Thursday, August 4, 2011

CARAS Con Addresses Polyamory Community Needs

Yesterday was a great day.  I had the privilege of mixing and mingling with about 50 people, a great mixture of academics, students, researchers and community advocates, who gathered together in Washington, DC, to learn about and discuss issues and methods around meeting the therapeutic and informational needs of alternative sexuality communities, including polyamorists, at the 5th annual conference of the Community-Academic Research Consortium for Alternative Sexualities.

The day started with a plenary address by author and sex therapist Gloria Brame who spoke about many things, including the need to correct misunderstandings about what constitutes sex addiction and the continuing effects of sex negativity in the United States.  Gloria is a well known and highly respected champion of the BDSM community, and after our having become friends on Facebook, it was delightful to finally have an opportunity to meet her in person.  I am very much looking forward to reading her new book, The Truth About Sex, A Sex Primer for the 21st Century Volume I: Sex and the Self.

Some of the poly-related programs included the presentation of research results around polyamory and bisexuality, and about polyamory in the context of personal freedom.  I facilitated a discussion at lunch time about what alt sex communities need from researchers.  There were many good suggestions, including emphasis by three attendees who were college students who spoke about the lack of options to gather with other non-monogamous and/or kinky people on their campuses.  NCSF's Judy Guerin spoke on behalf of that organization, and we both encouraged others to establish their own groups but to also reach out to those of us who can advise them along the way.

Programming continued in the afternoon with great choices for an advocate like myself - I had no problem deciding what to take in, there was always at least one session I wanted to attend. 

Networking opportunities abound at this conference.  I connected with people I hadn't seen in many years who had traveled to Washington to attend the conference.  It was great to have the opportunity to see and meet CARAS board members who live elsewhere.  I was delighted to see the awesome Catherine Gross, and to finally meet Kink-Aware Professionals founder Race Bannon. 

It is CARAS's tradition to present a case study as it's closing plenary, and my partner, who is a recovering sex addict, and I were the case, with a focus on healing sex addiction/compulsion and sexual sobriety in a polyamorous context.  We told our story of closing and then rebuilding our relationship after my partner revealed his addiction to me about nine months ago, our journey in therapy both together and separately, and how it was necessary to find our own path to wholeness again since the traditional prescription for sex addicts/compulsives and their partners doesn't work for us, at least not for me as a sex-positive advocate.  A local employed psychiatrist (whose name I can't use for fear of career repercussions for him) answered questions from the audience from a clinical perspective.

We were told that it is highly unusual to have a case presented where more than one partner participates.  That my partner and I were both there to tell our story together is a credit to my partner, who has made serving others who struggle with sexual addiction/compulsion and serving those who help them a part of his own recovery journey.  Today we are doing well together, and I couldn't be prouder of him.

I'm hoping that the CARAS conference will be a longer one in the future.  This one day meeting was scheduled the day before the American Psychological Association conference that is now going on in Washington, D.C., and the polyamory and bisexuality program I reference above will be presented there as well.  I learned that this is the second year that polyamory appeared somewhere on the APA conference program, and that is a big development indeed.  For years we couldn't get any mainstream organization that serves the psychology community to touch the topic.  The times, they are a'changing, and CARAS gets a good sized piece of the credit.


Alan said...

Thanks for representing us, and yourself, so well.

Alan M.

Anita Wagner said...

You know how it goes, we do what I can. Thanks, as always, for the kind words. Hugs!