Last weekend several members of Center for Positive Sexuality presented at the Gender and Sexuality in Everyday Life Conference 2016 in Pocatello, hosted by the College of Arts and Letters and the Gender Resource Center at Idaho State University. This annual conference, now in its 12th year, hosts a myriad of presentations from professionals, academics, and students on topics around sexuality and gender, from artistic and musical pieces to academic studies and theories.

Dr. Richard Sprott, Executive Director of Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities (CARAS) and Journal of Positive Sexuality Editorial Board member, delivered the keynote address: “Power and Connection: Some Issues at the Intersection of Alternative Sexualities and Therapy.” Dr. Sprott discussed how necessary it is for therapists and other helping professionals to not stigmatize people who engage in alternative sexuality practices or hold these identities. Research suggests that people in alternative sexuality relationships, like BDSM, may be less likely to seek professional help when needed because of a sense of marginalization and pathologizing, even when current research suggests BDSM is not a mental illness and may in fact have health benefits.

Dr. Moshoula Capous-Desyllas, Assistant Professor at California State University Northridge and Journal of Positive Sexuality Editorial Board member, was invited as a special guest speaker, presenting on “Myths, Misinformation, and Conflation: A Critical Analysis and Critique of the Sex Trafficking Movement in the U.S.” Dr. Capous-Desyllas’s presentation challenged the audience to recognize the differences between chosen sex work, sex trafficking, and the larger issue of human trafficking. This presentation is based on her work using PhotoVoice as a medium for sex workers to express how they feel about their work, how they are more objectified by outsiders and the criminal justice system than by their clients, and other aspects of their lives.

Towards the end of the conference, CPS Executive Director Emily Prior presented on “Feminist Pornography: Truth or Myth?”.  Her research suggests that it becomes a matter of defining terminology. If one uses the definitions of third- and fourth-wave feminism, and looks at “pornography” as an avenue to enjoy erotic expressions, then “feminist pornography” can indeed hold a special place within the adult erotic industries. This presentation also discussed elements that seem to be the foundation of feminist pornography: fair trade practices, consent, and authenticity.

Cielle Williams, CPS Volunteer Coordinator, presentation on “Furry vs. Zoophilia” easily stole the show. Presented in a very matter-of-fact way, Ms. Williams discussed the spectrum of those who may identify as furries as well as the spectrum of those who may identify as zoophiles, showing that these are different identities that are often erroneously conflated with one another. She also discussed the marginalization these identities suffer from and how clinicians and other helping professionals should learn more about the diversity of expression within them.

Rounding out the conference was a panel on “Sexual Diversity ‘On the Ground'”, moderated by conference coordinator Dr. Jeremy Thomas. The panel consisted of Dr. Richard Sprott, Emily Prior, and Matthew, a regular educator and trainer for Center for Positive Sexuality. The speakers discussed their lived experiences, balancing between the worlds of alternative sexual identities and practices and everyday life.

The GenSex Conference was a huge success, and we at Center for Positive Sexuality and Journal of Positive Sexuality look forward to continuing to support this event in the future.