Profs and Pints DC presents: “‘Kink’ or ‘Disorder’?” an entertaining look at how psychology approaches unusual sexual behaviors, with Brian A. Sharpless, licensed clinical psychologist, visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, and editor of Unusual and Rare Psychological Disorders.
Few subjects are as interesting – or as sensitive – as sex. Psychology’s history of dealing with sexual behaviors and, especially, the more unusual among them, has been fraught, an in many cases resulted in entirely normal and safe behavior deemed pathological. In recent decades, however, it has evolved to be far more open-minded, and to use diagnostic standards focused on the well-being of those involved.
Be on hand as Dr. Brian Sharpless, a regular on the Profs and Pints stage, discusses how psychologists and psychiatrists approach some of the more unusual sexual behaviors. You’ll learn how the mental-health field historically has thought about, and currently diagnoses and treats, behaviors it deems as crossing the line that separates a quirk or kink from a legitimate psychological disorder.
Professor Sharpless will start by giving us background on exactly how psychologists and psychiatry determine that a behavior qualifies for “disorder” status. The short answer is that current diagnostic systems do not consider sexual behaviors to be disorders unless they meet certain criteria such as seriously interfering in the life of the person engaged in them or lacking consent among the involved parties. But there’s a lot of nuance to this, which he’ll cover in a manner that is straightforward and understandable.
The talk will then offer an in-depth discussion of four paraphilias that can cross the line into being considered as disorders that need to be treated and, in many cases, are illegal: voyeurism, exhibitionism, and frotteurism. Finally, he’ll talk about asphyxiophilia, sometimes called autoerotic asphyxiation, the act of enhancing sexual arousal through the intentional deprivation of oxygen. You may be shocked to learn how many individuals are injured or killed each year while engaging in this potentially dangerous activity.
Dr. Sharpless also will discuss fetishistic fantasies and behavior, which are relatively common in the general population but among a small share end up being formally diagnosed as fetishistic disorder. He’ll discuss how fetishes are defined and summarize the research on them. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)