Presentation Descriptions

Currently confirmed presentations

Billy Strean

Joy & Positive Sexuality: Strange Bedfellows or Bosom Buddies?
Keynote Speaker: Billy Strean, PhD

Most people might say that our sexuality is, could, or should be one of our greatest joys. Yet, our journey toward positive sexuality may be impeded with cultural, social, moral, and personal speed bumps. This presentation will consider how the Five Elements of Joy can guide our exploration in positive sexuality. How can we be more aware of challenges and bring greater joy and other positive emotions to our sexuality? How can our sexuality expand our joy?

Friday

Why "Peacemaking"? A Panel Discussion

Emily Prior, MA, DJ Williams, PhD, Ariel Pliskin, Jeremy N. Thomas, PhD

Panelists will respond to prepared questions around what peacemaking is, how it applies to positive sexuality, and why it was chosen as the theme for this conference.

Cultivating Consent: A Qualitative Exploratory Study of the New England BDSM Community

Sonja Winter Heels, BA

I explore how members of the New England BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) community define and conceptualize consent. Through snowball sampling methods, I conducted 23 semi-structured in-depth interviews of approximately one hour in length via Zoom or in-person with self-identified members of the New England BDSM community with at least three years of experience. Consent has become a prominent and timely topic within the past several years in the contemporary United States, and very little is known regarding consent definitions, practices, and issues within the BDSM community. Because this study is exploratory in nature, a wide array of themes and topics arose. As a result, I will focus my time on the key findings, including how members of the community define consent, practice consent, as well as common issues related to consent within the community.

Navigating Intersecting Identities, Self-Representation and Relationships: A Qualitative Study with Trans Sex Workers Living and Working in Los Angeles, CA

Victoria Loy & Moshoula Capous-Desyllas

This qualitative research study highlights the lived experiences and voices of diverse trans sex workers who are living and working in Los Angeles, California. Informed by transgender theory, intersectionality theory, and feminist theoretical approaches to research, this study uses qualitative interactive interviews and a life time-line approach with six trans sex workers living and working in various aspects of the sex trade in Los Angeles, CA. These testimonies highlight the ways in which sex workers of trans experience navigate their intersecting identities in relation to their work in the sex industry, their personal and professional relationships, and the various roles they embody in their life. Using a life time-line approach, these voices also illustrate the multi-layered connections that trans sex workers have to various institutions over time and the challenges that they face in negotiating work, maintaining a quality of life, and resisting various forms of stigma.

Consent in the Erotic Hypnosis Fetish Community

Sam Hughes & Nick Santer

In the BDSM community, consent is a cornerstone of what distinguishes kink from abuse. However, for people who are into erotic hypnosis (a fetish involving deriving erotic or intimate pleasure from engaging in and/or role-playing hypnosis, mind control, and/or brainwashing) the idea of “people being made to do something they don’t want to do” is central to many people’s attraction the fetish. For example, most erotic hypnosis fetish pornography revolves around someone being controlled against their will. Based on a qualitative analysis of at-least 30 in-person semi-structured interviews to be conducted shortly with erotic hypnosis fetishists at two national erotic hypnosis conferences (one for gay men, and one for the broader pansexual community), this study will examine how people in the erotic hypnosis fetish community construct their understanding of consent and ethics. It will also focus on how mindfulness practices involved in erotic hypnosis contexts interact with issues of consent and empowerment in complex and varied ways. Implications for other activities that ostensibly focus on an imagined or negotiated violation of consent (such as consensual non-consent, or play involving mind-altering substances) will be discussed.

Couples in Consensually Non-monogamous Marriages: Findings from a 2,000 person sample

D. Joye Swan

Studying couples in consensually nonmonogamous relationships in comparison to those in consensually monogamous ones can provide us insight into the lived experiences of this nontraditional model of partnering. This project presents the findings of nearly 2,000 married individuals and couples in consensually nonmonogamous marriages (CNM). The data were compared to married monogamous couples using information from the U. S. General Social Survey. Findings show significant differences between the two lifestyles with those in CNM reporting more frequent sex within their relationship, more satisfaction, lower divorce rates, and feeling more loved. Additionally, the findings will be discussed in terms of leisure vs lifestyle as the majority of couples reported “swinging” being something they only did an average of 4-6 times a year.

A Thin Line Between Sex-Positivity & Purity Culture

Tatyannah King

Have you ever faced sexual dysfunction or sexual shame due to a sex-negative cultural and religious upbringing? If so, you’re not alone. Between the prevalence of ceremonial acts such as purity pledges and purity balls done in the name of purity culture and the United State’s $2.1 billion funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, it’s safe to assume religion plays a key role in the way many of us navigate conversations about sexuality. This presentation will analyze ways in which religion can instead be used as a tool to spread a healthy message behind sexuality at its core to the human experience as opposed to a negative message fueled by shame as well as examine specific strategies to integrate sex-positivity into religious conversations about human sexuality in schools, churches or the household.

Re-Vitalize Your Sex Life as You Grow Older: The Wellness Sexuality Practice

Linda Landon

Aging adults are constantly bombarded with the myth that sexual energy diminishes as we grow older. The truth is, our bodies have the capacity to experience more sexual pleasure and aliveness as we age.

This lively and experiential workshop introduces Linda Landon’s signature program, The Wellness Sexuality Practice. This highly structured 5-step somatic method, re-ignites sensual, and sexual energy so it can flow throughout the body.

For couples, the practice deepens intimate connection and presence, enhances sensual/sexual pleasure, opens up playful exploration – and builds energy. For individuals, it deepens the connection with self, opens up playful self-exploration, builds self-confidence, and increases vitality.

The Wellness Sexuality Practice is mindful and goal-less. With all goals removed – except the desire to connect and feel – it provides a safe space to explore physical sensation through simple non-sexual touch, and then, expand into more sexual contact.

This practice can also help repair sexual issues, sexual trauma, a breach in intimate connection, as well as conditions associated with aging, such as vaginal dryness or erectile dysfunction.

This interactive lecture will describe the practice, and provide an opportunity to experience Level 1 and 2 (Sensing Communication) in a dyad.

Ecological Intimacy

Annie Boheler

Humans are of & by nature and, our sexual/intimate relationship qualities relate directly to our interactions with ecosystems. This idea has been labeled as deep ecology, integrative spirituality, biophilia, etc.. Scientists such as Ken Wilber, Clemens Arvay, and E.O. Wilson have expanded on this idea and reality. It is by no random coincidence that the ecologically divorced situation that we as a human society are in is coinciding with the ever-expanding realization that our sexuality, responding to immediate culture, has been oppressed.

Our reductionist thinking has led to extreme discoveries in science that include sexuality and ecology however, western science is extremely limited in that many layers of reality are not able to be studied. This is due to the complexities of perceptions and normal responses to observation. It is imperative that in this quickly evolving culture we bridge fields of study related to holistic health, wellbeing, and environmental changes. When we oppress functions, such as sexuality, of our highly evolved animalistic nature, we outsource our needs violently (ref. Lysistrata). Co-creating de-shaming sexual spaces for expression and creativity is a key factor in our upcoming regeneratively oriented, diverse global culture.

What is your sexual orientation? "Kinky"

Daniel Copulsky

Recent work on practitioners of Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadomasochism (BDSM) has moved away from the longstanding pathological model to consider other narratives of BDSM and formulations of BDSM as leisure, orientation, or both. While descriptions of BDSM as orientation have appeared in theoretical discussions, along with popular media, blogs, and qualitative articles, quantitative data supporting this perspective remains sparse.

The present analysis is based on data collected by Williams, Prior, Alvarado, Thomas & Christensen (2016). This prior study focused on BDSM as leisure, but participant responses also contribute to the conversation around BDSM as orientation, confirming that some BDSM practitioners do consider this a sexual orientation. Tensions also emerge in the data. While some BDSM practitioners present kink identities as a primary sexual orientation or a facet of orientation, expressing these interests in a few distinct ways, others actively reject the idea that BDSM should be thought of in these terms.

Osunality Encourages Peacemaking

Dr. Zelaika Hepworth Clarke

This anti-erotiphobic, anti-racist presentation will highlight the African-centered sex-positive paradigm of the Osunality and African energy matrix associated with peacemaking. A simple translation of Ọ̀ṣunality is Ọ̀ṣun-sexuality or African sensuality-sexuality and eroticism (Nzegwu, 2011). Ọ̀ṣunality is an “empowering, post-colonial, sex-positive, African-centered paradigm” (Hepworth Clarke, 2015, p. 16). Ọ̀ṣunality “affirms the normality of sexual pleasure and the erotic” (Nzegwu, 2011, p. 256). Ọ̀ṣun or Oshun, also known as a peacemaker, will be highlighted along with other African orishas, associate with peace, sensuality, love, and joy. Learning about Osunality can provide sexuality professionals valuable insight into non-western sex-positive paradigms, an opportunity to unlearn negative effects of sexual colonialism (such as misogynoir, cissexism), increase sexual multiepistemic literacy and awareness of erotic sovereignty. This workshop will highlight African epistemic considerations of pain, pleasure, eroticism, empowerment, peace, and relationality with the aim of decreasing the distance toward sensual liberation.

Saturday

Cuddling as a Peacemaking Tool in the Gender Wars

Yoni Alkan & Michelle Renee

Professional Non-Sexual Consensual Touch (Cuddling) is coming more into the mainstream nowadays. From interviews and mentions on TV (“Billions” and “Bill Nye: Saves the World”) to articles and party conversations; most of the discussions revolve around the touch and sex aspects of cuddling. But the fact that this practice affects people’s abilities to keep each other safe through consent, is rarely discussed. Not only that, but the practice creates a new paradigm where men learn to communicate their wants in a safe environment, and women learn to take autonomy over their level of comfort and are able to say No is a safe and nourishing environment.

This panel will discuss how professional cuddling can teach the basic skills of consent, communication, and boundary setting – which can change the dating landscape completely. Both practitioners on the panel are sexual educators that came to the world of professional cuddling. Both believe that sex positivity affects their approach to non-sexual cuddling services to bring inclusivity to all.

Arts-based Research: Using Photo-voice to Move Beyond HIV Stigma in Queer Men of Color

Dani Murillo

This presentation will focus on the transformative potential of arts-based research as a tool which can uplift sexually marginalized communities and bring their voices to the foreground of discussions of positive sexuality through creative photography (Sullivan, 2005). I will be sharing photos from a photovoice research project I conducted. These photographs were taken by the participants to express their fears, experiences, and aspirations for intimate relationships. The study uses photovoice and in-depth qualitative interviews to explore the experiences of HIV+ queer men of color and intimate relationships. I approach this study from a sociological queer perspective; I conducted 5 interviews with HIV+ queer men of color and I am still in the process of conducting interviews. My preliminary analysis shows emerging finding on how these men resist stigma and how their relationships with other queer men of color empower them to be honest about their status with sexual partners. Although I will present these findings as an example of a photovoice project, I intend to focus on how arts-based research can expand the field of sex positive research by making findings more accessible to a broader audience.

Building a Sex Positive Professional Certification Program

Emily Prior, Daniel Copulsky, Andrew Pari

A panel discussion on the creation and implementation of a new certification program geared towards professionals of all types who wish to expand their knowledge of positive sexuality.

Ace and Poly: Insights from the Asexual Community Survey

Daniel Copulsky

For the past 5 years, the annual Asexual Community Survey has collected data from individuals who identify on the ace spectrum (asexual, gray-asexual, and demisexual). This data confirms observations about the popularity of polyamory as a relationship option among asexual communities, with about 10% of asexuals in the surveys identifying as polyamorous and many more appearing open to the possibility of engaging in polyamorous relationships.

The surveys also provide some insight into ways polyamorous asexuals form a unique cohort and possible explanations for why polyamory may be appealing to asexuals. In particular, the data suggests that asexuals are not drawn to polyamory only as a way to appease non-asexual partners.

Seven Dimensions of Kink: Data from the Kink Identity and Sexuality Study (KISS) Project

Jules Vivid, Eliot M. Lev, Richard Sprott

While kink sexuality occurs at an appreciable rate in the population, we know very little about what it means to have a kink identity. This poster explores one question: What is the structure of kink identity? Using a grounded theory design, 70 in-person interviews were conducted of adults living in Northern California, USA, who identified themselves as kinky. The interviews were analyzed using grounded theory data analysis techniques. Results indicate that seven core categories/dimensions of kink identity emerged in our analyses. These results included: (1) Intertwining of kink and sex; (2) eroticizing power differences; (3) intense physical sensations (SM); (4) sensual experiences (fetish); (5) headspace or altered states of consciousness; (6) fluidity vs stability of power role in kink activities and relationships; and (7) community connection. These seven dimensions could be conceptually grouped into four main concerns: sex, power, headspace, and community.

Positive Sexuality Starts in the Womb

Perquida Payne

This presentation will go over the importance of starting positive sexuality conversations with children at an early age and how that can create adults that are more inclusive and sex-positive. A discussion of examples of starting these conversations will be provided to participants.

Sex Talk: Investigating the Sexual Development and Sexual Attitudes of African American Women

Chanel Jaali Marshall

This highly engaging session will begin with a brief historical overview of the sexuality of African and African descendant women. The presentation will then move into the myths, misconceptions, and stereotypes surrounding the sexuality of Black women. Attention will be given to the ways we learn about sex, and with that information, how we interpret sex and sexuality through our behaviors. This session is intended to be highly interactive with key discussion questions and videos positioned throughout with the intent of examining the aforementioned subjects. The speaker will also include personal stories collected from interviews in order to engage a cross-cultural perspective with the audience.

Graphically Yours: A Creative Tool for Therapy

Jennifer Beman

The Graphic Sex Project is a creative tool to enhance self-acceptance, awareness, and partner communication. In the context of a therapy session, it can tap into artistic self-expression to help clients understand their sexual desires and the way in which their current sexual activities do or do not meet those desires. It is a unique methodology for helping people be empowered and fulfilled in their sexuality.

Using a handful of colored 1cm cubes, people make graphs of their sexual values and preferences, connecting their sexuality to a visual and tactile medium as a new path for exploration of desires. For clients that have some difficulty talking explicitly about sex in session, the process of creating a graph helps people attach words to desires, and create visual representations of current sexual situations, as well as future ideals, past traumas, fantasies, and realities.

Communicating Consent Concepts in Casual Settings

Kathy G. Slaughter, LCSW

Since the #MeToo movement began, our cultural conversation around sexual assault and consent changed, broadened, and moved beyond the communities already focusing on consent like the kink community. Yet resistance, ignorance, and confusion about how to engage each other consensually remain. Educating various kinds of communities about how to create change is now critical. In 2018, Mosaic Experiment, a regional Burning Man event in Ohio, decided to make itself officially a consent event. We recognized stating we value consent is easier than putting it into practice, so we created an education and accountability project called the Consent Team. This presentation will cover our guiding principles based on restorative justice and adult education, our use of the 4Cs in education initiatives and our lessons learned around enacting cultural change in a committed, diverse, chaotic community.

Art Sex Data: the Graphic Sex Project

Jennifer Beman

This on-going art installation showcases the diversity of the human sexual experience and gives participants a new methodology for understanding their own sexual narrative. Participants make “graphs” of their sexual values and preferences using colored cubes. A picture of their creation is added, anonymously and consensually, to a growing collection.

The graphs that people make become a tool for them to open conversations and negotiation with partners about their needs and desires, as an essential part of positive sexual interaction and outcomes.

The Kinky Dabbler: Engaging in Kink but not in Communities

Liam Wignall

Kinky sex is increasingly mainstream in Western countries; this has opened up novel routes for individuals to engage with kink. Previous research into kink has predominantly focused on individuals who immersive themselves in kink communities – the transformational effect of the internet for individuals who engage in kink has been understudied. Drawing on ethnographic observations and 30 interviews with gay and bisexual men in the UK who practice kink in different ways, this presentation identifies the kinky dabbler – a new type of kink practitioner who engages in and invests in kink activities, but does not self-ascribe a kink identity or engage with kink communities. Key features of the kinky dabbler will be discussed, alongside implications for further work.

Queer Lens in Focus: A Photovoice Project with LGBTQ+ Refugees living in Athens, Greece

Moshoula Capous-Desyllas, Art Ambartsumyan & Vanessa Myrie

This project illustrates the power of photovoice methodology to capture the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers. In collaboration with the LGBTQ+ Refugees Welcome Collective, we placed the power to create art & represent knowledge in the hands of the participants themselves. This process can serve to empower individuals and encourage peacemaking between cultures and communities while reaching a broader audience beyond academia. This project highlights the social, political, and economic challenges of displaced LGBTQ+ people from Syria, Iraq, Uganda, Cameroon, Pakistan, and Cuba, who hold intersecting identities related to race, class, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, nationality, and citizenship status. The detrimental effects of homophobia and transphobia continued to manifest within the refugee camps by their own ethnic communities. This research illuminates the strength and resilience of LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers as they negotiate identity, express hope for a better life, identify needed resources, and grapple with physical, emotional, and symbolic notions of home through photography. Their images document their migration to Greece, the loved ones they left behind, and the new communities they formed along the way, as they affirm their identities, build solidarity, create peace within and among themselves, and celebrate their survival.

Looking for a Sex Positive Therapist Online? Some Possible Unintended Consequences

Karin Wandrei

Feeling safe is an important element of successful therapy. Sexual and gender minorities often experience bias in their therapy encounters. While the existence of online directories can be valuable for people seeking sex-positive therapists, there can also be unintended negative consequences. Since most directories allow therapists to check off their areas of expertise, a therapist can indicate an expertise that they don’t really have. This can result in clients not getting the help they need and even worsening their situation. This presentation provides recommendations as to how this can be addressed and recommendations for future research.

Guided Rape Exposure Treatment: A Proposed Model

Andrew Pari

Sexualized violence is a devastating lifetime trauma that occurs in high numbers, both in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to PTSD and Rape Trauma Syndrome (RTS), anxiety, depression, self-harming behavior, suicidality, and disruptive relationship barriers are sequelae of sexualized violence. Victims often feel “damaged for life.”
One aspect not addressed clinically or in the literature is the concept of repetition compulsion for sexual assault victims. A well-documented area in general trauma, the field has left the drive towards repetition compulsion of the sexual trauma experience largely alone. Some survivors, consciously and unconsciously, seek relief of symptoms by replaying aspects of their experience.

The presenter will build upon their previous SexPosCon presentation, “From Rape to Rapture,” (understanding arousal in sexualized violence), by reviewing the expression of repetition compulsion in the kink world, based on qualitative interviews with women who play out these urges.

A highly controversial potential model for exposure treatment, rooted in current trauma-informed principles will be proposed and discussed. Healing trauma through kink is largely in its infancy as an acceptable treatment approach. This presenter will attempt to address and advance these concepts.

5 Facts Every Sexuality Professional Should Know about Transgender, Non-binary, and Gender Nonconforming Youth

Ren Grabert

Over the last few years, the ethics of treating transgender, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming youth have come into question in the public sphere. Many of these conversations include misinformation from publications aimed to discredit the professionals who provide gender-affirming care and limit life-saving healthcare to trans* youth populations. Sexuality professionals are in a unique position to help, having baseline knowledge about gender diversity and working in a social justice-focused field. This session aims to provide sexuality professionals with a starting point to advocate for trans* youth. We will cover myths and facts about trans* youth and their families, what medical transition for minors looks like under WPATH guidelines, social and systemic factors that affect health outcomes, and what we know about the outcomes of current treatment options.

Kink and Sex through the Lens of Queer Theory: Findings from the Kink Identity and Sexuality Study

Eliot M. Lev, Jules Vivid & Richard Sprott

Few studies have examined the relationship between kink behaviors and sexual behaviors, yet of these few studies, the relationship proves to be complex, with notable diversity in how people construct the boundaries of sex and kink and how these practices interact (Simula, 2019). As part of a grounded theory study of kink identity, the current study examined how 70 kink-identifying participants from Northern California discussed their experience and understanding of the relationship between kink and sex in interviews conducted in 2014 and 2015. The findings indicated seven themes. The themes are discussed through the lens of queer theory, noting how the boundary between kink and sex is fuzzy, and how kink and sex can be transgressive to sexual norms. This study is particularly relevant for enhancing the visibility of sexual and gender minorities while progressing sex-positive discourse that underscores the complex and diverse intersections of kink and sex.

Sunday

Resilient Polyamorous Families

Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff, PhD, CSE

Using data from a longitudinal study of polyamorous families with children, Dr. Sheff will detail the advantages, disadvantages, and resilient strategies that members of poly families use to deal with disadvantages. Dr. Sheff will explain resilience theory and demonstrate how it applies to these polyamorous families, and close the presentation with ways in which conventional families can learn from resilient polyamorous families.

Peacemaking Through Social Media: How Sex Workers Are Achieving Social Justice Online

Tim Woodman & Riley Reyes

With the advent of various forums of social media, sex workers have their first-ever public platform to advocate for social justice and their own humanization and rights. This presentation will explore successes, failures, and objectives for the future in guiding online interactions through the lens of sex workers’ experiences.

Opening Up: A Process

Jennifer Rehor

Using the lens of attachment theory and sex-positivity, we will explore the different ways couples have successfully, and unsuccessfully, “opened-up” their relationships. Opening-up is a process of changing the relationship agreement from exclusively monogamous, to some form of consensual non-monogamy (CNM). By depicting both the benefits and the risks that changing a relationship dynamic can have, this presentation provides a balanced view of CNM.

Sex Speech: Problems of Tabooed Talk and the Potential of a Sex-Positive Discourse and Sex-Positive Spaces

Anna Mense

In my talk, I reflect upon the role that language has for different aspects of sexualities. I locate this matter within the examination of a German German sex-negative socio-political climate and an emerging sex-positive subculture in Western Europe. The basis of my considerations is the observation that public talk about sexualities is negatively framed an observation that public talk about sexualities is negatively framed and focussed on dangers without equally highlighting the abundance of sexualities and richness sexual experiences. without equally highlighting the abundance of sexualities and richness of sexual experiences. In the first part, I will give brief evidence for inhibited discourse evidence about sexualities in Germany since 2014. In the second part, I will give examples for negative consequences of a tabooed discourse and I will use these examples in order to indicate different functions that language has for individual sexual experiences and sexual identity as well for sex culture. In this part, the focus will be set on dimensions of (1) dialogical self, (2) model constitution, (3) invisible narratives, and (4) sexual violence that I derive from an analysis of Carolin Emcke’s monographies Wie wir begehren (How we Desire, 2013) and Weil es sagbar ist (Because it can be Said, 2015). In a third section sketching aspects of sex-positive spaces, I hope to introduce a setting that has the potential to help cultivate an affirmative body and sex culture. My hope is to illustrate how far spaces that build upon principles of negotiation, self- and group responsibility and clear communication might support sexually satisfying exploration as well as the acquisition of a sex-positive attitude. The section also tries to expand the vision on sex and explain that language on its own is not going to save sex culture, but that there is a need to cultivate a sex-positive attitude and different modes of sensing, listening and interacting.

Using Sex And Porn Online To Change The World IRL

Brianne McGuire

Altering the context and interface of explicit media has the power to influence perception, and in turn, behavior. People are uncomfortable speaking openly about sex, largely the result of segregated information consumption. While there is a wealth of sex in a myriad of formats available online, it is presented in a way that perpetuates the idea of separateness and subsequently shame, guilt and fear. There is untapped potential in the vast landscape of the internet; so many opportunities to transform the way sex-based media is seen and felt and understood. Changing sex online can change our experience in real life.

Teaching Sex! A Pedagogy of Peacemaking

Jeremy N. Thomas, PhD, DJ Williams, PhD, Emily Prior, MA, Thea S. Alvarado, PhD

This panel will draw on the experiences and insights of professors who regularly teach courses on sexuality in order to consider how a pedagogy of peacemaking can help facilitate student learning and acceptance of positive sexuality. Classroom challenges and best practices will be considered, with a special focus on how instructors can help manage and leverage students’ often diverse (and sometimes oppositional) perspectives in order to create a positive, peaceful, and effective learning environment that brings students to deeper levels of understanding, compassion, and respect.