Presentation Descriptions

Elisabeth “Eli” Sheff, PhD, Keynote Speaker

Cultivating Queer Joy: Relationship Satisfaction Among Sex & Gender Minorities

Keynote Address: Friday, February 16, 1:00-2:30 p.m PT

Contrary to decades old assumptions that cast all sex and gender minorities as miserable people with wretched lives, research shows us that diverse relationships can bring joy and fulfillment. This presentation starts by reviewing the cumulative findings on relationship satisfaction among LGBTQ+, consensually nonmonogamous, and kink-identified populations. Then it highlights the common themes and summarizes the elements that contribute to relationship satisfaction, and closes with a discussion of how queer joy is a necessary part of life and why it is so important to challenge narratives of queer shame and despair.

David Ley, PhD, Keynote Speaker

Maintaining a Sex Positive Mentality, as Moral Panics Set the World on Fire

Keynote Address: Saturday, February 17, 1:00-2:30 p.m PT

Every day brings another moral panic around sex, gender, pornography, same sex relationships, adolescent sexuality, fears of pedophilic lizard people (yes really). National anxiety around sexuality is higher than we’ve seen in generations, and talking with people about a sex positive philosophy can be challenging and lead to conflict. Amidst these frightening times and hyperbolic controversies, how can sexual health professionals maintain personal equilibrium and keep positive about sexuality? Dr. David Ley draws on his many years of experience dealing with sexual controversies and public panics to guide through professional self care in these challenging times.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Liam Wignall, PhD

“What are you into?” Communication of Sexual Interests in Digital Spaces

Friday, February 16, 10:15-11:15 a.m PT session

Mars Vallon, MSW

“So, what do you do?” Sex Workers Navigating Privacy and Prying

Friday, February 16, 10:15-11:15 a.m PT session

Sex work is work – but it can be complicated to talk about. Sex workers often find themselves coming up against prying questions about their work in sexual, social, and medical contexts. Sometimes these questions come from a place of well meaning interest, sometimes workers are being asked for advice, sometimes these questions can indicate fetishization or alienation. Discerning when and how much to disclose is a familiar task for sex workers. Drawing from community dialogue and clinical work experience, this presentation provides a look at this frequent occurrence that sex workers face – and calls allies to engage in thoughtful communication and support with the sex workers in their live.

Daniel Copulsky

Tom Carpino

Pup Play and Sexual Health

Friday, February 16, 2:45-3:45 p.m PT session

This research explores the relatively understudied world of Pups and Handlers (PAH) within the kink community, with a focus on LGBTQ+ individuals. It acknowledges the scarcity of research on this topic and the potential stigma faced by LGBTQ+ PAH members. The study surveyed 568 participants engaged in pup play, gathering data on sexual orientation, gender identity, health, education, kink, mental health, and social affiliations like “packs.” It also examined sexual activities such as fisting and condomless anal sex. Results revealed that ~25% of PAH individuals seldom engaged in sexual activities during pup play, and ~40% did not prioritize sex in this context, challenging assumptions about this kink. A significant finding was that belonging to a “pack” was linked to better self-reported health. In contrast, membership in a kennel club or PAH association did not show the same health benefit. Overall, this research sheds light on the sexual health of PAH members, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, the study suggests that supportive social structures like “packs” may have positive effects on health. This knowledge has implications for creating more sensitive sexual health practices tailored to the diverse needs of the PAH community.

Phil Hammack

Be Dog Have Fun: Narratives of Discovery, Meaning, and Motivation among Members of the Pup Subculture

Friday, February 16, 2:45-3:45 p.m PT session

The twenty-first century has seen the proliferation of new sexual identity subcultures rooted in creative role-play dynamics, expanding our cultural and scientific understanding of diversity in sexuality and intimacy. In an international sample of 568 people who identified with the kink subculture of pup play, we analyzed responses to open-ended questions about the discovery of pup play and communities, definitions of pup play, and motivations for engagement. Narratives of discovery highlighted the role of online spaces, in-person discovery through observation, exposure through other kink communities, and exposure through an intimate relationship or sexual encounter. Definitions of and motivations to engage in pup play were narrated similarly across participants, with a focus on pup play as a form of escapism, a pleasurable activity, a form of relaxation or stress relief, and a route to a community. We situate these findings in relation to the expansion of diversity in sexual identity and intimacy in the twenty-first century, facilitated by the heightened visibility and opportunities for social and intimate creativity which have accompanied the growth of social media and exposure to new sexual stories.

DJ Williams, Emily E. Prior, D. Joye Swan, Brad Sagarin

Journal of Positive Sexuality Editorial Board Panel Discussion

Friday, February 16, 4:45-5:30 p.m PT session

Join the executive editorial board of the Journal of Positive Sexuality as they discuss the past, present, and future of this publication. Questions about the review process, becoming a reviewer, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the journal are a few of the topics that will be covered. We encourage all presenters and attendees to consider submitting your work to this peer-reviewed publication. 

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Daniel Copulsky

Megan Carroll

Asexual Pleasure: Resisting Compulsory Sexuality in Sex-Positive Spaces

Saturday, February 17, 9:00-10:00 a.m PT session

In the sociology of sexualities, as in sex-positive activism and scholarship more generally, there are two emerging trends: (1) the emphasis on joy in the lives of people minoritized by systems of gender and sexuality, and (2) the emphasis on embodied sexualities and sexual interactions, sometimes referred to as “the sociology of fucking.” My presentation is designed to call attention to how compulsory sexuality (i.e. the idea that all humans are sexual beings) can easily seep into sex-positive spaces, marginalizing asexual people. To accomplish this, I will be presenting data from an original, qualitative study of asexual people that I have been developing for several years called the Asexual Intimacies project. The Asexual Intimacies project includes interviews with 56 people who identify on the asexual spectrum, 62% of whom are people of color, 68% of whom identify as deaf or disabled, 30% of whom are transgender, and 27% of whom are non-binary. In interviews, participants were asked “What do you find pleasurable”? I will use their answers to this question “alongside other stories they shared with me about resisting compulsory sexuality“ to demonstrate how paradigms of pleasure and sex-positivity can incorporate asexual perspectives.

Daniel Copulsky

Daniel Copulsky

Considering and Communicating Researcher Positionality in Sexuality Research

Saturday, February 17, 9:00-10:00 a.m PT session

This presentation will focus on how researchers can consider and communicate our positionalities in conducting research on sexuality. Positionality describes the impact our identities have on our work; the ways our individual backgrounds shape how we interpret the world and interact with others. Reflexivity describes the intentional process of examining this impact on our research. One example of these concepts is the inclusion of positionality statements in published research articles, sections in which the authors reflect transparently on how the research teams’ identities and values informed the project. Considering positionality is particularly valuable for community-engaged work and research focused on marginalized identities. Our relation to the topics we study can determine the trust our research participants place in us. Personal knowledge and reflection can also help us ensure that our work supports rather than stigmatizing the communities we work with. Communicating our positionality as sexuality researchers can be particularly challenging, however, as our own identities may be invisible, stigmatized, or weaponized against us. This presentation will provide an overview of these concepts, tools for implementing reflexivity practices throughout the research process, and suggestions for communicating positionality in sexuality research.

Daniel Copulsky

Jenn Mason

When “Yes” Means “No”: How to Deal With Feelings of Uncertainty Around Consent

Saturday, February 17, 10:15-11:15 a.m PT session

Do people sometimes say “yes” when they’re really feeling “no”…even without coercion? Absolutely. Research shows that how people feel about sex sometimes doesn’t match what they do and say. In fact, many people experience times where they aren’t sure what they want or how they are feeling about it. Whether due to nervousness, past experiences, distraction, power dynamics, or internal pressures, it is common to feel unsure of how to proceed in a sexual interaction. This presentation expands our understanding of communication and consent, particularly around feelings of maybe. By offering frameworks and strategies for dealing with sexual experiences where we feel internally conflicted, this presentation offers an empowering path to embodiment. We will explore why our feelings may be different from what we say during sex, helping to identify factors that contribute to both alignment and dissonance.

Latetia T. Bland-Thergood

Military Sexual Trauma: How Inclusive Language Opens Pathways to Healing

Saturday, February 17, 10:15-11:15 a.m PT session

In 2022, nearly 9,000 reports of sexual assault were filed with the Department of Defense. The term military sexual trauma does not just cover the assault one may have endured but also the shame, self-blame, and moral injury that is steeped in conventional military values. As a military sexual assault response coordinator for the uniformed service, I worked with those impacted by sexual assault before and/or during military service. Training for this role barely included data or language on modern or inclusive sexuality concepts pertaining to prevention and response. What lacked in much of the language used by providers was acknowledgment of the full spectrum of sex practices, kink, sexual/identity expression and relationship types such as; lesbian, gay, trans/non-binary and polyamorous relationships and any other relationships that operate outside of conventional norms. Through inclusive language, prevention specialists, helping agents and response providers can encourage and promote the type of open and honest communication that gets people to the help they need.



Ethan Haymovitz, DSW

Defining Gay ABDL “Babies” and “Daddies

Saturday, February 17, 2:45-4:00 p.m PT session

In this study, a sample of 10 self-identified ABDL gay men brainstorm to define the concepts of “baby” and “daddy”, and 30 return to organize these definitions into theme and rate each definition according to “importance” and how “teachable” it is. During this session, our goal is to understand and interpret the findings together.



DJ Williams and Lynnette Coto

“There is so Much Intimacy!” A Qualitative ANALysis of Pegging Experiences

Saturday, February 17, 2:45-4:00 p.m PT session

This presentation summarized findings from a qualitative study on pegging. We utilized a grounded-theory research methodology, snowball/convenience sampling, and semi-structured interviewing to try to identify if and how pegging may be preferred leisure experience and what benefits may result for those who regularly engage in such sexual practices. We found that pegging generally reflects specific types of casual leisure (i.e., play, sensory stimulation, active entertainment, and pleasurable aerobic activity). Pegging benefits include deep relationship intimacy, improved partner communication and trust, and shared mutual pleasure.



Daniel Copulsky

Judith Langer

Sex-Positive Attitude: The Individual in the Complex Construct of Sex Positivity

Saturday, February 17, 4:00-4:45 p.m PT poster session

Sex positivity is a complex construct that has an impact on the individual as part of the society. At its core the presentation focuses on the individual and a sex-positive attitude presenting the results from a focused analysis of semi-structured interviews with six experts from the US, Germany and Austria working on sex positivity resp. positive sexuality. So, primarily in the light of Western societies, what does it mean being sex-positive? Along which characteristics can a sex-positive attitude be described? And which cultural factors do influence, more precisely promote or hinder the development of such an attitude? Thus, the research follows up on existing cross-disciplinary discussions neither led by one discipline nor by a certain or single aspect of sex positivity. Moreover, voices reach from a scientific background to an activist perspective, they are critical as well as contradictory. Analyzing sex positivity resp. positive sexuality along a private as well as participatory public and public society-shaping context helps structure the discourse. In this light, two of the interviewed experts can be assigned to each of the contexts.



Sunday, February 18, 2024

Daniel Copulsky

Nancy Owen

From Self to Society: Cultivating Curiosity in Sexuality Conversations


Sunday, February 18, 9:00-10:00 a.m PT

Learn about the cultivation of two traits, curiosity and differentiation. These lead to healthy communication about sexuality between couples, polycules, families, in broader societal conversations about sexuality, and when discovering ourselves individually. Therapeutic settings cover much about the how-to’s of communication – speak in I-statements, take turns speaking, nonverbals that show validation and other traditional approaches. Less is known about the internal states that lead to communication and understanding, and this presentation uncovers these important pivots. Part of the differentiation process is finding an internal sense of self that allows one to be genuinely curious about oneself and others. Through interactive exercises, reflection, and discussion, participants will discover common barriers to curiosity, as well as how to deepen curiosity about their erotic self and that of others. A curious, differentiated person will be better equipped to participate in healthy conversations about sex, especially when encountering common situations such as desire discrepancies or differing erotic scripts with partners and friends.



Andrew Pari

D. Joye Swan

Damsels in Distress? Busting the Myth of Female Powerlessness in Negotiating Safer Sex

Sunday, February 18, 10:15-11:15 a.m PT session

Safer sex communication is germane to all sexual relationships at some point. For decades now, there has been the argument that female members of heterosexual relationships are at a disadvantage because condom use, specifically, requires females to exert control over male behavior. Much of this research is based on subjective evaluations of heterosexual relationships. The purpose of the current study was to measure perceived power in heterosexual sexual relationships.  We assessed two types of power (say so and safer sex) in 314 heterosexual college students. We found no direct relationship between sex and power; females were not less powerful than males, however, power was directly related to traditional gender norms and the interaction of sex and traditional gender norms significantly predicted power.  Specifically, males with more traditional gender role beliefs reported more power in their relationship. This study also found that males were significantly more likely than females to say they would forego condom if their partner did not want to use them (safer sex power). This finding argues for increased sexual health risk in males rather than females.



Andrew Pari

Andrew Pari

Negotiation in Curative Kink

Sunday, February 18, 10:15-11:15 a.m PT session

“Curative Kink,” a term coined by this presenter, is the practice of applying BDSM/Kink principles to clinical treatment.  One aspect of this is “Negotiation” or learning to communicate sexual desires effectively. This session provides an overview of Curative Kink, then delves into the negotiative phase of the Somatic Mastery of Sexual Trauma therapy model using case examples from the presenter’s work, with integration of the newly established Clinical Kink Guidelines.



Sunday, February 18, 2024 1:00-3:00 p.m. PT

Sex Positive Professional Certification Program Workshop: Positive Sexuality Promotes Open and Honest Communication

This workshop requires an additional registration fee and is not included in the general conference registration.