Last night I was, ironically, at Trio in Dupont (the stronghold from which we try to watch the Drag Race every year) when I saw the print version of the Washington Post Website (my cute name for Post Express…live with it) proclaim: Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy. and pointed this out to M. who said “well duh…”
So nobody that I know is very surprised that in a recent APA vote S. worked at APA (American Psychological, not American Psychiatric) for a number of years and the attitudes there were very sane, and generally a lot more progressive than I think the “in the field” point of view. She had the honor of meeting and working around some people like Phil Zimbado, who carried out the famous Stanford Prison Study. She also got to hang out backstage at the APA convention and hear stories about the bad old days when APA board meetings were generally conducted like meetings of the Agrestic City Council (yes, a media reference from me), at least in terms of solubility.
In a resolution adopted on a 125-to-4 vote by the APA’s governing council, and in a comprehensive report based on two years of research, the 150,000-member association put itself firmly on record in opposition of so-called “reparative therapy” which seeks to change sexual orientation.” Wow must be fun to be one of the four who opposed it.
So it’s now official, you can’t give people therapy and teach them not to be gay.
This isn’t the first time APA has come out against gay-curing therapy, but it’s the most scientific and strongest. But that isn’t what interested me.
APA went on to say: No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the report, and some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.
Interesting. So, if you try to therapize people to go against their basic sexual nature they might get depressed or suicidal.
Now. I want to stress something. I’m not a scientist, I’m a writer. I understand well that pseudoscience is a thing of “taking real science and running with it.” I’m not trying to do that.
But in five years of talking to human beings, reading blogs, and trying to learn how the mind works, I’ve increasingly come to the personal, radical, opinion that trying to force people to go against their basic sex drives is a bad idea. I have seen more misery, shame and frustration caused by that than almost anything else I’ve encountered.
And in many cases the sexual behaviors that we are talking about are ones that are either in the DSM-IV or were until recently.
When I started beating girls, it was still a sickness according to the books. Wikipedia (I’m lazy) tells us that: “the American Psychiatric Association modified the criteria of sadism and masochism in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) in 1994 so that consensual sadomasochistic behavior alone is no longer considered to be a sexual disorder. In the DSM-IV TR, published in 2000, sadomasochistic behavior can be diagnosed as a disorder if the patient “has acted on these urges with a non-consenting person” or “the urges, sexual fantasies, or behaviors cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty”  . As a result, consensual sadomasochism can no longer be considered a disorder unless it causes severe difficulties in the patient’s life.
That was only ten years ago…
But we still have that scary…
the urges, sexual fantasies, or behaviors cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty
Hear that…if your need for fulfilling your sexual desires through beating or being beaten, or any of the other palette of fetishes that drive our deepest inner workings twists you around and makes you change your life…you’re sick. According to the DSM.
And so we said about homosexuality until the DSM-II in 1968. “Ego-dystonic Homosexuality” remained on the books in some form until it was finally eliminated from the DSM-III-R in 1987.
So…finally it was not sick if you had to rearrange your personal life and relationships to accomodate the fact that you wanted to fuck men.
Wikipedia goes on to say that:
The results of the newer studies have led to calls to abolish sadism and masochism as disease categories completely, arguing that the truly pathological forms are adequately covered by other diagnoses. The BDSM subculture added another dimension to this drive by highlighting claims of discrimination and its potential, and by referring to the precedent of the previous removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders .
As of course, I’m doing right now. Not an original thought, but one that bears repeating and reinforcing. But that’s not entirely my point.
The DSM-V is due in 2012. I look forward to the hope that things that drive the lives of myself and my friends will cease being considered illness and that one day I can be officially as much of a normal person as Ellen DeGeneres or Harvey Milk. In the meantime, life goes on, I go to Camp, I meet people and understand this on an empiric level.
The thing that I think is most interesting about the recent APA decision is the finding of potential harm.
We know historically that trying to force left handed kids to be right handed fucks them up. We know that trying to force kids not to masturbate fucks them up. But I think it is time to strongly consider going one step further and suggesting that not allowing people to indulge thier sexual instincts fucks them up. Whether the instict is to stick their cock in another man’s ass, or be hit.
Human sexual behaviors are complicated and we don’t always understand where they come from. We’ve only been working on the issue with serious tools for about 120 years, and I’ve only been working on it for five-ten in my personal-empiric way. But it is my prediction that we will someday see a strong indication that trying to force people to simply repudiate their sexual drives is not a very healthy thing. Channel, redistribute, maybe.
In “the smart book with the stupid title” Stumbling on Happiness, which I quote so often that I need to start a series of analytical posts on it, Daniel Gilbert suggests that everyone seeks happiness at all times, even suicides. Everyone is actively engaged in acts they think will make them happier. Acts of self-destruction or self-degradation are often acts that, to the psyche, promise to limit future pain. Animals don’t commit suicide because they lack the ability to imagine they’d be in less pain if they would. Humans hurt themselves for a variety of complex reasons, but I firmly believe that very few of them are pathological in any meaningful way.
I think that this particular finding adds fuel to the current call to declassify most paraphilias, but going further I think it suggests that we need real research into just how harmful it is to ignore our “paraphilias” to sweep them under the carpet or attempt to discipline ourselves out of them.