This is the second of at least two posts exploring the continued medicalization of sexuality as seen through the revisions of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). See part one here.
Imagine a person who is deeply conflicted about his sexuality. Instead of acknowledging his problem and working through it, this person lashes out at others, sending them confusing and judgmental messages about their own sexual behavior. He then tells them they are sick because they are confused. Imagine further that this person is a person of power and consequence and so the people around him start to feel ashamed of their own sexual desires and behaviors. They stop talking to each other about sex, and look to therapists and doctors to help them cope with their own shame and confusion. Hardly seems fair or right, does it? One person's conflicts get internalized by many, and the many all then think there is something wrong with them.
That is kind of like what's happened in the United States in terms of sexual diversity. We get so many confusing messages, and one outcome is that we simply don't talk about our own desires and behaviors and many of us end up feeling abnormal, ashamed, or ill. Meanwhile the American Psychiatric Association continues to supply new diagnostic categories for those of us who are made anxious or disturbed by our sexual urges.
Last night I was at a fundraiser for Madison Young's Femina Potens. The event was organized by Tied Up Events and all I can say is that if you have an event you need planning help with, you need to talk to them. They did a fabulous job.
I was exhausted and caught up in reconnecting with some dear friends and as a result I missed several important opportunities to meet people. Just now, chatting with Diva, I learned that one of those people was Cindy Gallop, whose work I first learned about from her site Make Love Not Porn. Her new project, If We Ran The World, is even more exciting. Please check them out.
Meanwhile, here's her 4 minute TED talk on Make Love Not Porn. I just watched it for the first time, and I think it's an important message: we need to be able to say what we like and what we don't like, and we need to refute at every opportunity the dominant idea that there is some kind of universal "right" way to have sex, and that mainstream porn is its guidebook.
It is beyond irksome that TED, whose tagline is "ideas worth spreading" has a policy that prevents this talk from being posted on its main site because subscribers "including children" would hear explicit language. Given that one of the main points of the talk is that kids need more and better information about sex it seems TED might decide these ideas are important to spread to young people!
According to an AP News story a school district in Mississippi has canceled its senior prom rather than let a lesbian in a tuxedo attend with her female partner. Because they were not allowed to discriminate and keep the two young women out they decided to keep everybody out and just shut down the event. In other words, homophobia and heterosexism are being used to keep straight kids from having their quintessential high school ritual. And they ought to be furious.
Their fury should be directed at the Itwamba County school district, not at Constance McMillen and her partner. All they did was stand up for their rights to attend together as other couples may, and to dress as they wanted, as other couples do. In fact, they only intended to dress in exactly the same types of outfits as other couples. (I'm sure the school board wouldn't have been any happier had they wanted to each wear a prom gown.)
I applaud Constance's parents for supporting her and telling her to return to school after the decision, retaining her pride in who she is and in the knowledge that her courage in standing up for her rights will help others who come after her. Many of us are not so brave.
I am disgusted by the bigotry and small-mindedness of the Itawamba County School Board. When the option of discrimination was taken off the table they chose to deny everyone their prom experience just to make certain that the lesbian couple were denied their rights. The only way to rightfully discriminate against Constance and her partner was to punish the straight kids too. So that's what they did.
Constance's classmates ought to be applauding her courage and they ought to turn their anger against the school district demanding that the prom be held and that it be open to all students. Better yet, they ought to organize a prom themselves, with freedom, equality and acceptance as their themes.
There's a saying in the labor movement: An injury to one is an injury to all. This story is powerful evidence that the truth of that statement goes well beyond labor rights.
I've been reading the sexuality-related proposed revisions to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Assocation and I'm troubled. In the move from DSM-IV to DSM-V It seems that larger and larger realms of sexual expression are falling under the rubric of psychiatric disorder. This is the wrong approach to the difficulties people have with sex.
My reading started with the newly proposed diagnosis "Hypersexual Disorder" because a reader asked me if I intended to post about it. The new diagnosis is a response to the increasing use of the loosly defined and largely bogus label "sex addict." The American Psychiatric Association subcommittee that put this new diagnosis together says, in its rationale statement:
There is a significant clinical need, even a “demand” from mental health consumers, for mental health providers to recognize and diagnose a distinct group of men and women who have been seeking and are already receiving mental health care such as individual psychotherapy, 12-step group support, pharmacotherapy, and specialized residential treatments. These men and women are presenting to clinicians because of recurrent, “out of control” sexual behaviors that are not inherently socially deviant (i.e., normophilic, not paraphilic). Persons afflicted with these conditions are currently diagnosed as Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, a diagnostic wastebasket that the DSM-V editors would like to see diminished in scope. Clinical and research-based interest in this set of problematic nonparaphilic sexual behaviors is sufficiently established to have birthed a peer-reviewed journal published since 1990 dedicated exclusively to research and treatment of “sexual addiction/ compulsivity.”
This, on its own, is troubling. The diagnostic criteria are even more troubling. Direct from the DSM-V Revision site, here are the criteria:
I am just getting home from a long day at work and have not yet blogged about International Sex Worker Rihts day. But I sat down at the computer with a cup of tea and tried to collect my thoughts, and the first thing I saw as I browsed was this:
Today (March 3) is International Sex Worker Rights Day. I would like to observe the occasion here by listing and highlighting some things pertaining to sex work/sex workers’ rights lately that I find cool/uplifting/heartening/lovely. The t-shirt I am wearing in the picture, by the way, was produced by the fabulous and local-to-me organization HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive).
Those were not his exact words, but close. The speaker was a survivor of stage 4 colon cancer - one of the rare ones - and his message was all about the importance of colonoscopies. But what was striking to me was that he so bluntly identified one barrier men face when it comes to getting them: fear of anal penetration. He talked about how relieved he was when, after his girlfriend had suggested he request a screening his doctor said "You're only 40, you don't have to worry about that for another 10 years." Two years later, an investigation of ongoing dizziness and anemia, he was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. He regretted not advocating for himself and insisting on the screening, but explained that at the time when the doctor told him not to worry about the screening he was very relieved that he'd be able to put off a procedure that made him feel so squeamish. In trying to convince other men to choose differently he said things like "Guys, nobody will ever know you had one" and "You know how stigmatizing it is if you're a masculine guy to admit that someone put something up your butt, but it's so important to get screened."
He never used the word "homophobia" but that is essentially what he was talking about. Why else would he emphasize "Guys, nobody will ever know you had one" and what other stigma around "putting something up your butt" could he have meant other than the stigma of male homosexuality?
So it made me think. We know that homophobia is hazardous to the health of gay men, and any man who incoroporates stereotypically feminine interests or characteristics into his personality unless they are balanced out by a sufficient number of stereotypically masculine ones. But this is a clear example of how homophobia is hazardous to the health of straight men. And that got me thinking that one subtle way to reduce homophobia is to convince straight men of the merits of sticking things in their butts.
So why not start big, with a long flexible tube and a fiber optic camera!
In the past few months I've received numerous calls and emails about the revisions to the bible of the psychiatric world - the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM for short. The diagnosis in this manual are critically important because they determine who gets diagnosed as mentally ill, who should get powerful psychotropic drugs, and whether and how much insurance companies will pay for care.
The Washington Post quoted Alan Schatzberg, the president of the American Psychiatric Association, "It not only determines how mental disorders are diagnosed, it can impact how people see themselves and how we see each other. It influences how research is conducted as well as what is researched. . . . It affects legal matters, industry and government programs."
The proposals will be debated in an intense process over the next two years, with potentially billions of dollars at stake for pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, government health plans, doctors, researchers and patient advocacy groups.
But perhaps more important, the outcome will help shape which emotions, behaviors, thoughts and personality traits society considers part of the natural spectrum of the human persona and which are considered pathological, requiring treatment and possibly even criminal punishment.
Tiger Woods apologized and the world stopped so that everyone could watch. A friend of mine posted to her Facebook account: Tiger Woods does NOT owe me an apology, and he doesn't owe you one. Unless your name is Elin. Tiger felt otherwise. He apologized to friends, family, fans, sponsor, employees, and the parents of children who looked up to him as a role model (though not directly to the children apparently).
I did not watch the apology. I did not listen to it, nor did I read it afterwards. I did note that the New York Times had two full articles about it, though. That article noted that two of the major US TV networks interrupted their regular coverage to carry the apology live. It also intrigued me to read that the apology was delivered in person to an audience of only about 40 people. Forty is still too big a group for a really personal apology but it is a much more intimate group than "the whole wide world" which is approximately the size of the audience watching and listening yesterday.
File Under: Research methods 101 > Survey Construction > Question wording
Constructing a survey on support for the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"? Keep this in mind: Democrats in particular are much more likely to support letting gays and lesbians serve openly in the military than they are to support letting homosexuals serve openly.
Dalia Sussman, writing for The Caucus (the politics and government blog of the New York Times) describes a New York Times/CBS News poll which found that 60% of respondents who were asked whether gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly in the military said yes. On the other hand, only 44% of those asked whether homosexuals should be allowed to serve openly agreed that they should. And Sussman says that political orientation mattered a great deal:
The issue of relationship “exploitation” has been on my mind lately. There must be a way that “interdependence” can exist between a man and a woman where no one is getting “exploited.” Our culture comes up with models to address the exploitation factor, but more often than not, these models miss the mark. I’m thinking in particular of this relatively new glamorization of pimping, which is a misguided notion.