People into BDSM no longer considered mentally ill. Well it's about time.

As reported by The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the makers of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as the DSM, has released its new edition (DSM-5).  In previous editions, paraphilias – a catch-all term for “unusual” sexual desires falling under the umbrella of fetishes, BDSM, or kink – were basically considered mental illnesses.

In the new edition, the Manual is making a distinction “between atypical human behavior and behavior that causes mental distress to a person or makes the person a serious threat to the psychological and physical well-being of other individuals.”

This strikes me as quite a step forward, and I’m pleased with the psychological community for finally starting to look at the wide panoply of sexual and gender expression among human beings and seeing that sometimes – perhaps even most of the time – it’s simply not a problem.

Now, in order for these types of desires to be classified as mental disorders, they have to meet several criteria.  Besides having desires that are considered out of the ordinary, these desires must cause the person to:

feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval; [emphasis mine] or

have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.

What this means for my own clients as well as for kinky people everywhere – especially kinky parents who, historically, have been involved in custody disputes resulting in their children being taken from them – is spectacular.

The DSM-5 also distinguishes between sexual interests and sexual disorders.  The disorders currently defined under the DSM-5 are: exhibitionistic disorder, fetishistic disorder, frotteuristic disorder, pedophilic disorder, sexual masochism disorder, sexual sadism disorder, transvestic disorder, and voyeuristic disorder. However, any of these may be an interest in a healthy person, rather than a mental illness.

For example, a person may be an exhibitionist, but not have exhibitionistic disorder: a condition that causes her significant shame, guilt, anxiety, personal distress and adverse effects on her life, or causes harm to others.  A person may have masochistic sexual interests: i.e., he might get sexual arousal out of being hurt.  But that doesn’t mean he has sexual masochism disorder, which might mean he desires pain that causes him significant permanent injury, or that he seeks it out in ways that violate the desires and consent of others.

The one exception is pedophiliac disorder, whose clinical definition remains essentially the same as that in the DSM-4.  Having such desires, even if they are not acted upon, is still considered a mental illness, as it falls under the category of “desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.”  They have simply changed the name from “pedophilia” to “pedophiliac disorder” in order to maintain consistency.

I have complicated opinions about this last point, but I will save it for another post.  For today, I just want to express my happiness that what are simply unusual sexual desires and practices (and honestly, I think our culture is showing more and more that they’re not as unusual as we think…) have been officially de-pathologized.

 

 

People into BDSM no longer considered mentally ill. Well it’s about time.

As reported by The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, the makers of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as the DSM, has released its new edition (DSM-5).  In previous editions, paraphilias – a catch-all term for “unusual” sexual desires falling under the umbrella of fetishes, BDSM, or kink – were basically considered mental illnesses.

In the new edition, the Manual is making a distinction “between atypical human behavior and behavior that causes mental distress to a person or makes the person a serious threat to the psychological and physical well-being of other individuals.”

This strikes me as quite a step forward, and I’m pleased with the psychological community for finally starting to look at the wide panoply of sexual and gender expression among human beings and seeing that sometimes – perhaps even most of the time – it’s simply not a problem.

Now, in order for these types of desires to be classified as mental disorders, they have to meet several criteria.  Besides having desires that are considered out of the ordinary, these desires must cause the person to:

feel personal distress about their interest, not merely distress resulting from society’s disapproval; [emphasis mine] or

have a sexual desire or behavior that involves another person’s psychological distress, injury, or death, or a desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.

What this means for my own clients as well as for kinky people everywhere – especially kinky parents who, historically, have been involved in custody disputes resulting in their children being taken from them – is spectacular.

The DSM-5 also distinguishes between sexual interests and sexual disorders.  The disorders currently defined under the DSM-5 are: exhibitionistic disorder, fetishistic disorder, frotteuristic disorder, pedophilic disorder, sexual masochism disorder, sexual sadism disorder, transvestic disorder, and voyeuristic disorder. However, any of these may be an interest in a healthy person, rather than a mental illness.

For example, a person may be an exhibitionist, but not have exhibitionistic disorder: a condition that causes her significant shame, guilt, anxiety, personal distress and adverse effects on her life, or causes harm to others.  A person may have masochistic sexual interests: i.e., he might get sexual arousal out of being hurt.  But that doesn’t mean he has sexual masochism disorder, which might mean he desires pain that causes him significant permanent injury, or that he seeks it out in ways that violate the desires and consent of others.

The one exception is pedophiliac disorder, whose clinical definition remains essentially the same as that in the DSM-4.  Having such desires, even if they are not acted upon, is still considered a mental illness, as it falls under the category of “desire for sexual behaviors involving unwilling persons or persons unable to give legal consent.”  They have simply changed the name from “pedophilia” to “pedophiliac disorder” in order to maintain consistency.

I have complicated opinions about this last point, but I will save it for another post.  For today, I just want to express my happiness that what are simply unusual sexual desires and practices (and honestly, I think our culture is showing more and more that they’re not as unusual as we think…) have been officially de-pathologized.

 

 

Experiencing technical difficulties…therefore nudibranchs.

This morning, my computer decided to start behaving strangely in ways that were highly alarming. As I struggle to back up some files and photos that I’d been neglectful of before they disappear forever into the ether, I am lacking time to write a coherent blog post.

However, just this weekend, I discovered that there are these wondrous animals I didn’t know about.

They look like this.

Hopkin's Rose (Hopkinsia rosacea)

Or this:

nudibranch meeting

Or this:

Nudibranch

Or this.

Nudibranch

Or really any number of other magnificent things. When things are difficult, it’s helpful to remember that there are such things in the world as this.

Oh and this:

Nudibranch (4 cm) 1

A great description of a Rubenfeld session

One of the better descriptions I’ve seen of a first and second Rubenfeld Synergy session, performed by veteran Judy Swallow in New York on an experiential journalist who covers holistic health there.

Check it out here in the Poughkeepsie Journal.

Trigger warning: non-graphic description of childhood sexual abuse – and a healing from it.

Some highlights:

She asks what’s going on, and I tell her my shoulders feel like a wooden coat hanger, holding up the weight of the world. She asks me to imagine myself at a younger age when I started taking responsibility for everything, and I see myself at 9. She asks what I am wearing, and I see me in a yellow dress. She asks what I would tell Little Linda, and I say I don’t have to be so scared, that I should take chances, that I was going to grow up to be great….

Afterward, she helps me sit up, and I feel a little lightheaded, and light-hearted. She guides me around the room, and I can feel myself walking solidly, my arms hanging freely from my shoulders. It is an amazing feeling, as if I had just received an hour of intensive body work instead of just this light touch and talk….

By using bodily sensations as a metaphor for life experiences, Rubenfeld Synergy Method can dive into long-held emotions, pain and beliefs. Experiencing them in the here and now — not as a static story but as something you can shift — is powerful and liberating.

 

Gardening, or, Doing What Makes You Happy

Yesterday, I spent a few hours out on the patio around the old, drained pool that accompanies my house.  Slowly, and in as cost-effective a way as possible (read: free), we’re filling the pool to make it into a garden bed.  Until then, though, we’re managing a bunch of containers, and yesterday was the first real chance I got to get out there and deal with them.  I pulled countless cosmos, morning glory, and maple seedlings, as well as other unnamed weeds.  I stirred up and amended the soil with compost from the past year.  I swept the concrete patio and threw everything into the empty pool.  And I planted lettuce, peas, cucumbers, carrots, and beans.

It only took a moment of pulling weeds and putting my hands in the rich soil to be reminded of how much I love doing this, how fulfilling I find growing things, eating things I’ve grown, and just playing in the dirt.  It grounds me, works my body, focuses my mind and nourishes my spirit – similar to rock climbing, really.  I’ve written elsewhere about akrasia, or the tendency to do things that don’t serve you, and avoid things that do, even though you know what’s going to make you feel good.  I’m not sure why it took so long for me to get out into the garden, in spite of all the good weather we’ve had: somehow, other things always seemed more important.

In any case, I got out there, I did some work, I got some sun, and I felt really good.  What have you done in the past few days that makes your body and spirit thank you for it?

 

Brief, but important.

A question I mean to put in my upcoming marketing materials, which the fabulous Julie Connor helped me crystallize the other day:

People who are exploring questions of gender, sexuality, or relationship styles…How would it feel to live comfortably, securely and proudly in your body for who you are?

I think that pretty much says it about how I want to be helping people.

Make an appointment with me here.

The stories we tell ourselves

katebrick

I didn’t think I was an action hero, either. Photo by Christine Banna, 2010.

A few days ago, I came across a fantastic post about narrative, and how easy it is, given that we’re narrative creatures with storytelling in our DNA, to tell the same stories over and over about things, even when they aren’t true.

The title of the post is “‘We Have Always Fought’: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative,” and it’s by Kameron Hurley, who besides having a name very similar to my maiden name, is obviously awesome.

The gist of it is: we look at history and decide that women had only one role for the most part: male property.  Women weren’t fighters, or soldiers, or warriors.  But a growing mass of evidence – including DNA testing of Viking skeletons – shows that in fact, women did fight.  Often, and in great numbers.  Yet even the stories we currently tell – in films, books, video games, and so on – tell a different story: the story that we already “know” to be “true.”

This is an important lesson for the ways in which convenient, but untrue, narratives become True Actual Facts in our cultural lexicon.  But how many of us do this in our day to day lives – or have cultural narratives pressed upon us in ways we aren’t even aware of?

The work I do begins in the body, and the new theme of the Rubenfeld Synergy Method brand is “Befriend Your Body, Transform Your Life.”  Part of the reason for this new slogan is the realization of how much daily, lowercase-t trauma people go through around their bodies, just from the narratives that surround them.  How many women go around thinking they’re fat, constantly dieting and obsessing about their shapes?  How many men think their desires are shameful, due to oppressive religious ideas or traditional “family values”?  How many people out there truly love their bodies, think of them as an invaluable resource, their best friends?  Mostly, the prevailing narrative of the body in this culture is of shame, oversexualization (with very few acceptable notions of attractiveness), and forceful transformation: by our culture’s mainstream standards, our bodies are vehicles to carry our brains around, or else meat machines to be molded to our wills into a shape that is more desirable by the standards of Madison Avenue and Hollywood.

What about the things that are true on the ground: that people come in all shapes and sizes, and that many of them are healthy?  That people have a wide range of gender and sexual identities, not just the ones we regularly see on TV?  That beauty is everywhere, and in everyone?

And what about all the subtler ways we tell ourselves stories about our bodies?  I’m a climber, and I find myself constantly telling myself what I can’t do.  Imagine my surprise when one day I realized that I was consistently successfully climbing a level above what I’d been doing.  How often do you tell yourself, “I can’t,” or “Nice girls don’t,” or “Real men don’t do that,” or “That’s for other people?”

Yes, you can; you just haven’t tried.  Yes, nice girls do.  Real men eat quiche, garden, wear skirts, and dance.

Women have always fought. 

What might happen if you decided, today, right now, that your body was your greatest ally, instead of your enemy?