Here's everything that happened at this year's sexology conference
Educator & sexologist Hanna Hosking explains what went down at the 2023 Sexology in Practice Symposium
By the end of the 2023 Sexology in Practice Symposium in Adelaide my brain felt like a suitcase crammed full of interesting things. I was awed by the incredible knowledge of the people I met and came away from the weekend feeling joyful. Returning to Melbourne, I am excited to put this knowledge into practice and help people have more fulfilling sexual lives. First things first though, here’s a summary of the weekend for those who couldn’t make it:
Jordina Quain on sex and disability
Most people will experience a disability at some point in their life and people with disabilities can be especially vulnerable to abuse and coercion. Everyone deserves good sexual health and pleasure but many sexual health specialists immediately refer people with disabilities to others without first attempting to help. Many valuable resources on best practices for educating people with disabilities on their sexual health and pleasure are available through the Sexuality Education Counselling and Consultancy Agency (SECCA). The takeaway is that we should all try to be informed on how to help, rather than merely palming people off to others. Visit SECCA’s website for those resources.
Morgan Carpenter asks: What does it mean to have an intersex variation?
More than 40 intersex variations have been documented and categorised by medical science. The contemporary medical practice of ‘correcting’ [sic] these variations is incongruent with basic ethics, people’s human rights and, in some jurisdictions, the law. These unnecessary interventions often involve surgical options to remove the future choice of biological sex the child may align with, with vanishingly little evidence of the risks and long-term health impacts. You can have a look at Morgan’s website for more.
Aud Mason-Hyde and the radical acceptance of Queer and trans identities
Aud explored the origins and limitations of gender, paying special attention to colonialism and patriarchy. They told personal anecdotes and stories to examine how rigid social structures work to homogenise a population into a binary standard while excluding those who fall outside the binary. You can follow Aud on Instagram here.
'Ultimately, the point of all this is to transform the way things are into something better'
Kai Schwerzer on supporting autistic trans people in sexological practice
We know that 2 in 3 people with autism are Queer but medical professionals often under-diagnose autism in minoritised people, pathologizing them with harmful labels instead. People with autism are more likely to face challenges in sexual experiences due to sensory stimulation and often have different neurodivergent love languages. Working with autistic people to increase sexual health and wellness requires a range of considerations including sensory experience, predictability, acceptance, communication and empathy (or SPACE for short). Have a look at Kai’s website for more info.
Seth Westhead’s exploration of decolonial public health perspectives
Seth outlined the pressing need to understand different determinants of health, particularly those relating to culture. He discussed how delving below the surface can help us examine long-term patterns and environmental constraints so we can anticipate behaviour and radically redesign the underlying systematic structures. Ultimately, the point of all this is to transform the way things are into something better. Seth left us with the question: as sexual health advocates, how can we be the person someone needs? You can read about Seth’s research here.
Silva Neves’s critique of the ‘sex addiction’ model
The concept of ‘sex addiction’ implies risk-taking and promiscuity. However, the term was coined during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and, in reality, weaponises negative connotations to reinforce heterosexual and monogamous relationships. Silva illustrated how sex addiction fails to meet the criteria for addiction in the DSM-5. Rather, they argued that it is a compulsive sexual behaviour to relieve tension and aid with coping. Using regulation, reprocessing, and reconstruction, professionals can treat such compulsive sexual behaviour. Learn more about Silva via her website.
'When porn is substituted for meaningful sexual education, young people are led to believe that porn depicts realistic or healthy sex'
Justin Hancock asks: What is good sex advice?
Sex is a personal act and what constitutes “good” sex is subjective. So how do we redefine our sexual discourse to steer away from attempts to control the sexual conversation, whether it be marketing or social media? Justin suggests that by using the resources at hand, we can remove shame and reclaim our sex story. Explore the topic more over on Justin’s website.
Cam Fraser on men, masculinities, and the internet
Constrictive definitions of masculinity are having profound repercussions for boys and men trying to form identity and find community online. Some are looking to men like Andrew Tate as ‘role models’ in a worrying trend that can lead to misogynistic beliefs. Cam explained that meeting men where they are, understanding biases towards them and validating their experiences are vital to providing them the space to feel heard. Head over to Cam’s website if you'd like to know more.
Deanna McCall looks at online resources for navigating sex
When porn is substituted for meaningful sexual education, young people are led to believe that porn depicts realistic or healthy sex. As a result, they often attempt to reproduce it without understanding the implications, harms and risks. Deanna asks, what tools can be used to navigate taboo in Māori culture? You can read Deanna’s research here.
'Kink is play... but kink without the proper negotiation and consent can trigger past trauma'
Dr. Michelle Webster on attachment, sex and trauma
Childhood maltreatment can lead to problems in adult sexual relationships and a person’s sense of self. If someone is not given an opportunity to heal in an appropriate space, it can lead to disassociation. For this reason, Dr Webster developed the Annandale Approach that employs emotion-focused therapy to work with individuals and couples to heal their trauma. Check out her site for more details.
Anita Major-Brown’s anatomically correct model of the clitoris
Anita works as an occupational therapist and developed Cliterate, an interactive anatomical model of the clitoris that helps people understand what a clitoris is, how it works, and what it looks like. This tool aims to help everyone confidently have conversations about clitoris and vulva anatomy, no matter their age, ability or gender. If you're keen to see what the fuss is about, take Cliterate for a whirl.
Anisa Varastah explores erotic play and trauma
Kink is play, but at the same time, kink without the proper negotiation and consent can trigger past trauma. Communication is key and Anisa walked us through the frameworks, strategies, and tools for consent, negotiation, and safety planning. Such tools can provide predictability and the space for trauma to be explored safely. You can read more about Anisa here.
Hanna Hosking (she/her) is a Queer gender and sexuality educator as well as a qualified sexologist. She runs workshops on consensual platonic touch and champions LGBTQ+ inclusion in the corporate sphere. She is a board member for a US-based LGBTQ+ NGO and advocates for removing barriers so that people can lead healthier sexual lives.
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