Sex & Sociability

Question and commentary on connections, both sexual and social

Tidbits From a Sexuality Conference

What I learned and what you might too

In early June the American Association for Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists, AASECT, held its 46th Annual Conference in Monterey, California entitled “Renewing Ourselves, Our Field & Our Vision.” Two of its objectives were to integrate traditional and innovative practices and to promote intergenerational discussions on innovations and best practices in sex education and therapy.

Over a five-day period there were more than 76 different presentations offered about 400 attendees from all over the world. There were exhibits for graduate schools, pertinent organizations such as Bisexuality.Org, new types of condoms, sexual lubricants and vibrators. Talk about your multi-ringed circus!

Obviously I could attend only a select few of the lectures and classes but I want to give you a taste of the topics that interested me and the fascinating things I learned.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

“I Wish My Clitoris Was Bigger So My Boyfriend Could Find It” was the title of a talk and amusing slide presentation by Paul Joannides, PsyD, author of Guide to Getting It On, aimed at educating young adults. Dr.Joannides points out that few young adults are accurately sexually knowledgeable (see the presentation title) yet by the time they graduate from high school they have seen enough porn ejaculations on their computers to fill a swimming pool. I wish this slide show were available to anyone on demand. It was a delight. What a change from the teachings of my youth since it emphasized pleasure as well as physiology.

Ethical Considerations and Pros and Cons of Keeping Secrets in Couples Therapy. Long-term therapist Chris Fariello, Ph.D. spoke eloquently to those of us therapists who choose to see couples individually as well if both agree to that. Many therapists simply don’t do that, thereby avoiding this thorny issue. If a couple comes to my office to improve their relationship but Partner B tells me in an individual session that s/he is no longer attracted to Partner A or is having an affair or is thinking of leaving but has been reluctant to say so, then what? What indeed. There are pros and cons to never keeping any secrets as a stated policy, always keeping confidentiality (my own policy) or ethics based on the situation.

Special Screening of “Lewd and Lascivious.” This documentary film, originally the doctoral project of Jallen Rix, EdD, tells the story of a very important piece of gay and lesbian history. A 1965 confrontation among San Francisco police, a group of liberal straight clergy and a bunch of drag queens overcame gay bashing and police brutality and changed the laws and landscape forever. An amusing sidelight is that a homophobic police officer, seeking support for police crack-downs, was quoted in the newspapers exaggerating that San Francisco was overrun with more than 75,000 “queers,” thus giving publicity to the city and inspiring a wave of gay and lesbian newcomers.

Polyamory as a Paradigm for 21st Century Relationships and Families. There was a lively discussion in this session, a summary of literature reviews, study results and case examples indicating that open relationships or polyamory can be egalitarian forms of multi-partnering natural to many 21st century humans. Many of the participants were in or have seen such successful arrangements and I have suggested an open relationship for consideration in couples whose desire for love, sex and affection are grossly mismatched yet who wish to stay together.

Older Adults in Open Relationships – The Impact of Reported Health and Happiness. A survey of 500+ respondents in open relationships aged 55+ reported significantly better health and greater personal happiness as well as (no surprise) greater sexual frequency and a greater number of sex partners as compared to conventional Government General Social Survey counterparts. Research strongly associates increased sexual activity with better health and greater personal happiness, and/or perhaps the other way around. I think they are intermingled.

The Unique Challenge of Gay Male Intimacy. Dr. Arlen Keith Leight gave a moving, cogent and almost universally applicable look at male couple dynamics and potential solutions for some of the more common miseries among couples. He pointed out that factors such as the development of gay identity, male temperament and acculturation (there are two in a gay couple, after all), sexual compatibility in top and bottom roles, HIV status, and substance abuse (present in 55% of gay males at some time) are likely to appear as problems, but many other issues he covered in his presentation apply to any two people trying to make a life together – sexual attraction, possible disconnection, levels of honesty, conflict avoidance. He emphasized how honesty with self and other opens up to love and connection while fear engenders holding back, withdrawal, defensiveness and emotional distancing. His new book Sex Happens: The Gay Man’s Guide to Creative Intimacy gives many helpful exercises for couples in trouble or trying to avoid common pitfalls.

Definition, Causes and Treatment of Low Desire. Lack of sexual desire is the most common sexual disorder in women and also commonly experienced in men. I was eager to hear this lecture by Drs. Gerald Weeks and Nancy Gambescia since this is a topic I see frequently in my own therapy office and is among the most popular of subjects I have written about here on Psychology Today. While I found what they had to say of interest, I think I have fairly well covered the information here in these essays http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-sociability/201403/whats-..., http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-sociability/201401/sexles..., http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sex-sociability/201203/when-t..., and others essays here that touch on the subject. Essentially, there is no magic pill to revive interest in one’s partner or in sex in general, but when sexual desire is lacking some wanted improvements can be made with the help of an experienced therapist’s guidance.

What you have read only scratches the surface of my experience at the conference, let alone what all other attendees took from it. Since anyone can attend these annual conferences those interested in finding out more about AASECT or an AASECT therapist near you can go to http://aasect.org/about/about.

Isadora AlmanM.F.T., is a Board-certified sex, marriage, and family therapist, lecturer, author, and syndicated advice columnist of "Ask Isadora."

more...

Subscribe to Sex & Sociability

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.