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Guest Blog: Why Fetish Matters

on Friday, 03 May 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

by Russell J. Stambaugh

The avowed goal of this blog is to stop the othering of clients who practice altsex behaviors. Fetishism is the archetypical altsex issue because it is at the heart of how we define a sexual interest as deviant. But in discussing fetishism, it is necessary to discuss language because the word reflects not a single concept, but a confluence of many different ideas, and the distinctions between those ideas are what this article will be about. This leads us into the forest of the social construction of reality, especially that surrounding mental health diagnosis and how altsex clients are encouraged to identify and represent themselves. That is going to require a great deal of historical context.

In giving this context, I have no illusions that this article will start at *THE BEGINNING*. Conflict over the meaning of symbols is at the heart of the human experience since the beginning of language and has its roots in the genetic legacy of ambivalence that makes fight, freeze, or flight responses adaptive for higher animals. Stimuli can be perceived in different ways, and therefore take different symbolic meaning depending on their context. Different behavioral choices have differing outcomes, allowing selection to operate. Social regulation of sexuality is a cultural universal, although there is wide variability in which behaviors are regarded as sexual and which are proscribed. I have chosen to begin my discussion during the Age of Enlightenment because during that time, scientific and popular discourse replaced Church canon in the Western tradition. As such, I realize that this account is likely to under-represent non-Western discourses. I will quote a disproportionate share of nineteenth and twentieth century white males who held the commanding heights of sexological discourse during that period.

19 05 03

The meaning of fetish, and the history of fetishism is intimately bound up with the history of things. Things as things, people as things, and even parts of people as things. One of the insights you get from this study is that Freud was right. If sex isn’t about everything, it surely is about something a great deal broader than the immediacy of procreation. It throws into stark relief the fact that whether we have sexual feelings, or even sexual fixations on things is a different idea that whether we treat our sexual partners very well. So this lecture is not just an attack on othering our clients, but also an attack on the sex negative idea that having fetishistic attractions is inherently devaluing or less than intimate with other human partners. Those are separate ideas that can, but might not necessarily co-occur.

The Invention of Sexual Fetishes.

The term ‘fetish’ was originally coined from anthropology and meant to convey an object or symbol that was believed by its resident culture to possess magical or spiritual powers. Fetish is a concept with colonial overtones, in that the objects of tribal cultures were regarded as fetishes because they lacked magical powers while similar Western cultural symbols were not so regarded. The term first came into use as the Portuguese traders encountered Western African cultural artifacts in their sixteenth century explorations down the coast of that continent in hopes of gratifying their commercial fetishes for the silk, gems, gold and spices of the Far East without having to deal with their commercial competitors and middlemen, the Turks.

This idea that something was thought to be magical but really was not was preserved when the term was ported over to psychology and medicine by the intellectual progenitors of learning theory, the associationists, in the late nineteenth century as modern sexology was just getting its feet on the ground. The leading associationist of his day, and a founding father of modern psychology was the Frenchman Alfred Binet, the developer of what would later be called the Stanford Binet Intelligence Test. Fetishes offered Binet an interesting theoretical opportunity to explain how chance association might cause someone to learn that something was sexy when it wasn’t clearly instrumental for that purpose. If a person had a chance idea, or mental association, with a sexually irrelevant object, such as boot, while otherwise excited or aroused, he might come to permanently associate the idea of boots with sexual arousal. Just as deliberate study could cause someone to learn a language or skill, one could learn to become sexually attracted to something or someone. A fetish was just unfortunate learning as a result of chance experience. This also conformed to Christian notions of the day that held the undisciplined mind was prone to temptation and evil influence, so the concept was an easy sell to a public unfamiliar with psychological concepts. All of this was advanced well before Ivan Pavlov won the 1904 Nobel Prize in physiology that established the field of classical conditioning.

This idea was expropriated by Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his classic work, Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), and yoked into service explaining his idea of the perversions of sexual desire away from their obvious biological purpose of procreation as had been revolutionarily advanced in Charles Darwin’s narrative-changing work, the Origin of Species, (1859). Krafft-Ebing’s reasoning specified that the symptoms of problem sexual behavior were best classified with respect to their relation to the obvious purpose of sexual procreation. Anything which interfered or redirected sexual desire away from sexual procreation was a medical disorder, rather than a moral failing. Any poor wretch who came to Krafft-Ebing complaining that he was obsessed with lady’s boots but could not arrange to impregnate his wife was suffering from fetishism. It may well be that in an age where women didn’t bare their ankles, a well-turned boot was mildly arousing, but if you were so over-the-moon about boots that you couldn’t commit intromission, this was clearly a redirection or perversion of the sexual desire from its evolutionary purpose. While Krafft-Ebing was intent on confronting the religious moralism of how sexual deviance was viewed in his time, his theory preserved social stigma by suggesting that sexual variations were mental disorders. After all, who wanted to be viewed as someone too diseased to consummate procreative sexual relations? Krafft-Ebing was encouraging replacement of the concept of moral degeneracy with the idea of evolutionary or medical degeneracy. Those interested in a more detailed discussion of Krafft-Ebing's thinking can find it here:Richard Frieherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902)

It is not mere happy coincidence that this happened in the middle of the industrial revolution, and industry was creating a cornucopia of consumer goods. For anyone seeking a modern deconstruction of the relation between industry and sexuality, I recommend Gustave Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary (1857) who’s protagonist is led to her destruction by the erosion of the values of country life under the twin late 19th century onslaughts of greater social mobility and consumerism. Despite a persistent narrative among later medical and psychoanalytic writers insisting that almost all fetishists are male, Flaubert and his later critics insist that Emma Bovary is proof that women can be fetishists, too. Indeed, Emma Bovary is the archetypical fetishist, too lost in the objectifications of the trappings of the lush life to care about others, the commercial equivalent of Krafft-Ebing's later sexual theory. And Flaubert tautly draws our attention to the great problem poses by the second industrial revolution: objectification, and he uses commercial fetishism as his argument. ...

To read the rest of this Guest Blog go to Elephant in the Hot Tub 

Porn researchers give media boost

on Thursday, 18 April 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Have ever read science claiming that pornography is addictive because it “burns out your dopamine”, then been confused because you cannot find a diagnosis for “porn addiction” in either the World Health Organization or American Psychiatric Association? You are not alone.

In the last five years, anti-pornography groups have spent millions of dollars marketing fake science to consumers, then profit by selling untested therapies, anti-pornography apps, and books. This stops now.

Scientists and therapists who are experts in human sexuality have come together to provide accurate information to the public in www.realyourbrainonporn.com. The website introduces the basic principles of science, links to studies summarized by the professors who wrote them (www.realyourbrainonporn.com/research), then links you to dozens of scientists and therapists ready to connect (www.realyourbrainonporn.com/experts). These experts include the principle investigator for the first research-based porn literacy curriculum for youth, the first person to coin the expression “sex positive”, the first neuroscience lab to test the addiction model of pornography, and the lab that demonstrated porn did not impact partner satisfaction in the largest pre-registered, failure-to-replicate in the field. Experts’ background includes terminal degrees in addictions, communications and media, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, and physiology, amongst others.

If you have ever read news about pornography and thought it sounded a little too breathless, a bit over the top, or possibly completely fabricated, you are the majority. It is time to correct this public misinformation. Now you have a free resource to share with others!

NCSF Thanks! – 1st Quarter Donation Report

on Wednesday, 17 April 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Thank you to Leather SINS, an NCSF Coalition Partner, for donating $10,000 to NCSF at Kinky Kollege Spring Break in Chicago on March 31st! 

NCSF thanks Dark Odyssey Winter Fire for raising $6,550 specifically for NCSF at our annual reception, and an additional $7,866 was raised for all three beneficiaries—NCSF, Network La/Red and the Baltimore Transgender Alliance. 

NCSF thanks Jaiya, an NCSF Coalition Partner, for donating $1,670 to the NCSF Foundation altogether in the first quarter of 2019! 

NCSF thanks Mistress Lucille, an NCSF Supporting Member, for donating $1,500 raised at Lucille Ballbuster's Birthday Bash in January.  

Thank you to New Mexico Leather League, an NCSF Coalition Partner, for donating $1,051 as their annual CP fundraiser in January. 

Thank you to Marc DePaul for donating $1,000 to the NCSF Foundation in February! 

NCSF thanks James Dunyak, NCSF’s New England Advocate, for donating $800 to the NCSF Foundation since December 2018! 

Thank you Adventures in Sexuality, an NCSF Coalition Partner, for donating $395 that was raised in their “Special Drawing” at Winter Wickedness in February. Thank you also to the attendees for donating $213 at the NCSF table for our Coffee & Consent service. A grand total of $608 was raised for NCSF at this year’s Winter Wickedness!

NCSF thanks Modern Tribe Counseling, an NCSF Coalition Partner which provides in person and distance counseling for our community in GA and FL, for donating $250 for the SouthEast Consent Summit.

NCSF thanks Ms. Martha's Corset Shoppe for donating $250 to our SouthEast Consent Summit in February.

Thank you to NLA Dallas, an NCSF Coalition Partner, for donating $187 in December as their Coalition Partner fundraiser.

Thank you to Sanctuary Studios for donating $131 in December to NCSF.

Thank you to Jaeleen Bennis and Bondassage for donating $100 to NCSF in February.

NCSF thanks The HardPink Sisterhood for donating $100 to the NCSF Foundation on February 11, 2019 that is dedicated to the support of the SouthEast Consent Summit.

NCSF thanks Joel Gleason for donating $100 to the NCSF Foundation's SouthEast Consent Summit.

Incident Reporting & Response – 1st Quarter 2019 report

on Wednesday, 17 April 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response received 41 reports & requests for assistance from individuals, groups and businesses in January, February and March 2019. This is down by over half compared to the 87 requests received in the 1st Quarter of 2018.

NCSF maintains the confidentiality of those who come to us for help, however we balance that need with the need to report the services we are providing and to provide the community with a record of where the need is the greatest.

Here is a breakdown of the cases we dealt with in the 1st Quarter of 2019:

Groups

24 groups requested assistance, slightly up from the 4th Quarter of 2018:

• 7 groups were asking about presenters/organizers or reporting they had banned someone
• 5 groups asked for resources on dealing with a consent incident or proactively creating a consent policy or consent team for their event
• 3 people asked about how to deal with being banned by a group
• 2 groups needed information on dealing with defamation lawsuits
• 2 groups reported being outed to their landlord/HOA
• 1 group needed information about insurance
• 1 group reported discrimination when their hotel broke their contract
• 1 group needed release form language regarding law enforcement officers attending
• 1 group asking about nudity/sexually explicit materials
• 1 group needed a KAP attorney for incorporation and zoning

Professional

There were 8 requests by professionals or for referrals to kink and polyamory aware professionals, similar to the 4th Quarter of 2018:

• 5 people needed referrals to kink and polyamory aware professionals, including an expert witness
• 3 professionals needed resources, research or journal references

Civil

4 requests, compared to 6 requests in the 4th Quarter of 2018:

• 3 involved workplace discrimination because of kink or nonmonogamy
• 1 sex worker asked for a referral for an incorporation attorney

Criminal

There were 3 requests for resources and information involving criminal legal matters, down from 16 requests in the 4th Quarter of 2018:

• 3 people requested resources and referrals for attorneys to assist in defending themselves against accusations of assault, violating Restraining Order, or involving their appeal.

Child Custody

There were 2 requests for resources and referrals for family court attorneys, down from 5 in the 4th Quarter and 11 in the 3rd Quarter of 2018:

• 1 involved a parent who is a sex worker
• 1 involved a parent who is polyamorous

 

Taking the Taboo out of Minority Groups

on Monday, 15 April 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Listen to Poly Anna's Conversation: Four with Susan Wright, Founder of the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom!

Poly Anna is bi and polyamorous. She believes conversation has the power to redefine what most consider "normal." Take the taboo out of perceptions about minority groups with Conversations/S3xploration with Poly Anna on Tuesdays, and with The After Chat with Poly Anna on Thursdays.

#NCSF #ConsentCounts #MeToo #WithPolyAnna #PolySwing #PolyAnna

Multiplicity of the Erotic (MOTE) conference

on Thursday, 11 April 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

We are pleased to announce the inaugural Multiplicity of the Erotic (MOTE) conference in Chicago on Friday, May 24, 2019, with special additional events the night before and the morning after. MOTE is an evolution of the former PASD/CARAS Alt Sex Conference, and will showcase the most cutting edge research and practices in the field of sexuality and sex therapy.

The theme of the first conference is Intersectionalities and Sexuality/Relationship Diversity.

So, Who Will Attend?
Sex researchers, sex therapists, health educators, professors, nurses, counselors, case managers, social workers, community organizers, sex nerds & many more…

To Register:
https://e.sparxo.com/mote-con

$185 for professionals, this also includes fee for CE credit
$90 for students and community members
$25 for Thursday night welcome / fundraiser

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Why Mental Health Practice Guidelines are Crucial for Working with Kink, BDSM, & Fetish

on Friday, 15 March 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

As helping professionals, mental health workers have an ethical and a professional responsibility to provide culturally sensitive care to our clients. Sensitive care is especially crucial for individuals who are underserved and misunderstood in society, such as those involved in kink and fetish. When some find their way to mental health professionals for help, they may be fortunate to find a therapist who is knowledgeable and experienced with kink and BDSM. Yet, many more may find clinicians unfamiliar with kink who have unaddressed biases or may pathologize them. Due to this care gap and high likelihood of negative experiences, people involved in kink often fear being stigmatized and can experience the negative effects of minority stress.

To change this, in the Spring of 2018, a team of highly experienced clinicians gathered to explore what constitutes clinical best practices in working with those who are interested and/or involved in leather, kink, BDSM, and/or fetish eroticism.

Because our goal is to have this project be community-informed, we need YOUR input so our guidelines are culturally aware, clinically relevant, strengths-based, and useful. We invite community-members who are involved in kink/BDSM as well as clinicians, educators, and researchers familiar with the kink and fetish client experiences to share their ideas via our new 2019 Clinical Practice Guidelines Draft Survey. Your involvement will make these guidelines better informed,
more culturally appropriate, and inclusive.

Please invite others to participate as well. When we work together, we can create a safer world and better mental health resources for those who need them!

To feedback form directly: http://bit.ly/draftguidelines

Kink clinical guidelines

For more information:
https://www.kinkguidelines.com/

The NCSF Coalition Partners Met in Portland

on Monday, 11 March 2019. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

The 22nd Annual Meeting of the NCSF Coalition Partners took place in Portland, OR, on March 2-3rd. The Coalition Partner representatives elected the Board Members and discussed new and ongoing projects, like Consent Counts which aims to decriminalize sexual conduct between consenting adults. The Annual Reports on NCSF programs and our goals for the year were discussed by Coalition Partner representatives.

18 Coalition Partners attended the NCSF Annual Meeting in person, online or by proxy:

1st Capital Finance
Adventures in Sexuality
Arizona Power Exchange
Asylum Buffalo
Black & Poly
Catalyst
Columbus Space
F.I.R.E.
FLOG St. Louis
MAsT Boise
New Mexico Leather League
PanEros Foundation
PolyDallas Millennium
Satin Sheet Dreams
StL3, Inc
TES
The Red Chair (TRC)
The Woodshed Orlando

This year, 9 people ran for 5 elected Board seats, all of whom had excellent qualifications. The members of the new NCSF Board are:

Susan Wright – Chairperson
Keira Harbison – Vice-Chair
Ben Schenker – Treasurer
Tess Zachary – Secretary
Archer Shelton
Choc Trei
Elizabeth Newsom, LCSW-Supervisor
J. Tebias
Jackie “Bebe” Harris
Judy Guerin
Rich Richbart
Ruby B Johnson, LCSW, LCDC
Russell J. Stambaugh, PhD, DST, CSSP

Rubys workshop at Annual Meeting

NCSF thanks Ruby B. Johnson, LCSW, LCDC, for providing a Consent Workshop entitled Power: The Individual following the Annual Meeting for CP reps, NCSF Board Members, Advocates and Staff. By the end of the workshops, participants could evaluate coercion, capacity, and advocacy in negotiating power exchange.

Immediately following was a special meeting of the Portland Sex Positive Community Council that discussed the upcoming Northwest Consent Summit on October 5-6th. We hope to see you there!

 

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