Chapter 11: Terminology
The following reading is to introduce you to some basic concepts we will be covering in greater depth throughout the quarter. Some terminology overlaps and will be a review for those who took PSY 231, but overall much of this information will be new. Re-read Chapter 1 if you would like a refresher on the terminology and safe space rules from 231 that will be utilized for this course as well. The rest of the definitions and topics covered below will be specific to this course as it is more clinical in perspective with many overlaps to health psychology, nursing, medicine, public health, community health, and more.
Health Psychology and Human Sexuality
Health psychology is a subfield that seeks to understand the health-seeking and risk-taking behaviors of people. Self-efficacy, feeling competent to engage in certain behaviors, plays a central role in determining the actions people will take based on a number of social, interpersonal, personal, and structural factors. Health psychology explores ways that public health workers and medical providers can communicate effectively to not reproduce social stigma and shame and ways that educational materials can be developed utilizing health communication techniques to make them more relevant and representative of the target audience. Take for instance the Covid-19 pandemic, to outreach to community members, public health departments needed to make sure testing and vaccination information was available in the languages spoken by the populations who needed the information and that the testing and vaccination sites had staff who were able to communicate with the public effectively. In many cases, partnering with local agencies, such as local chapters of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) or LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens), was vital to the success of the public outreach campaign. The intersecting identities of the target audiences of health information need to be represented in the outreach materials, and centering the voices of those who identify as members of the target audience is a priority.
Relating this to human sexuality, health psychology is utilized to attempt to predict risky sexual behaviors and develop interventions to alter behaviors toward being safer. Sex education in high school as well as public service announcements are ways to educate the public. More specific campaigns can be utilized when there is an outbreak of certain STIs within communities or when therapists are creating brochures for their offices to normalize sexual dysfunctions and inform the public about possible treatments. This course will be focused on developing community-based educational tools for specific populations with intersecting identities in mind to make the messages more relevant and representative in order to address gaps in human sexuality outreach.
While definitions were previously provided in Chapter 1 related to gender, LGBTQIA+ identities, and intersecting identities as a whole, differently-abled/disabled were not previously defined. This course will pay special attention to the way that being differently-abled or disabled may impact sexual functioning and relationships and are defined in the following ways:
- Differently-abled is an umbrella term that many individuals now prefer
- Some individuals still prefer the term disabled
- Can be visible or invisible
- Could be constant or flare up at different times
- May be mental (intellectual, cognitive, information processing, mental health, etc.) or physical
- Have genetic or environmental causes
- Chronic pain may be a factor
Most people will become differently-abled at some point in their life; some permanently, some only for a period of time.
Disorder versus Atypical
Sexual disorders, dysfunctions, paraphilias, and fetishes will be explored from a mental health and psychopharmacological clinical perspective. We will also explore atypical sexual behaviors that others often label using similar terms to clinical diagnoses but are not related to mental health concerns. Keep this in mind:
- Atypical means less common; this is not a mental health diagnosis
- Disorder means that it causes an individual distress, impairment in daily functioning, relationships, work, or schooling, or causes the self or others (including animals) harm; a mental health practitioner can provide a diagnosis
Did you know that homosexuality used to be classified as a disorder by the American Psychological Association until 1973 (Drescher, 2015)? Conversion Therapy is still practiced in many states even today. 20 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. have banned the practice with Virginia becoming the most recent state to ban this practice as of March 2nd, 2020 (Weir, 2020).
Two highly debated disorders remain: transvestic fetishism and gender dysphoria.
BDSM or kink–How many people are into it? Check out this interesting read from Magliano (2015).
Divided into two categories (Comer, 2016):
- Sexual dysfunctions–problems with sexual responses
- Paraphilias–repeated and intense sexual urges and fantasies in response to socially inappropriate objects or situations
*Again, must meet the threshold for distress, impairment or harm to be diagnosed
Sex work is an umbrella term that encompasses many roles within the sex industry in which an individual receives compensation for their role. Sex work includes:
- Those who provide direct sexual services, even through the phone or online
- Staff members at all levels within the sex industry
- Talent managers
In ideal situations, sex workers are freely consenting at all times, but, due to the underground and unregulated nature of much of the sex industry, exploitation and harm are still possible.
The World Health Organization (2021) states that decriminalizing sex work will benefit health outcomes.
- Sex traffickers target vulnerable populations, particularly foster care youth, sexual minorities, transgender women, racial minorities, and undocumented immigrants–if any of these identities intersect, then the person becomes even more vulnerable to exploitation due to social, structural and systemic barriers.
- Psychological and physical abuse are used as tools by sex traffickers.
- Sometimes the individuals being trafficked can begin to believe their captors and even help them in recruiting others.
- The individuals being trafficked are always victims and consent is not possible due to many factors.
Trauma-informed care means interacting with others in a safe and sensitive way that prevents retraumatization and promotes the development of healthy coping skills. Many individuals will experience trauma, specifically a trauma of sexual nature, so it is important to develop skills to promote healing. Important competencies:
- Recognize trauma symptoms and address behaviors rather than further blame the individual (re-victimizing)
- Develop interpersonal, community-based, and institutional levels of intervention and support
Questions and Empowerment
- What is the role of shame and stigma in influencing sexuality? How can we work to promote consent, healthy communication, and community-based change?
- What are some ways that society might influence people in developing harmful sexual behaviors?
- What is the role of isms (sexism, racism, ableism, classism, etc.) in promoting sexual violence?
- How has colonialism contributed to the shaming and spread of disinformation regarding sexuality?
- What changes need to be made in order to make our society better?
- What can we do in our interactions with others to be supportive rather than further add to the shame and stigma people may feel?
- What can we actively do to counter isms both intrapersonally (within ourselves in the form of bias, stereotyping, cognitive schemas, etc.) and interpersonally (in our communication and interactions with other people)?
- What can we do to support victims of sexual violence?
- How can we support people who are at risk of harming others, and how can we support perpetrators of sexual violence in their change process?
This will be a recurring theme throughout this course in order to:
- Analyze and heal from society-based harms related to sexuality
- Understand our rights and the resources available
- Advocate for ourselves and others
- Maintain a sex-positive and consent-based perspective and be able to recognize when our own or others’ behaviors are harmful
- Develop a sense of community and support
- Utilize skills to be a changemaker in our relationships, workplace, community, and society
Comer, R. J. (2016). Fundamentals of abnormal psychology 8th ed. Worth Publishers: New York, NY.
Drescher, J. (2015). Out of DSM: Depathologizing homosexuality. Behavioral Sciences, 5, 565-575. doi:10.3390/bs5040565. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695779/pdf/behavsci-05-00565.pdf
Magliano, J. (2015). The surprising psychology of BDSM. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-wide-wide-world-psychology/201502/the-surprising-psychology-bdsm
Newport, F. (2018). In U.S., estimate of LGBT population rises to 4.5%. Gallup. https://news.gallup.com/poll/234863/estimate-lgbt-population-rises.aspx
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Tello, M. (2018). Trauma-informed care: What it is, and why it’s important. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/trauma-informed-care-what-it-is-and-why-its-important-2018101613562
Weir, K. (2020). A growing number of states ban sexual orientation change efforts. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/sexual-orientation-change
The Williams Institute. (2011). How many people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender? University of California, Los Angeles. https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/how-many-people-lgbt/
World Health Organization. (2021). Sex work. https://www.who.int/hiv/topics/sex_work/about/en/