Disorder.


[1] All names and locations have been removed to protect the identity of those involved.

[2] Bolded in original letter despite there being no evidence the mother has antisocial personality disorder.


References

Krueger, R.B. (2009). The DSM Diagnostic Criteria for Sexual Sadism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, published online 08 December, 2009.

Department of Social Services, Children's Division. January 21, 2010 letter.

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (2009) (retrieved 5/7/10). 2009 Incident Response Report
     [Online]. Available: https://ncsfreedom.org/index.php?option=com_keyword&id=318

National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (2008) (retrieved 5/6/10). 2008 Incident Response Report
     [Online]. Available: https://ncsfreedom.org/index.php?option=com_keyword&id=308

Wright, S. (2008) (retrieved 5/6/10). Second National Survey of Violence & Discrimination
     Against Sexual Minorities [Online]. Available: https://ncsfreedom.org/images/pdfs/BDSM_Survey/2008_bdsm_survey_analysis_final.pdf

Download a PDF of this article.

Published in DSM Resources
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About DSM-V Revision Project

The DSM Revision project is attempting to depathologize BDSM in the APA Diagnostic and Statistic Manual.

Goal:
The goal of the DSM-V Revision Project is to keep people from being discriminated against and persecuted because the current APA guidelines say BDSM is indicative of mental illness.

Contact:
Susan Wright
,
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Director of the DSM-V Revision Project.
susan@ncsfreedom.org

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