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BDSM Versus the DSM

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A history of the fight that got kink de-classified as mental illness

A history of the fight that got kink de-classified as mental illness

By Merissa Nathan Gerson

Asking your partner to tie you to the bedpost, telling them to slap you hard in the throes of lovemaking, dressing like a woman if you are a man, admitting a fetish for feet: Just a few years ago, any of these acts could be used against you in family court.

This was the case until 2010, when the American Psychiatric Association announced that it would be changing the diagnostic codes for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (a variant of cross-dressing) in the next edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published in 2013. The new definitions marked a distinction between behavior—for example, playing rough—and actual pathology. Consenting adults were no longer deemed mentally ill for choosing sexual behavior outside the mainstream.

The change was the result of a massive effort from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF), an advocacy group founded in 1997 “to advance the rights of and advocate for consenting adults in the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory Communities.” At the time, these types of sexual behavior, by virtue of their inclusion in the DSM, were considered markers of mental illness—and, as a result, were heavily stigmatized, often with legal repercussions. In family court, an interest in BDSM was used as justification to remove people’s children from their custody.

“We were seeing the DSM used as a weapon,” says Race Bannon, an NCSF Board Member and the creator of Kink-Aware Professionals, a roster of safe and non-judgmental healthcare professionals for the BDSM and kink community. (The list is now maintained by the NCSF.) “Fifty Shades [of Grey] had not come along,” says Bannon, an early activist in the campaign to change the DSM. “[Kink] was still this dark and secret thing people did.”

Since its first edition was published in 1952, the DSM has often posed a problem for anyone whose sexual preferences fell outside the mainstream. Homosexuality, for example, was considered a mental illness—a “sociopathic personality disturbance”—until the APA changed the language in 1973. More broadly, the DSM section on paraphilias (a blanket term for any kind of unusual sexual interest), then termed “sexual deviations,” attempted to codify all sexual preferences considered harmful to the self or others—a line that, as one can imagine, is tricky in the BDSM community.

The effort to de-classify kink as a psychiatric disorder began in 1980s Los Angeles with Bannon and his then-partner, Guy Baldwin, a therapist who worked mostly with the gay and alternative sexualities communities. Bannon, a self-described “community organizer, activist, writer, and advocate” moved to Los Angeles in 1980 and soon became close with Baldwin through their mutual involvement as open participants in and advocates for the kink community. “I’m fairly confident that I was the first licensed mental-health practitioner anywhere who was out about being a practicing sadomasochist,” Baldwin says.

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The pair was spurred to action after the 1987 edition of the DSM-III-R, which introduced the concept of paraphilias, changed the classifications for BDSM and kink from “sexual deviation” to actual disorders defined by two diagnostic criteria. To be considered a mental illness, the first qualification was: ‘‘Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving the act (real, not simulated) of being humiliated, beaten, bound, or otherwise made to suffer.’’ The second: ‘‘The person has acted on these urges, or is markedly distressed by them.’’

“1987 was a bad shift,” Wright recalls. “Anyone who was [voluntarily] humiliated, beaten, bound, or any other alternate sexual expression was considered mentally ill.”

With the new language, Baldwin says, he quickly realized that laws regarding alternative sexual behavior would continue to be problematic “as long as the psychiatric community defines these behaviors as pathological.”

“I knew there were therapists around the world diagnosing practicing consensual sadomasochists with mental illness,” he says.

At the time that the new DSM was published, Baldwin and Bannon were planning to attend the 1987 march on Washington, D.C., in support of gay rights; after the new criteria came out, they decided to host a panel discussion for mental-health professionals in the State Department auditorium, where they announced the launch of what would come to be known as “The DSM Revision Project.”

“We asked how many people in the room were mental-health professionals,” Baldwin says, and “two-thirds of the people in the room raised their hands. And we said, ‘The way this needs to happen is, licensed mental-health practitioners need to write the DSM committee that reviews the language of the DSM concerned with paraphilias.’”

Around 40 or 50 people left the session with the information needed to write the letters. “We did not know exactly what would result,” Bannon recalls. “We did not think we would see dramatic changes suddenly.”

They didn’t—but the changes they did see were positive. The next edition of the DSM, published in 1994, added that to be considered part of a mental illness, “fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors” must “cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

“This was a definite improvement from the DSM-III-R,” says Wright, who later took over leadership of the DSM Revision Project from Bannon and Baldwin.

“These criteria gave [health professionals] wiggle room to say, ‘They have issues, but it is not about their kink. For the vast majority, it is just the way they have sex,’” Bannon explains. “Rather than saying, ‘Because you are into this method of sexuality, you are sick,’ [they could say], ‘Pathologically, if this impacts your life negatively, then you have a problem.’”

But the new language in the 1994 DSM also allowed for wiggle room of a different kind: The threshold of “significant distress” was often loosely interpreted, with the social stigma of kink, rather than kink itself, causing the negative impact on people’s lives. Workplace discrimination and violence were on the rise, according to a 2008 NCSF survey, and people were still being declared unfit parents as a result of their sexual preferences: Eighty of the 100 people who turned to the NCSF for legal assistance in custody battles from 1997-2010 lost their cases.

A few years after the 1994 DSM was published, Wright decided it was time to fight for another revision. When she founded the organization in 1997, the NCSF’s goal was a change to the APA’s diagnostic codes that separated the behavior (e.g., “he likes to restrict his breathing during sex”) from the diagnosis (e.g., “his desire to restrict his breath means that he must be mentally ill”). The next DSM, the group argued, should split the paraphilias from the paraphilic disorders, so that simply enjoying consensual BDSM would not be considered indicative of an illness.

Their efforts were largely ignored by the APA until early 2009, when Wright attended a panel discussion at New York City’s Philosophy Center on why people practice BDSM. Among the panelists was psychiatrist Richard Krueger, whose expertise included the diagnosis and treatment of paraphilias and sexual disorders.

During the meeting, Wright says, “I brought up the point that the DSM manual caused harm to BDSM people because it perpetuated the stigma that we were mentally ill. [Krueger] heard me and said that was not what they intended with the DSM.” Krueger, it turned out, was on the APA’s paraphilias committee, and following the meeting opened up an email dialogue between Wright and the other committee members, in which Wright provided documentation about the violence and discrimination kinky people experienced. “I credited that to the DSM,” she says. “Courts used it. Therapists used it. And it was being misinterpreted.”

Over the next year, “I sent him information, he gave it to the group, they asked questions, and I responded. It was very productive,” Wright recalls. “We [the NCSF] felt we were heard, we were listened to—and they took [our arguments] into account when they changed the wording” of the DSM in 2010.

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Another major factor in the NCSF’s favor was a paper, co-written by sexual-medicine physician Charles Moser and sexologist Peggy J. Kleinplatz and published in 2006 in the Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, titled “DSM IV-TR and the Paraphilias: An Argument for Removal.” According to Wright, the paper, which “summed up opinions of mental-health professionals who thought you shouldn’t include sexual activity in the DSM,” played a significant role in the paraphilia committee’s eventual shift in language.

In February 2010 the proposed change was made public—clarifying, Wright says, that “the mental illness [depends on] how it is expressed, not the behavior itself.” The new guidelines drew a clear difference, in other words, between people expressing a healthy range of human sexuality (for example, a couple that likes to experiment, consensually, with whips, chains, and dungeons) and sadists who wish others genuine harm (for example, tying and whipping someone in a basement without their consent).

The DSM-5 was released in May 2013, its contents marking a victory for the NCSF, Bannon, and Baldwin. The final language states: “A paraphilia is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for having a paraphilic disorder, and a paraphilia by itself does not necessarily justify or require clinical intervention.”

“Now we are seeing a sharp drop in people having their children removed from their custody,” Wright explains. Since the change, according to the NCSF, less than 10 percent of people who sought the organization’s help in custody cases have had their children removed, and the number of discrimination cases has dropped from more than 600 in 2002 to 500 in 2010 to around 200 over the last year.

“The APA basically came out and said, ‘These people are mentally healthy,’” Wright says. “‘It’s had a direct impact on society.”

Complete Article HERE!

These Volunteers Give Handjobs to the Severely Disabled

By Nelson Moura and Yun jie Zou

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Hand Angels helping Andy from his wheelchair into bed.

Andy is a muscular dystrophy patient who lives with his parents in southern Taiwan. Due to his severe physical disability, he was home-schooled and couldn’t leave his house alone, so never really had the opportunity to develop either an active social life or a romantic relationship.

When the Taiwanese NGO Hand Angel—an organization promoting the sexual rights of disabled people—first spoke to Andy, they realized this situation meant he’d also never been able to have a frank conversation with anyone about his sexuality. And as a young gay man who didn’t want to speak to his parents about his feelings, this wasn’t exactly the healthiest situation to be in.

So, over the course of a few months, representatives from the NGO counseled Andy online, helping him to understand his own sexuality and place in the world. Next, they “smuggled” him out of his house and took him to a motel for a handjob.

Taiwan—officially known as the Republic of China—has one of the best health systems in the world; its million or so disabled citizens receive some of the most thorough medical attention you’ll find, including everything from long-term care to traditional herbal medicine. What they don’t receive from this system, however, is any kind of aid when it comes to slightly more intimate issues, namely: orgasms.

It was for this reason that a group of social campaigners and volunteers took it upon themselves to create Hand Angel, an NGO whose main service is giving handjobs to the severely disabled. Members say that their work raises awareness of the fact that disabled people are often depicted as desexualized—as well as having their sexuality constantly neglected—despite the fact they share exactly the same desires as anybody else.

In the Netherlands, the national health system provides a grant scheme for people with disabilities to receive public money to pay for sexual services up to 12 times a year. In Taiwan, sex remains a taboo, and some Buddhists—the sovereign state’s primary religion—believe that someone suffering from a disability means they’re paying for bad deeds in a past life. So not the best mix for those like Andy, really.

“I can’t tell my parents that I also have sexual desires, and I can’t come out of the closet in front them,” he told me. “My family’s care puts lots of pressure [on me] and sabotages me from normal romantic relations.”

Vincent, the 50-year-old founder of Hand Angel, lost his legs to polio and says his disability allows him to better empathize with applicants’ needs, without any of the patronization disabled people can sometimes face. He emphasized that “disabled people share the same physical and emotional needs as any others, and therefore should have the right to pursue them.”

In order to decide who’s entitled to use their services, Hand Angel first assess an applicant’s level of disability. The person has to be recognized by the government as having a serious physical impairment, but can’t be mentally disabled. Once they’re cleared, the service is totally free, but each applicant can only receive three bouts of sexual stimulation.

Volunteers—the group of 10 people actually giving the handjobs—come from varied backgrounds; some are gay, some are straight, some are disabled, some are PhD students, some are social campaigners and some work in the media. It’s made very clear to me that these volunteers only use their hands for second-base kind of stuff—that hugging, caressing, and kissing on the face are all fine, but anything penetrative (fingering, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex) is not.

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The hands of Hand Angel volunteers

When Hand Angel took Andy to the motel, the volunteer caressed him thoroughly and gave him a handjob. He described the intimacy being so intense that, for a minute, he believed he was in love. He knew it was only temporary, of course, but the experience provided him with an emotional connection he’d never felt before.

This is part of Hand Angel’s mission: not just providing a sexual service, but also bringing forth an emotional and social transformation in applicants.

“[Andy] was very introverted before, and didn’t really know how to interact with people,” said Vincent. “However, through months of talking online, I discovered something changed inside him. When our group was reported by the media and got lots of criticism, I saw Andy joined the public debate and argued with those [critical] internet users, trying to illustrate his opinions.”

In Taiwan, where a discussion of sexuality is restrained by strict moral codes, there was also plenty of mockery leveled at Hand Angel. Internet users starting posting comments like: “Do they also offer ‘Mouth Angels?'”; “I’m retarded; can I apply for Hand Angel service, too?”; and “Only three times in a lifetime?”

There even appeared to be negativity on an official level. The executive secretary of the Taipei United Social Wealth Alliance, Yi-Ting Hu, commented on the NGO, saying: “Speaking from personal opinion, I don’t think we need to bring up disabled people’s sexuality as an independent issue. There are more important and urgent problems we need to deal with. Don’t you think if you advocate their sexual rights, it is like another form of discrimination?”

Of course, he seemed to only be proving Hand Angels’ point; to suggest that advocating a disabled person’s sexual rights is a form of discrimination is, first, patronizing in itself, and secondly, just completely bizarre—how is consensually receiving a handjob in any way discriminatory?

Andy summed it up: “I didn’t feel I was the target of pity. The whole process was full of respect and equality. This might be deemed as controversial by society, but as long as you’re willing to look into it, what we desire is no different from others. Just ask yourself: do you need to consult your parents before having sex?”

Complete Article HERE!

A Story With A Happy Ending

Name: Nathan
Gender: Male
Age: 37
Location: Dallas
I’m a married guy with a great wife and 3 beautiful kids. A couple of weeks ago, I went to a masseuse I found on Craigslist. I don’t have a lot of experience with massage and thought I would be safe going to a guy instead of a woman. The guy was really nice and did a good massage, but somehow I popped wood near the end of the massage. I was really embarrassed, but he was like totally ok with that. Then he asked if I wanted a happy ending. I didn’t even know what that was till he started to massage my ass and blow me. I have to admit it was totally amazing. I never felt anything like it before in my life. My wife sometimes will give me oral sex, but nothing like this. I blew a load like nothing I ever did before. I though my insides were coming out of my cock. I was amazed and scared and confused and I could hardly sit up. Then the guy said I had a real healthy prostate. I said, WHAT? And he said he was massaging my prostate while he was sucking me off. I can’t stop thinking about this. I want more but I feel really guilty and I’m afraid this is going to make me gay.

What a great story, Nathan. But we need to clear up a few things. A masseuse is a female practitioner of massage. A masseur is a male practitioner. This is a common enough mistake, but I thought you should know the proper usage for further reference. Because you can see how a little unintended slip like this will make all the difference in the world. If you say a masseuse gave you a blowjob that’s totally different from getting a blowjob from a masseur, don’t ‘cha know.massage_butt.jpg

I’m gonna also guess you never had a prostate massage before this encounter with the masseur. A prostate massage coupled with your first blowjob from a guy…hell, you are lucky your insides didn’t shoot out your dick along with your spooge. I’m joking of course, but it does stand to reason that you had such an intense and explosive orgasm and ejaculation. That’s precisely what a prostate massage does, honey.

Now, let’s see if we can figure out why you can’t stop thinking about this. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to analyze that either. This was a peak sexual experience for you. I mean, beside the mind-blowing release, the means by which you had this orgasm — the guy’s finger in your ass and the guy’s mouth on your dick were both unexpected and apparently unprecedented. So I figure you had very little time to cognitively respond to the stimuli before things came to their explosive climax, so to speak, as it were. And you did say you were already relaxed and aroused by the massage, right?

I’d be willing to bet that if you had some emotional distance from the experience you would realize your body was simply responding to the stimulus it was receiving. Your dick and your prostate weren’t able to distinguish the gender of the person diddlin’ your ass and suckin’ your dick. And since your brain was occupied with all these new sensations you had little time, if any to process and possibly protest. And maybe you wouldn’t have protested even if you could. Maybe you wanted to take this little walk on the wild side. Trust me, lots of guys do.

come as you areNow that the event has passed, you have plenty of time to process. And process you are…to within an inch of its life…if ya ask me. This experience looms so large for you because it is forbidden fruit, so to speak. It upsets the apple cart of your cozy and predictable heterosexuality. I mean it’s one thing to pop wood on a massage table. It’s something totally different to blow a wad while a guy is givin’ you head.

And now that you have all this time on your hands to keep pouring over and over this in you head, the event has taken on a proportion it probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Let me put your mind to rest, one blowjob from a guy…even an earth-shatterin, prostate-massagin’ blowjob, like the kind you got from this fabulous masseur…won’t make you gay. Nor does wanting to repeat the experience make you gay. All this experience really tells us is that you like a good blowjob and you now know where to get a really fantastic one when next you want one.

Think about it this way. Say you went to a Chinese restaurant and, to your great surprise, had the best dim sum ever. You were so impressed with the food that you’ve been eager to return to this particular eatery for another go at those tasty vittles. Does this desire for yummy dim sum make you Chinese? I don’t think so…that is unless you were Chinese before you went to the restaurant.

Finally, the guilt you’re experiencing, where might that be coming from? There are so many sources one would be hard-pressed to come up with an exhaustive list. But let’s look at the top contenders.hands & butt

  • You’re married with a family. You had a sexual experience…unplanned as it might have been…with someone other than your wife. BINGO!
  • Our culture’s buttoned-down sex and gender stereotypes — who can do what to whom. BINGO!
  • The dictates of our sex-negative society about what is proper and what is not in terms of sexual exploration and experimentation. BINGO!
  • The shame of possibly being labeled a fag. BINGO!
  • The fear of your own desires and where they might lead you. BINGO!
  • The allure of the forbidden and the explosive charge the illicit. BINGO.

The experience you had with that masseur, Nathan, is so highly charged, both culturally and sexually, that it will take some while for you to find your balance once again. In the interim, my I suggest that you postpone any judgments about yourself or what the incident might imply about you until you’ve have some emotional distance and the time to calmly process all of this. In the final analysis, I think you’ll come to the conclusion that this is a relatively harmless sexual outlet. The masseur is providing you a service…I mean beyond the obvious. He is providing you a safe, secure non-judgmental environment to exercise and expand your sexual repertoire. Think of it like a place you go to learn about the wonders of sexual dim sum.

Good luck

Putting A Ring On It

Name: William
Gender:
Age: 30
Location: UK
Hi There
I am new to this scene, and I have very little experience in anal sex and I am seeking your help and advice. I am a top but I have a problem keeping my dick hard or staying hard during anal sex. I find it harder to fuck an ass compared to fucking a pussy. Here is the problem: Once I get my dick hard, put on a condom and start fucking, my dick sometimes goes soft on me. Is that normal? How can I keep my dick hard long enough in the ass to enjoy the fuck? Sometimes even when my dick is hard, I find it hard to penetrate an ass. I use lube, so what am I doing wrong? People in gay porn can fuck and fuck like there is no tomorrow. I want to enjoy anal sex too!! Any advice? Please let me know if there is anything I can do to improve in this area?

Boy, you’re in luck, William! One of my most popular tutorials, Finessing That Ass Fuck — A Tutorial For a Top, is waiting for you.  Check it out! It will answer a lot of the questions you have about butt fucking. You should also know that this is the companion piece to my tutorial for ass fuckin’ bottoms handsomely titled: Liberating The B.O.B. Within. Don’t know what a BOB is? No to worry, all will be explained.

gettin it from behindBut before you disappear to do your homework, I’d like to address one of the specific issues you raise, about keeping your dick hard while fucking. You are right to point out that fucking an ass (male or female) is different from fucking a pussy. But regardless of what hole you’re invading, a nice hard stiffy is essential.

Are you familiar with a cockring, William? If not, I suggest you acquaint yourself with these amazing low-tech wonders. Here’s what you should do. Mozie on over to the Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Reviews site and search for my tutorial, Cockring Crash Course. (The search function in the sidebar will assist you.) Prepare yourself to be sorely amazed at the variety and functionality of these little devils.

Cock rings can create larger, firmer erections. Since blood flow enters your dick through arteries deep inside your dick, and leaves it through the veins near the surface of your tool; wearing a cock ring can help to keep more blood inside your dick shaft. And as all you rocket scientists know, blood is what causes erections in the first place. Also some men claim that wearing a cock ring intensifies their orgasm.armour up04

And while you’re on the sex toy review site, use the CATEGORY pull-down menu in the sidebar and look for cockrings. You’ll find it under the last heading, Sexual Enrichment. This will bring up all the cockrings we reviewed, and there’s a load of ‘em, don’t cha know.

I recommend the flexible and/or adjustable cockrings. These are generally made of stretchable rubber or leather. For the more daring there are the metal variety. These may look pretty, but they can be a bitch to put on and to take off. Here’s how ya do it.

  1. Pull your ball sack through the ring first.
  2. Follow this by popping each of your balls through the ring one at a time.
  3. Now bend your cock down and pull it through the ring.

As you can see, putting on one of these little buggers before you have a raging hardon is gonna make it a whole lot easier. To take the cock ring off, simply reverse these steps, pushing your flaccid cock back through the ring first, followed by each of your balls and finally your ball sack.

It’s absolutely essential that you not wear an inflexible (metal) ring for longer than a couple hours. Make sure you don’t buy one that is too small either. If your dick is turning an angry red or worse, purple, or it is cold to the touch, you’re in trouble. Take that ring off immediately. If you don’t you will risk serious injury to your precious johnson. Remember people, play smart with all your toys!

Good luck

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What does is all mean?

Name: Jane
Gender: Female
Age: 23
Location: Vancouver. BC
When my boyfriend and I have sex, there’s a 50/50 chance that he will put his penis between my butt cheeks and hump me that way until he cums. (It’s just intense rubbing, no anal penetration). Even though I don’t feel like I’m getting any pleasure from it, my vagina gets wet, and if he touches me down there and feels that I’m wet, it turns him on even more. What’s going on here?
He’s very affectionate and he tells me he loves by my body. He says he’s totally straight, but this whole anal thing confuses me. If he’s not gay or bi-sexual, why is it that it takes him 20+ minutes to cum during vaginal sex, but only 5 – 7 minutes to cum during anal?

Ok, Jane, to start with, your BF isn’t doing anal. Believe me, darling, you’d know if he were. Anal sex, by definition, means anal penetration. There’s a name for what your freaky boyfriend is doing — rubbing his cock in your crack, but not penetrating you. It’s a form of frottage, or sexual stimulation by rubbing. This is the sexual practice of choice for most lesbians, most commonly referred to as pussy-bumpin’. Hey, maybe your BF is a lesbian!analsex joke

Second, your pussy may be getting wet because your boyfriend’s pre-cum and spooge is dripping down your crack, past your “taint” and all over your fine cooch. It ain’t you producing the wetness, which explains why you’re not aroused. I hope that clears up the mystery juice for ya.

Third, loads of exclusively straight men are into anal. Most are into butt fucking their women, but some are into being fucked BY their women. We call this practice pegging — a woman straps on a mighty fine dildo and drives her man insane with a buggering he’ll not soon forget. So you see, fucking is not just for cunts anymore!

Forth, perhaps, just maybe, your vagina isn’t as tight as your what your man is experiencing between your ass cheeks. Maybe, just perhaps, that’s why it takes him less time to bust a nut that-a-way than in a more traditional form of fucking. Also maybe, he’s more turned on with the allure of the forbidden, taboo backdoor action. I guess the only way you’ll know is to ask your BF straight-up, as it were, so to speak.

So let’s review then, shall we? Now that we know for certain that an interest in cornholing a sweet ass is not just a gay thing. You can relax about your BF bein’ queer for wanting to hump your bum. For some guys this is their favorite kind of sex. They love to bust a nut by rubbing their dicks between a chick’s tits, thighs, buns, or feet. It’s anyone’s guess why these dudes prefer this to getting off in, on or around a pussy, but whatever it is, it’s completely harmless.Anal sex

Here’s a tip, Jane. Relax into this with the ‘ol BF, why don’t ya? Once you stop worrying about his sexual orientation because of his fascination with your be-hind, you may actually enjoy the special attention he’s paying your boot-ty.

And hey, if your BF’s freak with your ass crack isn’t gettin’ you off, you don’t have to just lie there and take it, ya know. While he’s grinding away back there, you could be spending some quality time with little miss clit with say a swell vibrator. Soon you’ll be enjoying things as much as he.

Good luck

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