That mischievous photographer, the one and only Richard Northwood, returns to The Erotic Mind show today. We kvetch about all kinds of lewd and smutty stuff and we have a barrel of laughs at the same time, just like last week.
But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of our chat, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #342 and Voilà! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.
By the way, Richard will be giving away one of his prints to a lucky member of our audience. Details are included in today’s show; don’t miss this amazing opportunity.
The Erotic Mind series returns today and not a moment too soon. I’ve been anticipating my guest’s appearance on this show for months! We are about to meet an extraordinarily mischievous photographer with a checkered past. But first we must travel to the wilds of Canadaville, Hamilton, Ontario to be precise, where I hope to encounter the one and only Richard Northwood in his natural habitat.
Photography is Richard’s media of choice, but he also dabbles in writing erotica. Curiously enough both endeavors, he claims, involve his penchant for storytelling. But, if you ask me, his greatest gift is his ribald sense of humor, which shines through all his work. Better hang on tight, sex fans, because Richard will surely regale us with a lewd tale or two.
By the way, Richard will be giving away one of his prints to a lucky member of our audience. Details are included in today’s show; don’t miss this amazing opportunity.
Computer simulations show monogamy helped establish a steady population while in communities where polygyny was rife population plummeted.
The clam, the clap and the pox are rarely linked to romance. But new research suggests they may have helped drive humans to monogamy.
Based on insights from computer models, scientists argue that the shift away from polygynous societies – where men had many long-term partners, but women had only one – could be down the impact of sexually transmitted infections on large communities that arose with the dawn of the agricultural age. Agriculture is thought to have taken hold around 10,000 years ago, although some studies put the date even earlier.
“That behaviour was more common in hunter gatherers and it seemed to fade when we became agriculturists,” said Chris Bauch of the University of Waterloo in Canada who co-authored the paper.
Writing in the journal Nature Communications, Bauch and his colleague Richard McElreath from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, describe how they built a computer model to explore how bacterial STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis that can cause infertility, affected populations of different sizes. The authors considered both small hunter gatherer-like populations of around 30 individuals and large agricultural-like populations of up to 300 individuals, running 2,000 simulations for each that covered a period of 30,000 years.
In small polygynous communities, the researchers found that outbreaks of such STIs were short-lived, allowing the polygynous population to bounce back. With their offspring outnumbering those from monogamous individuals, polygyny remained the primary modus operandi.
But when the team looked at the impact of STIs on larger polygynous societies, they found a very different effect. Instead of clearing quickly, diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea became endemic. As a result, the population plummeted and monogamists, who did not have multiple partners, became top dog. The team also found that while monogamists who didn’t ‘punish’ polygamy could gain a temporary foothold, it was monogamists that ‘punished’ polygamy – often at their own expense of resources – that were the most successful. While the form of such punishments were not specified in the model, Bauch suggests fines or social ostracisation among the possible penalties. The results, they say, reveal that STIs could have played a role in the development of socially imposed monogamy that coincided with the rise of large communities that revolved around agriculture.
“It’s really quite exciting,” said evolutionary anthropologist Laura Fortunato of the University of Oxford who was not involved in the study. While there is little data to be had on the prevalence of STIs in either hunter gatherer populations or in early communities that embraced agriculture, Fortunato believes that there are opportunities to explore the idea further. “You could see if that mechanism is in operation in contemporary populations,” she said.
While the authors acknowledge that other factors might also have influenced the shift to monogamy, the research, they believe, highlights an oft-overlooked aspect of human behaviour. “A lot of the ways we behave with others, our rules for social interaction, also have origins in some kind of natural environment,” said Bauch.
But others describe the authors’ theory as “unlikely”. “I don’t think it is necessarily wrong but I think the basis for their modelling may be,” said Kit Opie of University College, London. Opie argues that early human society was not likely to be polygynous. “Looking at modern day hunter gatherers who provide some sort of model for pre-agricultural societies, ie any human society prior to about 10,000 years ago, then polygyny is very rare,” he said. “Hunter-gatherer marriage is a much looser affair than we are used to and polygyny may be allowed but very rarely is it actually practiced.”
Bauch believes the argument doesn’t detract from the authors’ conclusions. “I don’t think it affects our hypothesis because our hypothesis and mechanism concern general trends,” he said. While the authors note that further work that clearly distinguished between marriage and mating could add further insights, Bauch believes the new study shows the power of simulations. “Our research illustrates how mathematical models are not only used to predict the future, but also to understand the past,” he said.
It is often thought of as behaviour indulged by a fringe of society, but it appears sexual deviants may be more common than previously thought. A study has revealed sexual perversions, also known as paraphilia, are surprisingly widespread – occurring in nearly half of a population. Psychologists found in a survey of more than 1,000 people from Quebec in Canada, nearly 50 per cent expressed interest in activities such as fetishism, frotteurism, masochism or voyeurism.
While sexual perversions are often considered to be uncommon, the success of books like Fifty Shades of Grey, which depicts sado-masochism (scene pictured), suggests otherwise. Now, a study has shown 46 per cent of people are interested in sexual behaviours considered to be deviant while a third had engaged in them
Around a third of those questioned also said they had had paraphilic sexual experiences. People who engaged in masochism were also more likely to have other fetishes.
The researchers said they were surprised to find that of the eight types of paraphilic behaviour recognised by psychologists, four of them appeared to be remarkably common. Voyeurism was reported by 35 per cent of men and women while fetishism was reported by a fifth of those questioned.
Masochism was enjoyed by 19 per cent and frotteurism – where sexual pleasure is derived from rubbing the groin against another person without permission – was ranked among the desires or experiences of 26 per cent
Professor Christian Joyal, a psychologist at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivieres who led the study, said: ‘Some paraphilic interests are more common than people might think, not only in terms of fantasies but also in terms of desire and behaviour.
‘The main goal of the study was to determine normal sexual desires and experiences in a representative sample of the generVoyeural population.
‘These facts suggest that we need to know what normal sexual practices are before we label a legal sexual interest as anomalous.’ Professor Joyal and his team conducted telephone interviews with 1,040 people from Quebec about their sex lives. Of those questions, 46 per cent said they were interested in at least one type of sexual behaviour that is considered anomalous. They found there was a strong relationship between an interest in sexual submission and an interest in other sexual activities. This suggests the desire to engage in masochism is significantly associated diverse sexual interests. ‘In general, it is true that men are more interested in paraphilic behaviors than women,’ explained Professor Joyal.
A fifth of those questioned in the study said they enjoyed fetishism, where people derive sexual pleasure from non-living objects or by focusing non-genital body parts like feet (pictured) ranked among their desires or experiences. Nineteen per cent listed an interest in masochism or said they had experienced it
‘However, this doesn’t mean that women don’t have these interests at all. ‘In fact, women who report an interest in sexual submission have more varied sexual interests and report greater satisfaction with their sex lives. ‘Sexual submission is therefore not an abnormal interest.’ Although the study, which is published in The Journal of Sex Research, was only conducted in Quebec, Professor Joyal said the findings could also apply to wider populations in North America and Europe. The researchers argue their findings also indicate clearer distinctions need to be made between normal and abnormal sexual behaviour.
They argued that many paraphilic behaviours seem to be quite common and so should be considered normal, but in some people they can become extreme, turning into disorders. However, Professor Joyal added: ‘A paraphilic disorder refers to sexual acts that involve non-consenting partners or that cause suffering or confusion in the person who engages in the behaviour. ‘The paraphilia may be absolutely necessary in order for the person to achieve sexual satisfaction. ‘A paraphilia is not a mental disorder but rather a sexual preference for non-normophilic behavior, whereas paraphilic behaviour is non-preferential and only engaged in from time to time. ‘At the same time, this study strongly suggests that some legal paraphilic behaviors are far from abnormal.’
Surprisingly 26 per cent of those questioned said they had an interest in or had taken part in frotteurism – where sexual pleasure is derived from rubbing the groin against another person without permission. In many parts of the world, frotteurism has become a major problem on packed commuter trains
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.
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.
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.”