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Guest Blog: Sexual Behaviors in the United States and in Quebec: Looking at Sex Variation

on Wednesday, 15 August 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

Elephant in the Hot Tub

by Russell J. Stambaugh

In July of last year, Indiana University School of Public Health researcher Debby Herbenick and her study team published the first replication of Ed Laumann et al’s National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) in nearly 25 years. Commissioned to provide a scientific basis for sexual health interventions in response to the AIDS crisis, the NHSLS was limited to asking questions about hetrosexuality, homosexuality, and those behaviors most instrumental in HIV transmission. Laumann et al, wisely focused on social networking theory in the hope that understanding who was sleeping with whom might guide policy. But the NHSLS did not inquire broadly about sexual variation. It barely made it through the Congressional appropriation process over the politics of using public money to pay researchers to ask citizens questions about their sexual behavior. Kink was simply too outrè to include and retain hope of funding.

Despite the fact that Karl Marx first used survey methods to forecast London election results in the 1840s, and the US had been regularly using surveys for a variety of purposes since the 1940’s, the NHSLS was the first and only investigation of US sexual behavior using a statistically representative sample of the US population until Herbenick’s recent work. Not that Laumann’s work accomplished much politically. Following his publishing of The Social Organization of Sexuality (1994) and Sex in America (1995) based on the NHSLS dataset, fear provoked by the AIDS crisis led the Federal Government to squander over a billion dollars on ineffective abstinence-only education which relied upon none of this research team’s insights. But that study did provide the first sound statistical basis for describing who and was having sex with whom, and what kinds they were having among the various common sexual practices that comprise the modal portion of the spectrum of sexual variability. It is the single most frequently cited work in the sociology of sex since the work of Alfred Kinsey.

Herbenick has been conducting sexuality studies on representative US samples for eight years. Most of these have looked at sexual variation issues related to heterosexual and LGBT orientation, modal sex behavior, and even and sex toy use. Spurred by the dark whispers of various insurgents and her own towering scientific curiosity, Herbenick, D, Bowling, J, Fu, T, Dodge, B, Guerra-Reyes, L and Saunders, S, in PLOS One (2017) broadened the spectrum of behaviors investigated, directly replicating Laumann’s questions about conventional practices, but inquiring substantially more broadly. Herbenick’s 2015 questionnaire published therein was not a comprehensive Noah’s Ark of every conceivable variant practice, but it did cover the rudiments of homosexual practices; multiple partner behaviors; kink, sex toy and erotica use; and inquired about internet use and mobile apps. To repeat, this study provides the first inquiry ever about such an assortment of practices on a representative US sample. And it provides plenty of brand new information and basis for suggestions about how those of us interested in further research on CNM, polyamory and kink might delve next for a deeper understanding of the relationship between kink, mental health concepts, and the management of social stigma. This in turn, is valuable to therapists who might treat the problems and discontents of the sexually adventurous.

Here is a very abbreviated summary of the study results. These are lifetime percentages of the listed behaviors for men and women:

Behavior
M%
F%
Vaginal intercourse:
85
83
Gave partner oral sex:
83
82
Received oral sex:
85
85
Insertive anal sex:
46
-
Received anal sex:
09
37
Worn sexy underwear/lingerie:
26
75
Partnered sex in a public place:
45
43
Tied up partner, or been tied up:
26
22
Playfully whipped or been whipped:
16
14
Spanked or been spanked:
30
34
Used vibrator/dildo:
33
50
Used an anal sex toy:
18
16
Sex enhancement pills/herbal supps:
21
08
Read erotic stories:
57
57
Sex guide or sex self-help book:
32
34
Used a phone app related to sex:
12
06
Looked at a sexually explicit magazine:
79
54
Sexually explicit video/‘porn’:
82
60
Sex over Facetime/Skype:
14
11
Nude or semi-nude photo of self:
24
27
Received nude or semi-nude photo:
41
27
Flirted with someone in chat/SMS:
40
36
Gone to a strip club:
59
30
Taken a class/workshop about sex:
04
04
Had a threesome:
18
10
Had group sex:
12
06
Gone to a sex party or swingers party:
06
05
Gone to a BDSM club or dungeon:
04
03

In addition to these gender differences, the Herbenick team tabulated data about age cohorts, and how many people had done the behaviors in the last month and last year. They also inquired about the subjective appeal of the above behaviors, which was in all cases broader than actual participation. Of course, behavior and meaning are highly variably associated. The research team addresses this explicitly in accounting for the large number of lower frequency sexual behaviors that are conducted by less than two percent of respondents in the last month but have much higher aggregate lifetime percentages. These data focus on behavior, and appeal, but not on other attitudes or identifications so it is fair to say that these data tell us a lot about who has had sex scenes with multiple partners simultaneously but does not tell us about polyamory or consensual nonmonogamy. Although some of the signature behaviors of BDSM are asked about directly, it is not possible to estimate the overall prevalence of the main BDSM behaviors without items addressing cross dressing or fetishism. We eagerly await the team’s later report about trans, gay, lesbian and heterosexual behavioral differences in these behaviors.

Still, much can be said about this rich data trove that comes from the brave first effort to collect systematic data on a much broader spectrum of sexual practices. The first observation is that, like Christian Joyal’s team’s research on Quebecoises, the conventional romantic behaviors remain widely the most popular. The largest proportion of respondents in both data sets find them appealing and in both data sets, appeal is broader than participation. In both data sets, a very wide bandwidth of sexual variability is common, and an even broader bandwidth is uncommon, but statistically frequent enough to be practiced by more than 5% of the population. Whatever one’s moral judgments might be, none of these behaviors were statistically aberrant. In this sense, they constitute a partial validation of Joyal’s conclusions about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s paraphilia diagnoses, even though Herbenick did not attempt a direct replication: appeal and frequency of most behaviors do not justify calling any of these activities paraphilias except taking classes and workshops and attending BDSM clubs or dungeons if the definition of ‘paraphilia’ requires they be statistically anomalous.

For comparison, here's a look at Joyal and Carpentier’s lifetime frequencies on their sample of questions based on the eight paraphilias of the DSMs.

Voyeurism
Men: 60%
Women: 35%
Exhibitionism
Men: 06%
Women: 03%
Fetishism
Men: 40%
Women: 48%
Frotteurism
Men: 34%
Women: 31%
Sadism
Men: 09%
Women: 05%
Masochism
Men: 19%
Women: 28%
Transvestism
Men: 07%
Women: 06%
Sex with a child
Men: 01%
Women: 00%

Joyal and Carpentier’s questions do not line up well with Herbenick’s. For example, the psychiatric definition of voyeurism as being aroused by viewing someone non-consensually is very different from viewing porn or receiving a sexy pic from a willing partner. Herbenick did not report questions that assessed frotteurism or cross dressing at all. Additionally, cross dressing means very different things in Gay female impersonation, heterosexually identified cross dressing, fetishistic cross dressing and humiliation play, ‘shemale’ porn, and transgender sexualities where it is not technically cross dressing at all because clothing is fully appropriate to one’s (non-traditional) gender. Sadism and masochism also track poorly to ’whipped or been whipped’ and ‘spanked or been spanked’ questions where power role is not specified. Joyal’s and Carpentier’s conclusion that 48% of Quebecois respondents endorse at least one ‘paraphilic’ behavior begs for a comparison statistic from Herbenick’s sample about how many Americans had done at least one of any BDSM or multiple sex partner activity lifetime, last year, or last month, although this would still exclude the nonconsensual paraphilias Joyal included in his overall figure.

It takes some reading between the lines, but in many way, these figures look similar.

That said, the participation of the most popular single dimension of BDSM: spanking, runs at least 7 times the frequency of ever having attended a BDSM club or dungeon. If we recognize that not all ‘spankos’ regard themselves as kinksters and recognize the non-overlap of those who prefer whipping, role play, bondage, and the absent major categories of crossdressing and gender play, and fetishism, it is probable that participation in BDSM communities covers about 10 percent or less of people who have ever tried kinky behaviors at least once so far in their lifetimes in Herbenick’s sample. This makes those kinksters who do participate in ‘out’ community activities seem like an elite vanguard who are at risk of being systematically different from the bulk who do not socially participate. This also suggests that considerable risks attend our efforts to extrapolate what we know about kink from studies of kink samples of convenience drawn from socially ‘out’ kinksters. I note also that in S.Wright, D. Cox and R. Stambaugh’s 2014 Consent Violations Survey, 70% of our sample of convenience stated that they were not out to family, co-workers, or people with whom they lived. I am using ‘out’ here in quotes to mean out enough to participate on-line or socially in kink, a definition shared by neither Joyal’s team nor Herbenick’s.

These results do not inquire directly about the important phenomenon of on-line sexual communities. But they do provide some basis for reassuring us against panic stemming from spreading technology use. If negative health or psychological effects attend technology use, surely the low rates of use of phone apps, for example, preclude epidemics related to their use. Men and women have strikingly similar rates of picture sharing on-line. This does not prove that they are sent and received consensually, or such behavior is satisfying, but the appeal rates of these behaviors suggest that many find the fantasy appealing in prospect despite media-documented risks and problems.

©Russell J Stambaugh, PhD, Ann Arbor, August 2018

Race Bannon Advocacy Award!

on Tuesday, 07 August 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

NCSF is proud to announce that the 2018 Race Bannon Advocacy Award will be presented to Race Bannon on Friday August 10th.

NCSF is honoring Race with our award in recognition of his support for research, community development and advocacy, and for a lifetime of tireless work and enduring contributions to the alternative sexuality communities. NCSF has named our advocacy award after Race, and will present the Race Bannon Advocacy Award to a professional every year whose work has made a significant impact on our communities and our fight against discrimination.

The pop-up award ceremony will be held at 575 Castro Street at 6:30 pm, the former site of Harvey Milk’s camera shop in San Francisco, as a way to remember the activists whose footsteps we follow.

Race Bannon has been an organizer, writer, educator, speaker and activist in the LGBT, leather/kink, polyamory and HIV/STI prevention realms since 1973. He’s authored two books, been published extensively, spoken to hundreds of audiences, created Kink Aware Professionals (KAP) the world's largest kink-friendly psychotherapist and medical referral service, was a leader of The DSM Project that led to a beneficial change in the way psychotherapy views BDSM, founded a groundbreaking alternative sexuality publishing company, been an internet radio sex talk show host, received national and local awards, appeared in numerous documentaries, and currently also writes for the Bay Area Reporter. His blog is www.bannon.com.

New NCSF Ombuds Committee Members Appointed

on Tuesday, 10 July 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

NCSF is proud to announce 5 new members of the Ombuds Committee who will serve 2-year terms. The Ombuds Committee handles complaints and concerns regarding the conduct of NCSF officers and staff, and the operations of NCSF institutions. The NCSF Ombuds Committee is an Advisory Committee that can review Coalition administration and activities, assuring ethical and effective fulfillment of NCSF’s mission and goals.

The Ombuds Committee members are:

Jill Carter, International Ms. Leather 1996, has been active in the leather lifestyle for over 40 years. Jill was the driving force behind the formation and development of the Ms. and Mr. World Leather Event. She is proud to be one of the seven original ONYX Pearls, and currently serves as president of Mid-Atlantic Onyx Pearls. She holds dual Masters in Business and Human Resource Management and is a trained and certified mediator/facilitator.

Kathy Slaughter has a Masters in Social Work from the University of Michigan, including a certificate in Women’s Studies, and a BA in Philosophy, and has a private practice in Indiana called Soaring Heart Counseling.

Rik Newton-Treadway (Hooker) is the founder of Mid-Atlantic Leather Women & Mid-Atlantic Leather Women Bootblack Contests. He is currently the producer for Baltimore King & Queen of Pride and The Lady Lisa Drag Stage @ Baltimore's Pride in The Park.

Michelle Wilson is a financial adviser at Athens Impact Socially Responsible Investments and presents on Financial Planning for Blended Families for polyamory folks and the BDSM community.

Bob Hannaford is the co-owner of Couples Cruise and Naughty Events, which produces Naughty in N’awlins. He helped found the Annual Sexual Freedom Parade in New Orleans to celebrate pride in all sexual freedom, orientations and expression. He is a former NCSF Board Member and has been involved in sexual freedom advocacy for over 20 years.

 

NCSF thanks our Ombuds Committee for serving our constituents!

If you’d like to reach the Ombuds Committee, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Incident Reporting & Response – 2nd Quarter 2018 report

on Monday, 09 July 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

By Susan Wright, Director of IRR

NCSF’s Incident Reporting & Response received 76 reports & requests for assistance from individuals, groups and businesses in April, May and June 2018. That is slightly down from the 87 reports & requests in the 1st Quarter 2018, but still twice as many requests as the last two quarters of 2017.

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 2nd Quarter of 2018:

Criminal

There were 29 requests for resources and information involving criminal legal matters – 25% less than we received in the 1st quarter:

  • 23 of those requests came from kinky or non-monogamous people who reported an assault, sexual assault, harassment and revenge porn, or were requests by prosecutors and investigators who needed education about consensual BDSM practices and referrals for expert witnesses.
  • 6 people requested resources and referrals to attorneys and expert witnesses to assist in defending themselves against accusations of assault, sexual assault, harassment or parole violations.

Groups

27 groups needed assistance compared to 29 groups in the 1st quarter of 2018:

  • 14 groups needed help dealing with consent incidents or were inquiring about presenters/organizers
  • 4 groups needed assistance in creating consent policies for their group
  • 1 group, FetLife, was the subject of 166 reports of cyber-bulling and sexual harassment on FetLife in conjunction with the Deactivation Day protests
  • 4 groups needed assistance with business formation and zoning
  • 3 groups had their event challenged either by the host hotel or outside groups or threats of outing
  • 1 group asked for assistance in doing outreach to the police to stop harassment and discrimination

Professional

There were 9 requests from professionals or those looking for sex positive professionals:

  • 3 people needed help finding kink aware and sex positive mental health professionals,
  • 2 professionals requested education on BDSM & consent and ageplay,
  • 2 professional inquired about setting up sex positive activist networks in other countries
  • 1 professional asked if they could translate NCSF materials into Greek
  • 1 professional needed assistance with an analysis of FOSTA

Child Custody & Divorce

There were 8 requests for resources and information regarding child custody, about the same as the 7 who reported in the 1st Quarter of 2018:

  • 5 involved BDSM (2 with FetLife photos)
  • 2 involved polyamorous relationships
  • 1 involved sex work

Civil

3 requests, compared to 7 requests in the 1st Quarter of 2018:

  • 1 person was attacked when an event was attacked by religious political extremists
  • 1 person needed assistance with being outed
  • 1 person needed options for legal protections because polyamorous people can’t get married

 

If you would like to make a report or request educational resources and referrals to professionals, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NCSF Thanks! – 2nd Quarter Donation Report

on Monday, 09 July 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

NELA donated $3,500 that was raised at their 2018 Fetish Fair Fleamarket #50 held in February. Thank you to our Coalition Partner, NELA!

Thank you to Jaiya, Inc., an NCSF Coalition Partner, for donating $1,830 to the NCSF Foundation in April, $1,425 in May, and $550 in June 2018 for a total of $3,805 this quarter!

CLAW, an NCSF Supporting Member, generously donated $1,000 from their April 2018 Cleveland Leather Annual Weekend event.

The National Leather Association – Dallas, an NCSF Coalition Partner, donated $710 as their annual CP fundraiser for NCSF.

Thank you to Marc Depaul for donating $500 to the NCSF Foundation in June!

Thank you to Off the Cuffs: a kink and BDSM podcast and NCSF Coalition Partner for donating $207 to the NCSF membership group and $307 to the NCSF Foundation.

Thank you to Keira Harbison for holding a Facebook Birthday Fundraiser and raising $220 to donate to NCSF.

NCSF thanks James Dunyak, our New England Advocate, for donating $100 to NCSF in June!

Thank you to Les Bon Temps, Supporting Member of NCSF, for donating $50 as their CP fundraiser in May.

 

NCSF also thanks all of our donors who wish to remain anonymous. We can't do our work without your support!

NCSF FOSTA/SESTA Update and Call to Action

on Sunday, 01 July 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

NCSF has been working hard with our allies to mitigate the harm of FOSTA/SESTA. Now we need your help!

NCSF has been invited by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to submit an amicus brief in its recently filed proactive legal challenge to the new FOSTA legislation - Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al vs. U.S. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/06/eff-sues-invalidate-fosta-unconstitutional-internet-censorship-law

We have also been invited to submit potential legislative amendments to the Free Speech Coalition for submission to Congress. In order to do this, and to build a case for future actions, we need to document any harm to our constituents created by this legislation, including payment processing issues for events. If you have had your event, organization or business impacted, or have taken measures out of fear of being impacted, please send us a report as soon as possible.

We need the following information: Name, zip code, email, phone number (optional) and a brief description of the incident(s) and date(s). Please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This information will be kept confidential.

NCSF participated in the first ever Sex Worker Lobby Day to educate lawmakers on the harmful effects of FOSTA/SESTA on June 1st. The response from Congressional offices was positive and we urge all of you to continue the process with your representatives. In August, Congress is typically in recess and representatives are usually available for meetings in their home districts. We suggest doing outreach to SWOP chapters (Sex Workers Outreach Project—www.swopusa.org) in your area and work with them to develop a lobbying plan.

NCSF can help prepare you to lobby and will be hosting a lobbying webinar on August 6th focused on this legislation. We look forward to working with all of you on these issues—please contact Judy Guerin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to organize your own lobbying effort.

NCSF also participated in a national strategy meeting on June 21st & 22nd focused on sex worker rights and FOSTA/SESTA, which was attended by national sex worker rights leaders, the ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Speech Coalition. A statement of national principles for the sex workers rights movement was developed and strategy plans for future actions were discussed.

We really need everyone to be as active as possible on this issue—lobby, write a letter to your representatives and support sex workers in your area. This is about everyone’s sexual freedom and free speech rights!

Touch of Flavor Episode 035 – Consent and Sexual Freedom With Susan Wright

on Thursday, 28 June 2018. Posted in NCSF News

Touch of Flavor

If you’ve been listening to our show you’ve heard us mention the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) many times. On today’s episode we’re speaking with the NCSF’s founder Susan Wright about the important work the NCSF is doing, the current climate around kink and polyamory, and what to do if being kinky lands you in trouble.

We’re also taking a deep dive into that most critical of topics – consent. We discuss the importance of consent, best practices for obtaining consent, and resources that are available if your consent is violated (or you’re accused of violated someone’s consent).

 yes speak bubble

BREAKING NEWS from the Revise F65 Project: WHO takes BDSM and fetishism off the sick list

on Tuesday, 19 June 2018. Posted in Front Page Headline, NCSF News

The World Health Organization (WHO) follows the Nordic countries in repealing sexual minorities with consenting practices from the International Classification of Diseases in the new revision ICD-11.

“This is a milestone in the work for human rights and sexual liberation,” says Ingvild Endestad, leader of FRI, the Norwegian LGBT organization for sexual and gender diversity. “Consensual sexuality has nothing to do with psychiatry. This is an immensely important recognition of the sexual diversity among us,” she says.

18 6 19 2

Endestad gives Svein Skeid and FRI’s Revise F65 committee much of the credit for the victory. Human rights standards are part of the professional basis for the reform and the recommendations from Revise F65 are entirely taken into account.

“The work to remove BDSM and fetish diagnoses has been part of the Norwegian LGBT organization since 1996. After more than 20 years of sexual political efforts the Revise F65 committee, with Svein Skeid in the lead, has fulfilled its mandate both nationally (2010) and internationally,” she says.

“The withdrawal of fetishism, transvestism, and sadomasochism as mental illnesses can lead to the same pride and freedom that other queer groups enjoy. The revision of the F65 ICD chapter can also make it easier to encourage research, get rid of anti BDSM laws and become included in national laws against discrimination,” Endestad concludes.

Ground-breaking pioneering work

“Denmark, which removed transvestism and sadomasochism from its national list of diseases in the 1990’s, was our big source of inspiration,” says Svein Skeid, the leader of Revise F65. Skeid and psychologist Odd Reiersøl started a ground-breaking cooperation across national borders and sexual orientations where dozens of activists, organizations and professionals contributed.

18 6 19 1

“It is very important for these individuals that society recognizes them as equal citizens,” expressed the director of the health department, Lars-Erik Holm, to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter November 11th 2008, when the three diagnoses were abolished in Sweden.

“I heard the news on a Norwegian radio station and understood that an equivalent removal could also be within reach in Norway,” Skeid tells.

“I had recently been in Stockholm during Europride and given the organization RFSU our arguments, he says. I became very touched by the Director General’s statement: ‘The health department wants to emphasize that these behaviors are neither illnesses nor perversions.’”

The Nordic model

Within 6 years the diagnoses were repealed in all the Nordic countries, patterned after the Norwegian model and the pioneering work of Revise F65, psychologist Odd Reiersøl tells. Thus the pressure increased on The World Health Organization to follow suit. After a while Revise F65 achieved direct contact with the authorities in Geneva.

“In 2009 we received a commission from Senior Project Officer Dr. Geoffrey Reed, who has been the leader of WHO’s Working Group on Sexual Disorders and Sexual Health. This resulted in a 3 page report documenting that the diagnoses in question are outdated, non scientific, and stigmatizing,” says Reiersøl.

Dr. Reed asked for additional evidence, and November 11, 2011 ReviseF65 delivered a 50 page summary of research based knowledge, documenting that sadomasochism and sexual violence are two different phenomena. Among other things, the fetish/BDSM population has equivalent scores with the rest of the population regarding democratic values such as empathy, responsibility and gender equality.
Already the next day Dr. Reed gave feedback about perfect timing since the revision committee soon would have their very first meeting discussing the reports.

June 18th 2018 WHO published the revised ICD-11 based on current scientific evidence and human rights of vulnerable populations, in line with recommendations from Revise F65.

The implemention of ICD-11 will start immediately, while the final version will be adopted in 2019 after feedback from the member states to user guidance. The structure and coding of ICD-11, as well as the accompanying materials will, according to the WHO Working Group, remain unchanged.

Fact box:

* BDSM is a sexual orientation about voluntarily to dominate or being dominated, or voluntarily give or receive pain.
* Fetishism is a sexuality involving specific objects, actions or ideas, which give sexual excitement and pleasure.
* The right to have control over one’s own sexuality and the right to privacy have been fundamental in the work to repeal homosexuality and subsequently fetishism and sadomasochism as mentally illnesses.
* The Norwegian LGBT organization FRI in 1997 established a committee to work for the national and international repeal of BDSM and fetish diagnoses. In 2010 the diagnoses were removed from the Norwegian list of diseases. In 2018 the World Health Organization followed suit.

###

Svein Skeid is founder and leader of the Revise F65 project. He is award-winning for his work in the field of BDSM human rights for three decades. He is a Norwegian registered physiotherapist with professional background in psychiatry. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mobile: 95 80 29 85.

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