What BDSM might teach us about affirmative consent

By Brain & Behavior

A new study by Northern Illinois University psychologists suggests that evidence for the effectiveness of the “Yes Means Yes” affirmative-consent movement, which has taken hold on many college campuses nationwide, might be found in an unlikely subculture—the BDSM community.

Black BDSM

While some critics of BDSM associate it with sexual aggression, and particularly violence against women, the subculture has had long-standing norms of affirmative consent, the researchers said. Their study found BDSM practitioners also report lower levels of rape-supportive beliefs than individuals surveyed from outside the subculture.

The psychologists used an online survey to measure the level of rape-supportive beliefs of 185 individuals from three groups—college students, random online respondents and BDSM practitioners.

BDSM practitioners reported significantly lower levels of “benevolent sexism,” “rape myth acceptance” and “victim blaming”— elements of what feminists and other researchers have proposed as being part of a larger rape culture that tolerates and even glorifies male sexual aggression against women.

Benevolent sexism is a chivalrous but also sexist attitude toward women, casting them as pure but fragile. Rape myths are inaccurate beliefs about rape, such as “women secretly want men to sexually dominate them” or “women incite men to rape by flirting with them.” Victim-blaming attitudes shift full or partial blame for sexual assault to the victim, such as “she was asking for it.”

The study was led by Kathryn Klement, an NIU doctoral student in psychology. A summary is available online ahead of print publication in the Journal of Sex Research.

Klement said the idea for the research survey was prompted by criticisms of the “Yes Means Yes” movement and related affirmative-consent policies and laws. The movement challenges sexual partners to explicitly communicate with each other about their desires prior to sexual activity.

In 2014, California began requiring college campuses to use an affirmative definition of consent. Many college and university campuses, and several other states (including Illinois), have adopted similar policies or laws. While the movement aims to stem the prevalence of sexual assault, it hasn’t been universally embraced.

“Affirmative consent contrasts with what we see in movies, TV shows and other media that often portray sex without communication,” Klement said. “Some critics have said ‘Yes Means Yes’ would make sex less sexy.”

The researchers hypothesized that BDSM practitioners would have lower levels of rape-supportive beliefs because of the subculture’s longstanding norms of affirmative consent through negotiation, when participants establish boundaries for sexual and BDSM activities and “safe words” to curtail or end activity.

“We wanted to look at attitudes in a subculture where consent and negotiation are normalized and accepted, yet people aren’t having less sex,” Klement said. “It made sense that this group of people might be more egalitarian, even though that seems paradoxical in a community that’s basically based on power exchange.”

The study, which controlled for age differences, indeed found significantly lower levels of rape-supportive beliefs among BDSM practitioners on three of six measures (with no significant differences among the survey groups on the remaining three).

“Negotiating about sex beforehand doesn’t make it any less sexy,” Klement said. “Consent is the critical element that separates healthy sexual encounters from assault.”

Klement said this point is especially important in light of other recent research, which shows college men and women report some differences in how they indicate and interpret consent from their sexual partners.

Co-authors on the NIU study include Ellen Lee, an NIU doctoral student in psychology, and Brad Sagarin, an NIU psychology professor who conducts research on the science of BDSM. Sagarin said that while the study clearly found an association between BDSM and lower rape-supportive beliefs, more research is needed to determine why that correlation exists.

“This was a correlational study, so we don’t know for certain why members of the BDSM community report lower levels of rape-supportive beliefs,” he said. “Nevertheless, it’s a first step in understanding another potential benefit of affirmative consent.”

In addition to how the study’s findings might relate to the practice of affirmative consent, Sagarin said there is another takeaway.

“The BDSM community has historically been stereotyped,” he said. “When you see a sexual sadist on TV, he is typically not a good guy.

“I think this study helps break the stigma of BDSM practitioners as bad or damaged people,” he added.

Complete Article HERE!

Are We Wrong About Male Sexuality?

Is male sexuality inherently predatory and threatening? Are Donald Trump’s comments and Brock Turner’s behavior typical?

Is male sexuality inherently predatory and threatening? Do all guys just want to grab women’s private parts, as Donald Trump suggested? Was Brock Turner’s jail sentence of six months and registering as a sex offender too harsh for “20 minutes of action”, as his father complained?

Many people believe rape is an inevitable by-product of male sexuality because the male sex drive is impossible to control. They may even believe that sexual desire causes guys to make bad decisions. They are dangerously incorrect and we all pay the price.

The reality is that most men are quite capable of controlling their sexual urges, which is why the vast 001majority of men are not rapists. In fact, most men are not particularly interested in having many partners. Researchers consistently find approximately 15% of men in their 20s have three or more partners per year, and only about 5% of all guys have three or more partners for three straight years. On college campuses, surrounded by thousands of other unmarried people their same age with a minimal level of adult supervision, only 25% of undergraduate men say they want two or more partners in the next thirty days. Yes, males have greater desire for and greater experience with promiscuity than women, but it’s a minority of guys who are driving the differences: three-fourths of male college students aren’t interested in having multiple short-term partners and more than four-fifths of guys in their 20s aren’t being promiscuous. So much for “hookup culture.” Most men don’t desire a promiscuous sex life. If you can get a man to talk about a sexual experience he regrets, you’ll probably hear a story about a drunken hookup.

Instead of recognizing and acting on the reality, we continue to minimize guys’ ability to control their sexual desires and instead give responsibility to others. Because we think guys can’t control themselves, we give girls and women responsibility for not dressing provocatively, not “leading him on,” and proving they gave a clear – and clearly understood – no. Guys seem to have little responsibility for knowing their own limits or being decent listeners. (Not good listeners; “no” is about as simple as it gets.) “Bathroom bills” in North Carolina make transgender individuals responsible for preventing the rape of women in restrooms; why not make it illegal to falsely claim a Trans identity?

Female victims clearly pay the price, as the letter from Brock Turner’s victim demonstrates. The experience and its associated trauma are awful. Not being listened to, as in the Bill Cosby case, just makes it worse.

Victims of male-on-male sexual assault suffer many of the same outcomes, with an additional dose of shame for not being able to defend themselves. Mental health problems may be compounded by the lack of public and professional knowledge regarding male sexual assault victims, leading to less effective treatment.

002Some institutions have also paid the price of male sexual predation. They assumed rape was inevitable and then tried to act like it never happened. The Catholic Church has paid tens of millions in settlements. Football programs from Penn State to Baylor to Sayreville, NJ have paid, with reputations tarnished and jobs lost. At this level, the cost is paid not just by the perpetrators and those who covered for them, but many others who genuinely didn’t know. Some of those innocents, continuing to trust the organizations and relying on their faulty knowledge of male sexuality, lash out at the victims.

Although the cost is much smaller at the individual level, all men suffer from the notion that “men are dogs,” because any misbehavior of his reinforces that notion. Further, he is incapable of refuting the global charge because the group “men” is more likely than the group “women” to be lewd or commit any type of sexual assault. Most women date men, and when they spend time and energy trying to figure out if he’s a dog or a good guy, they’re paying the price of our misunderstanding.

We can and must do better. We can learn the facts about men’s ability and willingness to control themselves, and give credit to the majority of men for being responsible adults. We can also put responsibility on the minority of men who disgrace the whole group, and teach them how to do better.


Is casual sex bad for your wellbeing?


Up to 80% of undergraduates have hookups.

Up to 80% of undergraduates have hookups.

Casual sex, hookups or one-night stands: whatever you call it, more than half of us will have sex with someone we barely know or don’t expect to date in the future. We’re most likely to do this at university, where up to 80% of undergraduates have hookups. Sex within relationships is said to improve cardiovascular health, reduce depression and boost immunity, but social science research has often linked casual encounters to feelings of sexual regret, low self-esteem and psychological distress, especially among women. Studies show that while men regret the sexual opportunities they missed, women often regret some of the casual sex they did have.

The solution

A Canadian study of 138 female and 62 male students who had casual sex found that men selected physical reasons for regret – such as their partner being insufficiently attractive. Women’s regrets focused on shame and self-blame. But the evidence as to whether casual sex, when done with protection against sexually transmitted diseases, is actually bad for anyone is unclear. The studies are overwhelmingly on heterosexual American university students and have varying definitions of hookups – from knowing someone for less than 24 hours, to sex in a “friends with benefits” relationship. Some show both men and women feel depressed, used and lonely after hookups; others find casual sex promotes more positive emotions than negative ones. In a study of 832 university students, only 26% of women compared with half of men felt positive after a hookup. Nearly half of women and 26% of men felt negatively about the experience.

Some factors are associated with an increased risk of feeling bad afterwards – these include having sex with someone you have known for less than 24 hours, drinking heavily or taking drugs beforehand, feeling you ought to rather than you want to, and hoping for a relationship afterwards. Interestingly, the Canadian study found that high-quality sex rarely led to regret.

Zhana Vrangalova, a professor of psychology at Cornell University, New York, who runs the Casual Sex Project – a website where people graphically share their encounters – argues that casual sex can improve wellbeing by increasing confidence, sexual pleasure and making people feel desirable. She points out in a TEDx talk that a study of 20,000 college students found that only 42% of women, compared with 78% of men, had an orgasm in their last hookup. This “pleasure gap” may partly explain the difference between men and women’s feelings about casual sex. But however pro-casual sex she is, Vrangalova warns that you shouldn’t hook-up if you care about seeing them again. Casual sex is not, she says, like doing the laundry.

Complete Article HERE!

Does Anal Sex Lead To Anal Cancer?

3 Facts And Myths For Sexual Partners


Anal sex is no longer quite the salacious taboo it once was.

Not only has society steadily become more accepting of sexual relationships between men, but more heterosexual people are trying it and trying it more often than ever before. Recent surveys  estimate that 40 percent of women between the ages of 20 to 24 have tried anal sex, and 20 percent of all women have tried it in the last year.

Our greater societal acceptance aside, you may have heard that anal sex can have some dangerous effects on our health, particularly as a leading cause of anal cancer. So let’s take a brief look at some basic facts and myths about anal sex and its connection to cancer.

The myths and facts behind the connection between anal sex and anal cancer.

The myths and facts behind the connection between anal sex and anal cancer.

1. It Can Cause Anal Cancer

The long and short of it is that yes, anal sex is a risk factor for anal cancer.

Anal sex can transmit the human papillomavirus (HPV), and HPV in turn leaves the cells around our rectum more vulnerable to mutating and becoming cancerous. A similar risk exists wherever HPV rears its ugly microscopic head, including the mouth, throat, and cervix. And because anal sex is generally more damaging to the inner lining of the rectrum than the stereotypical notion of heterosexual sex is to the vagina, HPV and other sexually transmitted infections are more easily spread between people who engage in anal sex. Similarly, the greater number of sexual partners, the greater the risk of cancer.

2. But It’s Rare

Close to 90 percent of anal cancer cases can be traced back to HPV. But the cancer itself is relatively rare.

According to The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, only 8,000 people will be newly diagnosed with anal cancer this year. And though cases have been slowly increasing in recent decades, only one of every 500 people will develop anal cancer in their lifetime, generally between the ages of 55 to 64 — a stark contrast to the one in every 22 people who will develop colorectal cancer.

3. And Preventable

Like other forms of cancer fueled by HPV, the available HPV vaccine can likely cut down the risk of developing anal cancer in both men and women.

While HPV vaccination rates still aren’t anywhere near as high as we’d like them to be, there is already evidence that the vaccine has lowered the risk of later cervical cancer in teen girls. And though we don’t have any concrete evidence that the same decline has occurred for anal cancer just yet, there is some showing the vaccine reduced the risk of cells in the anus becoming precancerous in young men who have sex with men.

Both teen boys and girls are now regularly encouraged to get the HPV vaccine, but when it comes to anal cancer, it may benefit women more — two-thirds of new cases are diagnosed in women.

Complete Article HERE!

Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are: Why Oct. 11 Matters To LGBT People



Coming Out Is The Single Most Powerful Political Strategy We Have

It’s Pride Weekend here in Atlanta, one of my favorite weekends of the year. It might seem odd to you that the largest Pride festival in the South and one of the largest in the country is in October and not June. I guess it kinda is, but not really, once you think about it.

I could dive into a long, technical story about the massive drought Atlanta had a few years ago that forced the organizers to negotiate for time in Piedmont Park with the other Class “A” Festivals and find times on the calendar that would minimize enviromental impact and how all of that went down, or I could go with the more symbolic reason the second weekend in October was chosen: It coincides with National Coming Out Day. (C’mon, that’s pretty cool.)

National Coming Out Day is, in my book, one of those days that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. Observed on Oct. 11 every year, it commemorates the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights. That march was one of the first times we got to control the story on AIDS and protest the Supreme Court’s homophobic decision in Bowers vs Hardwick. Basically, we’ve got history with Oct. 11. It makes sense.

Lots of folks ask why we still need a National Coming Out Day. Simply, it’s because we live in a world where people still need to come out. We live in a world where everyone is assumed to be straight and cis until proven otherwise. We live in a world where our sexualities and our genders are pushed on us long before we ever have a say — oftentimes long before we’re born. So, in order to correct the record, we have to come out.

Coming out is the single most powerful political tool we have. It’s been proven time and time again that simply knowing someone who’s L, G, B, T, or Q can be enough to reduce fear and hatred. We’ve all seen the politicians who’ve become champions for equality once a family member comes out. Many of us have probably seen it with the people in our own lives.

It’s a lot harder to take away or deny someone’s rights when that person is your best friend, your sibling, or your child.

So if you’re able — and let’s be honest, coming out can be very dangerous for some — come out. Some folks have it easier than others, it’s just the nature of the game. But once the hard parts are over, wow, I mean, wow. Being able to be yourself without reservation brings a peace and calm like no other. I’ve never met anyone regrets coming out.

And if you’re not able, for whatever reason, to come out now? OK, keep yourself safe. Do what you need to do to survive and plan for the day when you will be able to proclaim who you are without fear or reservation. In the meantime, take on the role of a good ally. Speak out and echo the commnunity’s messages when you feel safe enough to do so. Every single one of us has been where you are. Take your time. You’ll be OK.

I admit I get a bit sentimental when Pride comes around. Now I’m going to get sappy. National Coming Out Day is a reminder that the best way to change the world is to become the person you needed when you were younger.

How different would your life be today if you had someone who was like you that you could look up to? Think about the possibilities! We can do that. We can make that happen for someone else. Sometimes all you have to do to make that happen is to come out — and that’s reason enough for me to celebrate.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Complete Article HERE!