Brief overview of the SSSS conference – Saturday

1. Capturing Predators, Punishing Perverts: MSNBC’s “To Catch a Predator” as a Serial Morality Play

This was a very quick presentation, I didn’t take many notes and I have mixed feelings about the topic which I assure you wasn’t related to the topic of this site anyway (as is probably evident from the title), I don’t think it’s worth discussing here.

2. The Internet Hobbyist and the Girl Friend Experience

This was a very interesting presentation and I wish they’d had more time to discuss it because they ended up having to rush so quickly that it was difficult to take notes. The presenter is a sexologist who volunteers her time as the resident sexpert for people who are members of a site designed as a place where people can give reviews of sex workers. She spent a lot of time collecting data about why people see sex workers, what their relationships (if any)are  like, what they are or are not doing with their partners and likewise what they are or are not doing with the sex worker(s) they hire. It was really interesting but probably not very relevant to most of the readers here.

3. The Beloved: A New Perspective in Sexual Orientation Research

I was hoping that this presentation would have a lot of discussion of asexuality in it but it was mostly about bisexuality, but was still really fascinating! I was pleased that, in the discussion of bisexuality he did insist that the 1 dimensional Kinsey scale was not sufficient and that a 2 dimensional scale which allows people to rate themselves as a scale of how sexually attracted they are men on one axis and how sexually attracted they are to women on the other axis including the right to identify as not at all being sexually attracted to either gender (obviously the 2 dimensional scale I described still has issues but it’s a step in the right direction. The model has been around for a while but the Kinsey scale is still favored in many places so it was nice to hear the 2 dimensional model pressed as being so much more useful for discussing sexuality).  One part of the presentation that was very interesting was when we got to see his data plotted out on this two dimensional model and the data suggested that for most men who identified as bisexual the Kinsey scale made a lot of sense because they tended to fall along a line that was basically a “sum 100” line, meaning that if they were 80% interested in women, they were 20% interested in men, or 50/50 or 20/80 or 60/40, etc. Basically the more they were interested in one gender the less they were likely to be interested in the other. So it makes sense that Kinsey, as a bisexual man, would think that he could use his scale to explain everyone. But when women were mapped on the same 2 dimensional model it was apparent that women did not fall along the same pattern- meaning that they could be equally attracted to men and women, either having very high, very low, or mid-range interest in both men and women. Anyway, the difference in the data for female and male bisexuals and his theories about why were really enjoyable. When his paper is published in the Journal of Human Sexuality (I think the next edition comes out in a few months) I’ll be sure to read it and mention it on the page if there’s anything relevant in the paper.

4. What Condoms, Vibrators, and Lubricants Can Teach Us about the Future of Sex Research

This was one of the best presentations that I saw. The presenter (who is the co-author of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior) started by explaining that one of his favorite hobbies is going in to adult video stores to see how they are different in every city (I can totally understand that- no, really), he then explained that he has been working on trying to get information out to people about the importance of the proper use of lubricants and condoms and he’d been having a hard time getting the message out. Well he was visiting friends in DC and they went to an adult video store and he overheard a man walk up to the front desk to check out and ask the clerk which lube he suggested, the clerk handed him a bottle, he bought it, and left. After the customer had left the clerk’s friend asked him how he picked the lube he was suggesting and the clerk said “I don’t know, everyone asks me that and I just pick one at random, tell them it’s my favorite, and they buy it.” Apparently the presenter had never thought about adult store clerks as being a main source of information about sexual health products. As someone who worked as the head of education in an adult store for a year I can tell you two things: yes, clients ask us all kinds of questions all day every day- clerks are doling out a lot of information. But also most clerks are woefully uninformed! I did my best to educate the clerks who worked in my store but not everyone works in the sex industry because they love educating people- apparently, and sadly. Anyway, I have 4 pages of notes on this presentation and it was a lot of fun. I’ll write a separate post to cover all the info because I think his information about what consumers need to know about the importance of these products is good for everyone to know and also I think his findings will be of interest to researchers and sex workers of all stripes.

5. The Importance of Sexual Communication

This was a fun presentation about the relationship between orgasms and communication. Just to skip through the presentation: keeping secrets increases stress and anxiety, after having an orgasm (with your partner) you feel closer, you get lots of good chemicals (which decrease fear and increase feelings of trust) and you’re less afraid about the outcome of disclosing something to your partner. If your partner also had an orgasm they are likely to respond more positively than usual to the disclosure (whether the disclosure was good, bad, or neutral). I’m pretty sure the conclusion was that couples who are having more orgasms together communicate better as a result… but it seems to me that couples who communicate well may be more likely to be having more orgasms because having orgasms with a partner, consistently, requires good communication skills about what you like and don’t like anyway (and if they’re good at communicating about sex they’re probably good at communicating about other things, too). The research that was done for this project was interesting, I’m not sure I was convinced about causation instead of correlation but it was fun none-the-less.

6. Process Model Framework for Working with Sexual Problems

I was not familiar with the Process Model going into this presentation, the presenter spoke very softly and had a strong accent so it was difficult for me to follow but it has piqued my interest enough to look for more resources but I don’t feel like I got enough from the presentation to be able to explain it.

7. This presentation was supposed to be “Unhappily Ever After: Challenging Definitions and Treatments of Low Desire and Low Sex Marriage” but the presenter wasn’t able to make it so instead I saw a presentation called “Getting Your Foot in the Door: How to Network in Unique ways”. If you want to hear the suggestions I can type them up for you but there wasn’t anything relevant to the site.

8. The Future of Sexology: Good Intentions, Wrong Turns, and Blind Spots on the Road Ahead

When I get back I’ll write a post about this separately, too. One point that I thought was well made in this presentation was that “All revolutions go too far” and end in oversimplification and reductionism before things start to come back to a more reasonable place. I think this can be said for the “sex positive” movement, too. I think things got to a point of being oversimplified into “sex is good, more sex is better” but, on the plus side, I see some small suggestions that things are starting to swing back just a little.

Another point that was great was about “bio-bunk” – which is when scientists try to make their points seem more valid and scientific by adding in meaningless pictures (particularly brain scans) which didn’t necessarily illustrate the point they were trying to make. Apparently there was a study done on this where people read two papers- one that made sense but didn’t have any brain scan pictures and a second paper that had brain scan pictures but the content of the paper consisted mostly of nonsensicalness pseudo-scientific phrases. Scientists who read both papers correctly identified the one that was the better paper but most lay-readers picked the paper with the brain scans and non-sense content as the paper that was more scientific). Anyway, it was a great presentation, I’ll talk more about it later.

<–See my notes from Friday here                                                                                                            See my notes from Sunday here –>

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