These are just meant to be brief overviews, I may write more detailed accounts later, I just want to get some notes about this conference down before I go to my next conference (tomorrow!).
1. Sexuality and the Spheres of Ignorance
I really enjoyed this presentation though my notes were a bit scattered, so bare with me. One of the important points brought up by the presenter was that there’s a big difference between discourse (talking about something) and education (teaching people accurate information about a topic)- This concept is discussed in more depth in Foucault’s The History of Sexuality Volume 1. The presenter made a very solid argument that while society may seem saturated with sex sex sex that that’s mostly people talking about sex- and not necessarily including any useful, or accurate information. While people may be hearing a lot about sex and sexuality they certainly don’t seem to be learning much about it.
The presenter also made an interesting about about the detrimental effects of not educating groups of people who you just assume won’t need that information. His examples were older examples, particularly an instance that he mentioned when researchers focused on marginalized groups (I think he meant prostitutes and homosexuals but I didn’t write that part down) to try and educate them but ignored people who were main stream, assuming that everything would come naturally for them and so they wouldn’t need any educating. A more relevant example of this I think would be when we don’t provide accurate sexual health information to people with developmental issues and seniors because we just assume they aren’t going to have sex and so we don’t need to give them accurate information… and of course if you’re paying attention to that type of thing you know was a huge mistake! STIs are rampant in senior care facilities. Despite having sexual urges like most other people many people who are developmentally challenged are often left totally unable to do anything about it because many states have laws preventing them from having sex at all (let alone with each other), no one teaches them about masturbation and when many get the chance to have sex no one has taught them about consent issues (both for themself and their partner), birth control, STIs etc and it creates a big problem (the problem is not necessarily the fact that they are sexually active, but that no one provided them any sex education)! Luckily there are a few programs created specifically for these overlooked demographics but they are few and far between. …but I digress (sorry, this is one of the topics that bugs me).
But I think this point is also a particularly relevant problem when it comes to the asexual community- not just that many of us don’t receive a sexuality education that’s helpful to us for learning a common language for describing our sexuality but also then this idea that people who are asexual then don’t need good sexual health information because of this misunderstanding that asexuals have never and will never have sex, as a rule. Assuming that a whole group of people (any group of people) will never have sex (or engage in any behavior that could expose them to a sexually transmissible disease) is very short sighted. In a survey I did a year ago (before this site, just as part of a very short presentation for which I needed to get a few numbers and a few personal anecdotes) about half of the respondents said that they have, do, or would have sex with a partner if it was important to their parter. I don’t recall precisely what percent of respondents said that they were in a non-monogamous relationship but the number was not insignificant. This suggests to me that there’s a lot of people in the ace community who could benefit from good sexual health information that I’m a little afraid they aren’t getting because of the way sex ed classes and workshops are designed and marketed (actually I have an article about that which is qued, I just haven’t had time to finish it)! Also, even if you’re not having sex or don’t plan to have sex- having good, accurate sexual health information is still important. You need to know if someone is lying to you or trying to give you bad information, you may have a friend who needs the information, it helps prevent the spreading of misinformation, etc. Anyway, I’ll finish that article on sex ed programs and why aces should pay more attention to them when I get back from the AASECT conference!
2. The Male Surrogate: Past, Present and Future
So this presentation was given by people from the International Professional Surrogates Association and was very interesting to me since I’m not very familiar with the use of surrogates. They gave a nice history about the use of surrogates and talked about how for people who want to be able to have sex but have some sort of problem- either physical, emotional or psychological- around sex there were new forms of couples therapy being created which guided couples through the process of addressing the problems working up to having sex. It turned out that this process was incredibly effective for couples. But what if you had a problem around the act of sex that you wanted to work on but having that problem prevented you from being able to find a partner who wanted to get into a relationship that they knew would involve going through this process before you could ever have sex? Introducing, the surrogate! Then you can be partnered with a surrogate and they will go through the process with you, ultimately and ideally, culminating in you being able to have (emotionally, physically and psychologically) painless sex with the surrogate, having worked through your issues and having learned the skills you need to be able to then build relationships and have sex with other partners of your choosing in the future. There are many types of situations in which this can be useful, including people who have been sexually assaulted or abused, people who have had a surgery or suffered from a medical problem that has changed their functionality in such a way that they have to completely relearn how to enjoy sex, etc. Anyway, the presentation was very interesting, I’ll see if I can find the video they showed on YouTube or somewhere. There is one other point that they brought up which I’m not going to mention here because it sounded much more concerning than it turned out to be after I’d had a chance to speak to them later and I don’t want to recount the whole thing just now so that will get it’s own post later.
3. Future Treatments in Sexual Medicine: The Hard Facts
I actually have a lot of issues with many of the things said during this presentation and I will definitely be writing a separate post on the subject but here is one interesting anecdote I got from the presentation: In a study with two groups of men, all of whom suffered from some form of ED (erectile dysfunction), group A was given a real medication and group B was given a placebo. While almost all of the men in both groups reported that they were having better sex now that they were using the pill (even though though the men in the placebo group didn’t report as much of an improvement). Interestingly the partners of these men were pretty clearly divided in their answers- the partners of the men in group A reported that sex was better and the partners of the men in group B reported that sex was not at all or only marginally better. Anyway, when I write my post about this presentation I will also write about the discussion that followed because the discussion that followed was just as interesting and considerably less frustrating than the presentation itself.
4. Boomers and Beyond: What We Now Know About Those “Prime” Years!
This presentation was interesting but not particularly relevant to this site. Basically it covered the most recent AARP “Sexuality at Midlife and Beyond” study (the 2004 version can be found here, I don’t know if they’ve published the newest one or not). This study did reinforce what I was saying earlier about providing sexual health lessons to seniors though- only 1 in 5 sexually active dating (as opposed to married) people over 45 uses condoms regularly! Anyway, if you’d like more information about when, where, how and with whom people over 40 are having sex feel free to check out the study.
5. Evolutionary Sex: Romantic Love, Body Attunement, and Sexual Desire
The super short version of this presentation is that it was about how “playing” with your partner is under appreciated despite being a really important part of keeping a (sexual) relationship functioning well. Many different types of problems occur because one partner feels like the other partner isn’t paying any attention to them for any reason other than sex and this can lead to a variety of problems. The whole point of the presentation was about how playing is an evolutionary tool- it’s how children learn things, it’s how animals figure out hierarchies, etc.
One thing I particularly appreciated hearing early in the presentation was that if you have a client who has low (or no) desire for sex but is not distressed, upset or concerned about that but has come to you for another reason then you have no business trying to change their level of desire/interest in sex. I’m not going to write much else on this because she went very quickly through the presentation so my notes are riddled with holes where I didn’t finish before she changed slides or moved on, sorry.
6. Orgasm Inc: The Strange Science of Female Pleasure
If you haven’t heard of this movie it is definitely worth watching. There were some conversations in the evening after the movie was shown where some people took issue with the way some points were presented and the movie obviously has an agenda but it was a very interesting perspective on the economics of sexual “dysfunction”.