Validation from peers – Sexologists need it too

As many of you know I attended the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality Western Regional Annual Meeting this past weekend in San Francisco, CA. This was my first time at a SSSS conference, although about my 4th or 5th time attending an academic sexuality conference. At this particular conference I was also a presenter. I have presented at other conferences before on papers that I have written as well as on the Center itself. I enjoy presenting on a myriad of topics. That is one of my favorite things to do for the Center and in general. This time was especially wonderful. Not only was I presenting to my peers, which I have done in the past, but I was also presenting to those who I would like to count as my peers someday — those women and men who forged ahead and created the path in sexology that now exists and allows me to do what I am doing without (as much) fear. I had the opportunity to present my Master’s thesis on “Women’s Perspectives of BDSM Power Exchange” to this audience, which included some of the authors cited in my literature review. I was nervous, to say the least.

Before my presentation, scheduled for the last session time slot of the day on Friday afternoon, I was greeted by hugs and congratulations from peers, friends, and colleagues. I was made aware that I would be receiving the Vern Bullough Award the next day from none other than Jack Morin, celebrated researcher and author. I knew about this maybe 3 days before the conference, but it had not really registered as a reality, nor had the weight of this particular honor become real to me as of yet. I mean, I was still worried about giving my presentation and the award wasn’t being given until the next day.

My time at bat came, and as I began to set up the room was suddenly flooded. People filled the seats and stood along the back wall to see my presentation. Not intimidating at all! I saw people I knew and many I did not or had only met recently at the conference. And, I gave my presentation. At this point in the narrative I would like it acknowledged that I assume from the response and the feelings I had while presenting that it was a well-received presentation, but honestly I don’t remember too many details from it. What I do remember are two things: One, when I stated clearly that I am a member of the group I am studying and that I acknowledge that this does influence my research to some extent as well as drives me to do this research, I heard many gasps in the room. Looking at the audience, I saw several people, eyes wide and mouths in O’s looking at me as if to say “You can’t say that!” or “You shouldn’t sat that!” Fortunately, I also many more people smiling and nodding and encouraging me to keep going. The other thing that I remember clearly is the overwhelmingly positive response to my presentation, my proclamation, and my research. I ended up having a lot of interesting discussions with folks after that, meeting some incredible people that I hope to keep in touch with. There were also many more hugs and congratulations, which is never a bad thing really.

Happy that my presentation was over and well-received I felt that I could finally relax for the rest of the weekend and enjoy the remainder of the conference. This happened, and the conference was spectacular, and I received an award the next day at the luncheon. I was given the Vern Bullough Award. For those of you who don’t know, Vern Bullough was an early sex researcher, post-Kinsey, although not by a huge margin. His area of focus covered a myriad of categories of sexuality studies, including but not limited to topics like cross-dressing, bisexuality, and more. At the time, and even now, his work has been instrumental in thinking “beyond vanilla” sexuality, moving away from the idea that heternormativity is indeed the norm and being willing to explore other possibilities and ideas without moral judgment. In other words, a very progressive researcher and sexologist.

Now, during that luncheon, 3 awards were given. And if you will allow me a moment more of self-indulgence, I had no idea that I was receiving an award alongside two men who have been published numerous times and were being awarded for their oustanding achievements in research and public service. These men (James Weinrich and Douglas Braun-Harvey) are giants in the field, and not only am I actually shorter than each of them, but I’m much further behind them as far as contributions to sexology and related fields of sexual health are concerned. I am very thankful that I was allowed to share a platform with them, and feel grateful that my work is being recognized at such an early stage and by so many amazing people. I have a lot more work to do. I hope I can live up to their and my expectations.

(I will post a summary of some of the new information I learned later on…)

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