An afternoon with CARAS

 Posted by on August 27, 2011
Aug 272011

By Kat Stamoulis

This year the 2011 Alternatives Sexualities Conference was held in Washington, DC, having moved from its previous homes in Chicago and San Francisco. I was in attendance at the conference, hosted by CARAS, not as a researcher or a clinician in the field, but as an undergraduate student with a passion for human sexuality as well as an active member of the kink scene.

Though this conference was geared towards researchers and practicing clinicians, I still walked away with valuable information, along with a sense of giddiness that I always get when I feed my brain. Dr. Gloria Brame kicked off the conference with enthusiasm, conveying her insights into alternative sexualities and offering guidelines designed for practitioners to help them become their kinky client’s advocate. She explained how individuals with alternative sexual identities are not usually in treatment, not because of the identity itself, but the responses, reactions, and behavior surrounding the identity. It was also noted that there are individuals with healthy minds that hold alternative sexual identities but they are often not recognized in research because they do not seek out treatment. Dr. Brame also described how sexuality is the only area that we demand such a high level of conformity in our society, whereas we usually promote individuality or sticking out amongst our peers. As members of an individualistic culture it seems odd that our society would impose harsh sanctions against those of alternative sexualities.

The first session found me trying to choose between two interesting topic had a difficult choice in topics, the history and evolution of the S/M scene in America and diagnostic criteria, BDSM Unraveled, but I choose to follow up with Barry Smiler discussing his article, “There’s No Such Thing As Polyamory”, which expands on the American ideal of self-determination. We believe that we should be able to make our own choices, without outside restrictions imposed by family, culture, or government. With this in mind, Smiler asks, “why should how we structure our intimate relationships be any different?” I am glad I chose Smiler’s discussion to go to right after Dr. Brame’s introduction because there was a great overlapping point of how our society promotes individualism.

We broke for lunch after the first session and as an active member of the kink scene I felt that I should attend the discussion, “Listening to the Community,” that was held during this time. A few of the things we discussed were: “methods of outreach into rural areas and college communities”, “one place to find research and articles about alternative sexualities”, and “a more extensive list of kink-friendly professionals for the NCSF database”. It was really exciting to be involved in a discussion with the intention of helping the community. There were some great ideas posed for outreach in the college communities, which I can attempt to implement on my college campus

It was interesting to discover that I choose to attend Jennifer Eve Rehor’s session for the same reason she conducted her study, well one of them anyway. I went to Rehor’s session because of the fact that there is an insufficient amount of research done in which kinky women were included; most research has mainly focused on male individuals. The research that has included women has had very small samples and excluded sex workers and pro-Dommes, which I feel has made the meager amount of research that has already been done skewed and unreliable. Ms. Rehor was able to collect well over 1000 responses to her survey, indicating a large population previously left out of research. She discussed the sampling issues that she ran into, which are common with research, especially with a sensitive topic like sexuality. I think it is wonderful that she has taken the time to conduct this research study and that she was able to gather quite a heap of information. I definitely look forward to her further analyses of the data.

The last concurrent session I choose to attend was Carol Morotti-Meeker’s discussion “Polyamory and Parenting.” The only family model our society provides is the husband and wife, or mom and dad with their two and a half kids. How do you build a family outside of the traditional nuclear family? I did not realize how much effort goes into keeping the household up and running outside of the home, in the home things seem to be easier. What I mean is that poly-family households are not accepted by the general society and certain legal measures and precautions are sometimes necessary to protect the household and its children. For instance including partners that are not the biological parents on a list for the school that will allow them to pick up the children. This discussion was extremely flexible to meet the interests of the participants and I felt included even though I do not have any children.

The conference closed up with a case presentation, “Sexual Addiction in the Context of Polyamorous Relationships.” This presentation explained what sexual addiction looked like for an individual in a polyamorous relationship, and how the couple dealt with it. Both parties and the accompanying MD were very open and thoughtful about how this information was beneficial to clinicians dealing with individuals in polyamorous or non-monogamous relationships.

All in all this conference was loaded with information that I think needs to be disseminated throughout academic communities and into the general population. Conference costs, travel and food costs prevent many of those who want to attend unable to and this is a reason why this information needs to be publicized. I feel very fortunate that I was able to attend this conference and feel honored to be asked to write about it. I also encourage others who are privy to this kind of information to write and talk about it to those who are not, we need to hear more about it.

Guest Author Info:

Kat Stamoulis, also known by Squirrel, is a genderqueer, kinky, undergraduate student attending Salisbury University. Kat is currently working on a BA in Gender Studies and a minor in Philosophy in Salisbury, with the intention of becoming a sex educator for adults. Sharing knowledge and information has always been a passion for Squirrel and is excited to start a career in this field.