Speaker Spotlight: Rebecca E. Blanton, PhD

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Aug 262016
 

Rebecca is presenting Claiming Female Sexuality Through Performance. Check out her bio here.

Rebecca E. BlantonHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

I don’t really think of myself as a “Catalyst for Change.” That idea seems to big for what I do. What I am concerned about it the growing need for everyone to be certain about everything at every moment. This leaves little room for growth or change without being painted as a dilettante or flip-flopper. I have long been concerned with both identity and sexuality in a person’s life. Both healthy identity and healthy sexuality require an ability to explore and grow and change — which is antithetical to the current need to certainty in identity at all times.

I have opted to live as open and authentically as I can as a way to free people from the need to pretend to be something they are not. I have used my sexual and emotional path to illustrate things on stage through comedy and burlesque performances. I think the boom in burlesque and the growth of women in comedy allow women a new and unique way to talk about the constant “becoming” that is the human experience.

Who or what was a catalyst for you? 

My biggest catalyst to this day was The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. I saw the documentary when I was 11 years old on PBS. Milk’s statement that “If a bullet should ever enter my brain, let it blow off every closet door,” became my mantra. I have been out and proud as queer since I was 13 and realized I was gay. I am out about my kink and my mental illness. People, much braver than I, came out before me so I didn’t have to fight the hardest battles. I owe them being open and out an it is my gift to the next generation.

What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

I think the ability to talk more openly about sexuality is, by and large, a good development. I see us as still a nascent culture when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality and there are growing pains as we open the culture. However, the ability for people to connect with community and get information about things is a good thing.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today? 

I see the pushback against changing ideas of gender and sexuality as dangerous. As much as we have pushed to decriminalize and de-pathologize queerness and trans folks, we are still based in a medical model for sex and gender identity. Medicine is a field of late adopters for any ideas. The fact that we conflate sex and gender to what sex is assigned at birth by some doctor and that we still require trans folks to prove things like “gender dysphoria” to multiple medical professionals before getting any help will always slow and limit the development of new ideas of sexuality.

Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

I know hundreds of female and female-identified performers who have used the stage to claim who they are sexually and with their gender. I find it absolutely fascinating what parts of their sexuality and gender they choose to claim on stage and how they go about doing that.

Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

I was raised on a farm in southeast Idaho by parents who were escaping their role as Baptist missionaries.

Speaker Spotlight – David J. Ley, PhD

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Aug 192016
 

David is presenting Ethical Porn For Dicks: Encouraging Users to Embrace Mindfulness in their Porn Consumption and speaking on Opening Keynote Plenary Address: Sparking Communication in Sexuality, Activism and Acceptance. Check out his bio here.

David LeyHow do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

Each of my books has been the first of its kind. Insatiable Wives was the first scholarly exploration of the cuckold/hotwife fantasy and fetish. Myth of Sex Addiction was the first popular book to challenge the concept of sex addiction, as morally-based, shaming model. Ethical Porn for Dicks (EP4D) is the first book to approach the men of our society with a model for responsible use of pornography, in a way that does not demonize either porn or male sexuality. I’ve been deeply humbled to have my work honored as an inspiration by the many people who have been shamed for their sexuality, and have felt that my writing and advocacy has led to them being able to challenge social elements who shame and suppress sexual diversity. When Myth came out, I was one of only about 3 people who were publicly challenging the notion of sex addiction – now, dozens of writers, therapists and researchers around the world are publicly attacking the concept as dangerous, ill-informed, and harmful. To have their support and encouragement in this fight has been one of the great successes of my life.

Who or what was a catalyst for you? 

Truthfully, I’ve had any number of mentors and catalysts. But the ones who have meant the most to me have been the countless people around the world who have reached out and told me about the shame they have experienced at the hands of counselors, doctors, media and writers. These people’s stories spurred me to advocate on their behalf, challenging our society’s use of mental health and addiction diagnoses to enforce morally-determined sexual values. I believe strongly in the values and ethics of my profession as a clinical psychologist – but, I believe equally strongly that we must be ever mindful of the intrusion of morals into clinical practice, especially around sexual issues, lest we replicate the many times through history when our field has harmed our own patients, by labeling women as nymphomaniacs or homosexuality as an illness.

What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable changes that have been made in our current society and the field of sexuality?

Recent research on the role of religious/moral values conflict with pornography is one of the biggest, most recent bombs which as gone off, revealing that the majority of people who struggle with their porn use, are doing so because of a moral conflict between their religious values and their sexual behaviors. The implications of this are huge, as it helps us to now better help the many people who struggle with porn use, even when they use less porn than other people. Those folks deserve assistance – but the simplistic “Blame porn” approach has been ineffective and often worsens the problem. Now, we can begin to help them, and society, understand that a lack of sexual education, lack of sexual self-understanding and acceptance, and a basic fear of sex that these people (and their religious communities) hold, leave these people desperately ill-prepared to deal with the modern world of sexuality available to them. Educating therapists, religious leaders, societies, policy-makers, porn-users, porn-producers and parents about ways to understand and resolve this conflict is one of our next biggest hurdles. But it’s also at the same time, a very positive way in which we can now begin to address peoples’ pain and struggles MUCH more accurately and effectively.

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in society and the field of sexuality today? 

I say often that we are in a “sea-change” environment when it comes to sexuality. Core beliefs about sexuality, orientation, gender and what sex actually “means” are being rocked by changes in our society and world, mostly wrought by ripples of the Internet and increased private, independent access to information, community, and acceptance. These are scary times, for those people who fear sexuality, both their own and that of others. Many religious people believe that internet porn and transgender bathroom issues are greater social concerns than are gun violence or racism. These feelings reflect their deep fears of these changes, and what the changes might mean for them and their understanding of the world and sexuality. Currently, I don’t think anyone is doing a good job, understanding and acknowledging these fears, and at the same time, presenting a courageous and informed way in which we can help people move beyond their fear.

Why is your CatalystCon presentation topic importation to you?

Men who use porn have been deeply shamed and isolated by the modern porn panic. EP4D is the first text that is written for them, for the layman, that acknowledges both the positives and risks of porn, and empowers men to make decisions from places of self-knowledge and integrity. I hope that my work serves  in some small way to empower both men and porn producers/performers, to push back against the shaming, attacking elements who pathologize all porn, and want people to fear it. Ethical Porn is a way we can all rally together, to protect our sexuality, or free expression, and our own determination of our sexual values.

Share one unknown (or little known) fact about yourself?

I was born with one hand. It’s a very obvious physical disability, which has not been that disabling. But, I have a lifetime of feeling, and looking, very different, and being singled out for that difference. As a result, I am very sensitive and attuned to those who shame others for differences, particularly differences in sexual behaviors or preferences. I view such shaming tactics as akin to those bullies I’ve experienced all my life, who shame others for being different in some way. Throughout my life, I’ve always aggressively fought such bullying, whether it’s directed at me, or others. My writing is a unique expression of that aspect of my personality.

 

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