Last week I was lucky enough to be able to present at the Alternative Sexualities Conference 2012 (please excuse the poor quality picture!). The conference is sponsored by the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and was hosted by the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago. In addition to presenting I attended some fascinating workshops, was in a discussion group of about 40 therapist that work with alternative sexuality and heard David Ley give a great keynote address. If that wasn’t enough, I got to meet and network with some incredible people – some of the brightest and well-known researchers, clinicians and other professionals in the field. I want to share with you some highlights from the conference.
- Overall Observations I have heard people express different beliefs about people who embrace, participate in or identify as having alternative sexuality. I’ve heard that “those people” are “on the fringe” or are “weird” or are less educated. I’ve heard assumptions about appearances and social skills. But this conference showed how untrue those beliefs are. What I saw when I looked at the attendees was a group of people that could have come from any mall, restaurant or downtown. There were people in suits, dresses, jeans, t-shirts, dressy & casual. There were different ethnicities, different genders. There were ages from 20’s to easily in to 60’s. There were all levels of education including people with or working on graduate and post-graduate degrees. In short, this group of people…all of whom identify has having, practicing or working with alternative sexuality appeared as “mainstream” as could be. It is one more piece of evidence that alternative sexuality isn’t really so alternative after all.
- Keynote Speaker David Ley, author of The Myth of Sex Addiction
David Ley gave a great keynote. His latest book seeks to debunk the concept of sex addiction. His presentation was filled with great information and presented in an enjoyable way. He has a dry, slightly sarcastic style that I love. Once I read the book I’ll do a full review here but in the mean time I’ll give you a two sentence summary of what I took from his presentation – There is no scientific basis for the idea of sex addiction. What we really see is an internal moral conflict.
- Great Networking
As I mentioned, I did some great networking and met some fascinating people. Among them were some amazing researchers working on projects related to a variety of areas of alternative sexuality including things such as polyamory, power dynamics, kinks and fetishes. There is a group working on creating therapy practice guidelines for working with kink and non-monogamy. Others are creating tools to use in therapy to better address the needs of various aspects of the alternative sexuality community. I also got to meet a well-known Pro-Domme and sex educator. She was smart, funny and seemed like the proverbial girl next door.
- Adler School of Professional Psychology
The Adler School was an amazing host. Besides fantastic facilities there were two things that really stood out. First is the schools commitment to pushing the boundaries of psychology and society. The Adler School is credited with having the first conference on the Psychology of Women in the early 1960’s. They see the area of alternative sexuality as a new frontier in Psychology. The second thing was perhaps a little less dramatic but equally telling. The bathrooms in the school aren’t labeled in the way most of us are used to. Instead, they are labeled as “Female Identified” and “Male Identified”, acknowledging complexities of gender identification and expression. Kudos to you Adler!
I could probably go on but I’m sure you get the idea that I enjoyed myself. It was a great experience being with smart, thoughtful, friendly people that embrace sex-positivism and alternative sexualities. I can’t wait for San Francisco in 2013!