Tag Archives: sexual (r)evolution

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.

Cheers,

Dulcinea

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.   

LIVE STREAMING (WITH CE’S) IS AVAILABLE FOR REMOTE ATTENDEES! 

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 AltSexNYCconference.org.

Midtown Manhattan

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

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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.

NOTE: The content of this blog is owned by Dulcinea Pitagora. See Terms and Conditions for republishing restrictions/allowances.

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 ABCnews.com

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.

NOTE: The content of this blog is owned by Dulcinea Pitagora. See Terms and Conditions for republishing restrictions/allowances.

Don’t Let the F-word Scare You

David Perry put together a succinctly smart piece on Mad Max: Fury Road
that Vice Magazine published on May 13, my three favorite quotes being:

There are no accidental feminist action movies.

Patriarchy may seem to empower masculinity,
but in truth it limits men to their (often self-) destructive roles.

…enjoy the movie. And don’t let the F-word scare you.

Click here or on the image below to read the whole article,
and if you see the film, let me know what you think!

Mad Max: Fury Road

NOTE: The content of this blog is owned by Dulcinea Pitagora. See Terms and Conditions for republishing restrictions/allowances.

Cross-post: Thinking Globally about Sex and Gender

A couple of years ago I discovered a document called the Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Human Rights Law in relation to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, created in 2006 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia by the International Commission of Jurists and the International Service for Human Rights, on behalf of a coalition of human rights organizations in reaction to egregious international human rights violations pertaining to individuals marginalized for their sexual orientation and/or gender identifications.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 9.58.52 AM

The introduction to the Yogyakarta Principles begins with…

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. all human rights are universal, interdependent, indivisible and interrelated. sexual orientation1) and gender identity2) are integral to every person’s dignity and humanity and must not be the basis for discrimination or abuse” (p. 6).

…and ends with…

“The Yogyakarta Principles affirm binding international legal standards with which all states must comply. they promise a different future where all people born free and equal in dignity and rights can fulfill that precious birthright” (p. 7).

I’m an advocate for every clinician and educator’s (and every human, really) reading this document in its entirety, which is why I decided to post this on the ManhattanAlternative.com blog, and is why I’m cross-posting it here as well. Though the abridged principles listed as follows can be interpreted differently depending on context and experience, thinking critically about them as they stand here is a useful exercise in itself:

  1. The right to the universal enjoyment of human rights.
  2. The rights to equality and non-discrimination.
  3. The right to recognition before the law.
  4. The right to life.
  5. The right to security of the person.
  6. The right to privacy.
  7. The right to freedom of arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
  8. The right to a fair trial.
  9. The right to treatment with humanity while in detention.
  10. The right to freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  11. The right to protection from all forms of exploitation, sale and trafficking of human beings.
  12. The right to work.
  13. The right to social security and to other social protection measures.
  14. The right to an adequate standard of living.
  15. The right to adequate housing.
  16. The right to education.
  17. The right to the highest attainable standard of health.
  18. Protection from medical abuses.
  19. The right to freedom of opinion and expression.
  20. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  21. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
  22. The right to freedom of movement.
  23. The right to seek asylum.
  24. The right to found a family.
  25. The right to participate in public life.
  26. The right to participate in cultural life.
  27. The right to promote human rights.
  28. The right to effective remedies and redress.
  29. Accountability.

Some interesting questions to ponder:

Which of the above principles most affect you on a regular basis?

Which have you fought for in terms of your personal experience?

Which might you have taken for granted?

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The Intersection of Gender Roles and BDSM Power Roles

I was so pleased when the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom—an organization which I have long admired for their tireless support of alternative lifestyles—asked me to submit a guest blog for their site, and posted a excerpt on the presentation I gave at the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit in 2014 based on my paper “The BDSM Power Exchange: Subversion, Transcendence, Sexual (R)evolution.”  The excerpt they included was chosen because it aligned well with one of their main goals, which is to debunk the historical pathologization and criminalization of BDSM.  I wanted to share with you the excerpt below as well, which looks at the intersection of gender roles and BDSM power roles and the potential for subversion and sexual (r)evolution.

sexual-r-evolution3

[…]

An individual’s gender expression is arguably the most visible set of physical characteristics used by society to form assumptions about what is acceptable behavior. This type of automatic social profiling can be exceptionally stressful for those being profiled, as there is no viable way for individuals to fulfill societal expectations of idealized stereotypical gender roles. Many BDSM participants find relief from such societal constraints within the parameters of the BDSM power exchange, and often experience a subsequent release of stress that can be quite therapeutic1.

Research that explores BDSM interactions from a normative (i.e., non-pathologizing) perspective is a relatively new phenomenon, and research that explores a subversion or displacement of gender roles within BDSM interactions is quite rare. Historically, the literature has suggested that BDSM interactions might be more contingent on gender and/or sexual orientation than power dynamic, likely due to the historical bias that assigns feminine-presenting individuals to submissive sexual roles, and masculine-presenting individuals to dominant sexual roles2. In order to refute the “the myth of the alpha male,” a study was conducted in 2008 positing that social dominance in females had been traditionally overlooked in research, by biologists and psychologists alike. The study involved the administration of questionnaires to a relatively large sample (N = 1723) of children in grades 5 through 10, reporting self- and peer-ratings on aggression, social motivation, and interpersonal influence. Their findings showed patterns in females that had typically been associated with male dominance, as well as patterns in males that had typically been associated with stereotypical (i.e., less dominant) female behavior; in other words, the study suggested that social dominance exists outside the realm of gender-specific norms3. This tendency toward gender skew was further refuted in Hawley and Hensley’s 20092 study of feminine power, which reported higher preferences for submissive fantasies in men than women.

One common theme described in BDSM activities as deliberately contrary to traditional patriarchal society is the common pairing of feminine dominants and masculine submissives4. Exaggerated parodies of subjugation, oppression, and exploitation emphasize an inequity of power that is not always weighted in favor of men or masculine gender representations; thus, BDSM interactions have been described as parodying traditional heteronormative sexual interactions5. The relationship between gender and power dynamic was examined in a qualitative study in which 24 participants from the BDSM community were interviewed regarding their sexual behaviors. The transcriptions were coded in order to determine common discourses, or “underlying systems of meaning” (p. 297), and the data showed several instances in which power dynamics were found to diverge from gender identification5. One common theme described BDSM activities as deliberately contrary to mandates of traditional patriarchal society, effectively ridiculing, undermining, and deconstructing mainstream sexual interactions toward the goal of exorcising subjugation and oppression5.

Taylor and Ussher’s findings directly counter arguments that many radical second- and some third-wave feminists have put forth against BDSM—that it reenacts and fosters the male-dominated structure of society, and therefore that consent in BDSM interactions is not valid4. Reminiscent of the means by which paraphilic disorders remain included in the DSM, these assertions are based in philosophical beliefs and political arguments; there has been no empirical research conducted to support these theories. As noted, the research that has been conducted shows that the power structures established by BDSM participants can in effect de-gender power dynamics through pointed subversion and personal choice. The devaluing of consent in BDSM interactions due to an ostensible association with misogyny effectively strips BDSM participants of agency and reduces them to a stereotype. In other words, to say that BDSM participants are not capable of giving consent because outside viewers may misunderstand the meaning of their actions negates self-determination and further stigmatizes this sexual minority group4.

[…]

McClintock’s6 exploration of the intersection between fetishism and gender power suggests that the prevalence of BDSM continues to expand due to a desire in modern societies to challenge mainstream social constructs of power, gender, identity, and erotic expression. BDSM power roles are said to complicate and/or supersede traditional power roles by subverting socially ingrained power dynamics through the creation and enactment of interactions that pointedly appropriate the privilege to punish6. There is no default method of behavior or expression in BDSM; instead, there is a conscious disruption of conformity, which can serve to free the individuals involved from the pressure of conforming to mainstream society, thereby providing psychological relief1. The parameters of a BDSM scene can provide a safe space where any gender can adopt any power role, thereby challenging the constraints of stereotypical gender expression6, and allowing for an expansion, elaboration, or contradiction of an individual’s typical gender expression in daily life. Participants can fluidly inhabit different sexual identities within or across BDSM scenes, mocking the idea of an expected and fixed identity, freeing individuals to expand their exploration of erotic desire, fantasy, and self-identification4,6. The vast array of scenarios and activities that fall within the realm of BDSM encourage many participants to seek an evolution of their sexuality and definition of self. Furthermore, many BDSM interactions deconstruct the expectation that erotic acts should be genitally focused, in the exploration of non-genital, atypical erogenous locations on the body or in the mind for arousal4,6. This displacement and diffusion of arousal challenges the notion of conventionally enacted sexual stimulation, and allows for an ongoing expansion of physical and psychological outlets of sexual satisfaction.

[…]

_____________

1 Pitagora, D. & Ophelian, A. (2013). Therapeutic benefits of subspace in BDSM interactions. [PowerPoint slides].

2 Hawley, P. H. & Hensley, W. A. (2009). Social dominance and forceful submission fantasies: Feminine pathology or power? The Journal of Sex Research, 46(6), 568–585.

3 Hawley, P. H., Little, T. D., & Card, N. A. (2008). The myth of the alpha male: A new look at dominance-related beliefs and behaviors among adolescent males and females. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 32(1), 76–88.

4 Hopkins, P. (1994). Rethinking sadomasochism: Feminism, interpretation, and simulation. Hypatia, 9(1), 116-141.

5 Taylor, G. W. & Ussher, J. M. (2001). Making sense of S&M: A discourse analytic account. Sexualities, 4(3), 293-314.

6 McClintock, A. (1993). Maid to order: Commercial fetishism and gender power. Social Text, 37, 87-116.

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