Category Archives: Sexuality

No Pain, No Gain? Therapeutic and Relational Benefits of Subspace in BDSM Contexts

“No Pain, No Gain? Therapeutic and Relational Benefits of Subspace in BDSM Contexts” by Dulcinea Pitagora was published online in The Journal of Positive Sexuality in November, 2016, and can be read in its entirety here, or by clicking the image below.

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Break Through Radio Today breaking news: Female tops are a thing! Taia Hanlin quotes my take on what’s good and bad about sexuality research: “What Americans Are Doing in Bed May Surprise You.'” Click HERE or on the link below to read the entire article.

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The 2nd Annual AltSex NYC Conference on April 28, 2017—Save the Date!

I am excited to announce that Dr. Michael Aaron and I will be co-organizing the 2nd annual AltSex NYC Conference, which will be held on Friday April 28, 2017—save the date!  If you’re not already, subscribe to our email list for updates, including the call for proposal, registration dates, and other exciting news.  Looking forward to seeing you next April!


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1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference 2016—10 Days Left for Regular Registration

Hello Friends, Colleagues, and Community!

I couldn’t be more excited to be involved in organizing and producing the 1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference on April 22, 2016 alongside Dr. Michael Aaron. Please see the stellar line up of speakers below, and note that the best time to buy tickets is now, before regular registration ends and prices go up on April 1.

Please also note that the conference has officially been approved by New York State for 6.5 social work continuing education credits, and also by AASECT for 6.5 continuing education credits.

If you have obligations that will keep you from attending the conference in person, you can attend remotely via live streaming, which is also eligible for continuing education credits.



1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference

Friday, April 22, 2016
8:15am – 5:15pm

Midtown Manhattan
CEs available*

Introducing the 1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference—where clinicians, academics, and alt lifestyle community members will come together for a full day of sex-positive, alternative lifestyle affirmative, cutting edge research-based,  and current practice-informed seminars and discussions presented by a stellar collection of New York City educators and mental health providers.   


8:15AM — Welcome Address

8:30AM — Keynote Address by Margaret Nichols, PhD
“Kink is Good: BDSM in the Context of New Models of Sex and Gender Variance”

10:05AM — Zhana Vrangalova, PhD
“Myths and Realities of Consensual Non-Monogamy”

11:05AM — Dulcinea Pitagora, MA, LMSW and Michael Aaron, PhD
“The Kink-Poly Confluence: Community Intersections and Clinical Approaches”

12:05PM — Lunch Break

1:20PM — Michael Aaron, PhD
“Facing Your Shadow: The Healing Potential of Psychological Edge Play”

2:20PM — Rosalyn Dischiavo, EdD, CSES
“Metamorphosis: Braving Transitions in Polyamorous Relationships”

3:30PM — David Ortmann, LCSW
“Age Play: Eros, Practicality, and Walking the Edge”

4:30PM — Panel Discussion & Final Words (optional)

produced by
Michael Aaron, PhD and Dulcinea Pitagora, MA, LMSW

*PROGRAM APPROVED: The AltSexNYC Conference has been approved by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as a continuing education provider (# 0314) for licensed social workers. 

*PROGRAM APPROVED:  This program meets the requirements of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) and is approved for 6.5 AASECT CE Credits. These CE Credits may be applied toward AASECT certification and renewal of certification.

A portion of the AltSex NYC Conference proceeds will be donated to the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) in appreciation of their continued dedication to supporting and promoting excellence in the study of alternative sexualities. 

For more information, visit

Midtown Manhattan

New York, NY
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Copyright © 2015 AltSex NYC Conference, All rights reserved.






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Resources for Sexuality and Gender Warriors

Disclosure: I have a morning coffee and reading ritual, and this morning I realized I hadn’t yet followed Dr. Meg John Barker’s blog Rewriting the Rules—now corrected!  Dr. Barker’s latest blog post Beyond the Binary is inspiring in its eloquence and clarity around the important influence that “sexuality and gender warriors” have on questioning “static thinking about sexuality.” Give it a read! I was also inspired to add Dr. Barker’s book Rewriting the Rules to my library:

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Rewriting the Rules is a friendly guide through the complicated—and often contradictory—
rules of love: the advice that is given about attraction and sex,
monogamy and conflict, gender and commitment.”

Dr. Barker’s blog also offers a multitude of resources on sexuality and gender diversity. One in particular that I wanted to share is the link to Clarisse Thorn’s BDSM Resources, which led to another blog subscription as well as a few new additions to my library, including:

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A Parent’s Guide to Alternative Sexualities: “There’s More!”

by Amy Marsh

“A progressive, introductory handbook for parents who have teenagers and young adults
who are expressing an interest in alternative sexualities such as BDSM and polyamory.
Practical, supportive information written by a clinical sexologist.”


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The S&M Feminist: Best of Clarisse Thorn

“Clarisse Thorn’s writing has appeared across the Internet in places like
The Guardian, AlterNet, Feministe, Jezebel, Time Out, The Rumpus, Ms., and
The Good Men Project. This is a selection of her best articles, all in one place!”


Playing Well with Others

Playing Well with Others:
Your Field Guide to Discovering, Navigating and Exploring
the Kink, Leather, and BDSM Communities

by Lee Harrington

“While there are plenty of other books out there that explain how to give a spanking
or tie a half-hitch, Playing Well with Others is the first book that explains kink *culture*—the munches,
parties, leather bars, conferences, workshops, fetish nights, exploratoriums and all the other gatherings
of kinksters that turn BDSM and leather from a bedroom predeliction to a lifestyle and a community.”


Playing on the Edge

Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy

by Staci Newmahr

“In this pathbreaking book, ethnographer Staci Newmahr delves into the social space of a
public, pansexual SM community to understand sadomasochism from the inside out.
Based on four years of in-depth and immersive participant observation, she juxtaposes
her experiences in the field with the life stories of community members, providing a richly detailed
portrait of SM as a social space in which experiences of “violence” intersect with experiences of the erotic.”


Thorne’s complete list is well worth checking out, and goes beyond books to include films, other online resources, and information about how to find in person events near you. If you have favorite resources you feel like sharing, please post them in the comments below!

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I just signed the NCSF petition to make consent a BDSM defense.


Consent seems like it should be an obvious legal imperative, but unfortunately sometimes we have to state the obvious to our beloved but highly problematic and flawed legal system. So when I received an email today from NCSF asking me to sign a petition urging the American Law Institute to make consent a defense for BDSM activities…

I urge the American Law Institute in its consideration of proposals to revise the Model Penal Code (MPC) provisions relating to sexual assault, to provide in the MPC that prosecutions arising from BDSM (bondage, discipline, Dominance & Submission and sadomasochism) conduct be pursued as “sexual contact” rather than as criminal assault. I believe this is appropriate because consensual BDSM is intended to be a mutually pleasurable erotic activity and not a violent assault by one person against another. Criminal prosecution may be appropriate if consent is not given, but consent should be allowed as a defense.

… I figured, why not do my part in stating the obvious and sign it?  So I signed it, and you can click here or on the image above to do the same. But before you sign, be sure to do your due diligence. Perusing NCSF’s Consent Counts Program Description is a good place to start.

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Surfing the Win

Metaphorshadowing: Sometimes on my morning commute, perhaps depending on how heavy my backpack is on a given day, I’ll surf the subway. I’ll plant my feet with a slight bend in my knees and I’ll look at a fixed point, and I’ll refuse to hold on to anything as I try not to fall over while the train bumps and lurches and stops and starts, over and over.  I’m not claiming to have done this with the performance of a metaphor in mind this post-Pride Monday morning, though I have to admit that during my commute, I was thinking about the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality for people in same-sex relationships  marriage equality regardless of sexual orientation  marriage equality regardless of gender the ruling in favor of marriage equality.  My subway ride this morning was a lot like my trying to finish that last sentence—I was conflicted, simultaneously happy, sad, frustrated, and excited. I almost fell over, and I most certainly bumped into a lot of people. It was easier to just cross out the outliers grab the subway pole and come to a full stop.

Photo courtesy of

I am so happy about the ruling. I want everyone who wants to get married to be able to get married. Everyone. Regardless of their gender identification, their sexual orientation, their partner number preference, or their intimate partner power dynamic. I’m not happy it took this long to make happen, and I’m not happy that it doesn’t solve all the other problems of inequality and privilege for those outside of normative relationships and identifications, but I’m happy this happened nonetheless. Not that the institution of marriage is close to perfect, but it certainly helps many people feel better, at least for a while. And I am all for cultural constructs that give people a source of support and feeling of security. So I’m mostly happy about it, though I can’t help but take the decision with alternating grains of salt and sugar.

For example, the ruling doesn’t necessarily ensure the benefits that marriage is supposed to offer (salt), but it certainly pushes things in the right direction (sugar), and this seems like a necessary hurdle to jump to get closer to the hurdles still to come (salt, you get the idea). Also, the ruling doesn’t ensure that bullying, hate crimes, discrimination in professional, academic, and governmental institutions won’t occur. And the ruling makes no mention of those identifying outside of the binary in terms of gender identification on the marriage certificate, or those who have transitioned from the sex they were assigned at birth to another gender, and the ruling goes without saying that legal benefits for multi-partner relationships of any gender combination are a long time in coming (or are they?).

That’s a lot of salt, but regardless of the bumps and lurches and hurdles and strikethroughs, I see The Ruling as a Big Win, and something we can be unapologetically happy about, I just hope we don’t let the many happy voices drown out the few whose voices are so hard to hear.

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A Mindful Celebration

tumblr_inline_mqhct25cfT1qz4rgpPride events across America have been transformed into optimal environments for cultivating collective amnesia. We forget that queer and trans people are still facing dire poverty and homelessness. As a result of joblessness, many of our folks struggle with substance abuse as a way to cope and fulfill needs we cannot satisfy elsewhere. Queer and trans people of colour in our community experience heightened levels of violence and harassment through profiling, incarceration, detention and deportation. And this comes in addition to the violence inflicted upon our bodies for being anything other than what the heteronormative standard dictates.
excerpt from Ngoc Loan Tran‘s Re-Queering Pride

Please check out Tran’s article in it’s entirety! It is a beautifully written reminder that it is all too easy to revel in celebration, and allow the revelry to distract us from a history full of tragedies that inspired an ongoing fight for freedom of gender and sexual expression. Though there have been many important victories, tragedy among LGBTQ-identified individuals still occurs all around us every day.

By all means, let’s celebrate Pride! But let’s celebrate mindfully, remembering those who don’t have access to celebration, and with a promise to always keep working towards new victories in sexual freedom.

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Sliding Scale Appointments Now Available!

I have the pleasure of announcing that beginning this summer I will be working under the supervision of Dr. Kelly Wise, psychotherapist and AASECT certified sex therapist. I’ll be taking on a limited number of sliding scale appointments at his Union Square office, working with individuals, couples, non-traditional relationships and families, and current or former sex workers dealing with issues across the spectrum of gender identification/expression, sexual orientation/expression, D/s dynamics, relationship status, intersections thereof, and beyond. Please contact me directly via email or my contact page for more information, or call me at 917-675-3446 for a free 15-minute phone consultation. I will continue working at PCGS and my private practice as well, and if for some reason we won’t be able to work together, I recommend taking a look at, a referral listing for alternative lifestyle affirmative providers.

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I think I just saw my therapist in leather.

A point of clarification: The title of this post is not a direct quote from myself or anyone else in particular, though I am fairly certain that these words have been uttered before, in a paraphrase if not verbatim. I bring up this idea because the potential for crossing paths with your therapist, or your client if you’re a therapist, is something that you tend to think about and perhaps anticipate when both of you run in relatively small circles. I mentioned in the GO Magazine interview that outing myself was a conscious decision for several reasons, but one of the reasons that I did not happen to mention in that interview was that I am active in the communities connected with my intersecting identifications, and therefore chances are very likely that I will run into people I’m doing therapy with. When your own identifications result in something reminiscent of the rainbow Venn diagram below, and you find value in interacting socially with others who share those intersections, you just might see your therapist in leather, or they might see you in latex, or you might notice them interacting with a partner or partners.

And then what happens?  What do you do?  What would you expect your therapist to do?


There’s no one correct answer to the above questions, because the answer will depend on both the therapist’s and the client’s comfort levels, though the agreed upon answer should go in the more conservative direction, the one that most protects the therapeutic relationship and most allows for progress back in the therapeutic environment.  Because I tend to work with people who run in some or all of the same circles that I do, I like to address the issue of a potential path-crossing at some point in our work together, as early on as makes sense.

The conversation might go something like this: I bring up the potential of running into each other outside of our usual meeting place, check in with them to see how they feel about that potential, and let them know I have a uniform code of conduct when I find myself in that situation.  Which is, if I happen to inadvertently make eye contact, I might smile and nod, but I will not approach someone to speak to them out of respect for their privacy and discretion, and I will likely move to another area, or make a decision to leave if that seems more appropriate and protective of the therapeutic process.  If someone approaches me, I will certainly say hello, but I will not engage in prolonged conversation, and in our next session together, we would discuss thoughts and feelings that came up around meeting in a different context.  Finally, I would check in with them to see how they feel about that process, see what their specific preferences might be, and come to a mutually consensual agreement.  This is a fairly standard way of handling such situations, according to what I’ve heard from colleagues and supervisors.

There are therapists who would avoid engaging with clients outside of the therapeutic environment at all costs, and in more mainstream communities, it is much easier to accomplish this. When there are limited venues in which to interact socially with like-minded people however, I don’t see the need to avoid engagement. In fact, I feel as though being an active part of the community is a form of autoethnography, a process in which “you use your own experiences to garner insights into the larger culture or subculture of which you are a part” (Patton, 2014, Kindle Locations 3895-3896).  Understanding yourself and understanding the community/ies you’re a part of is an active and ongoing process, as is therapy. Likewise, therapy is an active collaboration, as is community, and I encourage my clients to take an active role in their process, just as I do in mine.

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