A Swedish Model to Celebrate

Elizabeth's picture
For quite some time whenever I've mentioned Sweden here it has been in some way related to criticism of that nation's model for criminalizing prostitution by criminalizing the purchase rather than the sale of sexual services. Imagine my surprise when I learned via Gloria Brame's Oversexed Mind that Swedish doctors have recently redefined fetishes, crossdressing, BDSM, and non-heteronormative gender identities or sexual orientations so that they are no longer considered pathological and indicative of mental illness. From The Local - Sweden's News In English
The National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) took the decision to declassify the behaviours as illnesses in order to avoid strengthening prejudices about them, said agency head Lars-Erik Holm.

“We don't want to contribute to certain sexual behaviours being thought of as diseases. These individuals’ sexual preferences have nothing to do with society,” he explained in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

In reality, Sweden’s medical diagnosis system is used to gather statistics about the healthcare system. However, people have come to view the listing as a registry of accepted diseases.

The other diagnoses which will soon disappear from the disease registry include fetishism, fetishistic transvestitism, sadomasochism, gender identity disorder in youth, and multiple disorders of sexual preferences.

Holm said that the changes emphasize that these behaviours are not illnesses in and of themselves, nor are they something perverse.

"These diagnoses are rooted in a time when everything other than the heterosexual missionary position were seen as sexual perversions," he said.
 In the United States there is a movement to encourage the American Psychiatric Association to do the same. In its current work to revise its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual the APA should take care to eliminate from its diagnostic criteria prejudices based on heterosexism and conventional assumptions about sexuality and instead should focus on research and scientific evidence. Kinky sex should not be understood as symptomatic of mental disorder. A leader in this effort is the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, an incredible advocacy organization for all of us who are not mainstream in our sexual expression. From the front page of their web site
The American Psychiatric Association has formed working committees to revise by 2011 its Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM), the definitive resource on the Diagnostic Criteria for all mental disorders. Statements currently within the DSM Paraphilias criteria are contradicted by scientific evidence, therefore NCSF must conclude that the interpretation of the Paraphilias criteria has been politically – not scientifically – based. This politically motivated interpretation subjects BDSM practitioners, fetishists and cross-dressers to bias, discrimination and social sanctions without any scientific basis. We call on the American Psychiatric Association to remove or drastically restructure the Paraphilias section in the DSM.

I certainly would not advocate using the Swedish model on prostitution, but I would encourage the APA to look at Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare's approach to noncommercial sexual expression. 

 And speaking of freedom of sexual expression, go visit the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Autonomy and Freedom. The current edition is up at Silent Porn Star and next Monday the new edition will be up at Sugarbutch Chronicles.   Share/Save