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Friday, November 14, 2008

57 Bug bites, 1 bottle of rum, and the I word

Heading to the airport before sunrise on a chilly San Francisco morning only to endure 12 hours of travel was surprisingly exhilarating with the knowledge that Obama creamed McCain in the 2009 presidential election. It was a great start to a trip to San Juan Puerto Rico to attend the conference for the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. At the conference I heard bits and pieces of pro-Obama sentiments among the sexuality researchers – most seemed to be from the United States. It was stimulating to be around people who felt that change was underway, particularly toward a direction of funding more sex-positive research and comprehensive sex education initiatives.
In addition to some great panels (and a couple of not so great panels) there were some pretty cool social networking opportunities at the conference. For example, on Saturday The NSRC staff, Sexuality Studies grad students, and Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy leaders and sexuality research hot shots from other organizations and universities sat together for the beach front awards luncheon. The food, the weather, and the company were warm and unforgettable. I enjoyed the background tap tap taping of rain on the patio cover during lunch. The pounding rain complemented the echo of voices from the various discussions. It was an intersection of the personal and professional with sexuality at the center of each conversation. I could hear pieces of conversations about research interests, arguments about qualitative versus quantitative methods, Obama, and sexy vacation spots to name a few. Cards were exchanged and connections were made. Politics and divergent research methodologies aside there is something indescribable about being in a room full of sexuality scholars, it's electrifying.

While it was great to see sex-positive research many of the projects were not inclusive of all people. My favorite part of the conference was a symposium about sexuality and disabilities. Unfortunately, there were only a handful of people present for the discussion. The low number of attendees reflects the reality that disabled people are often ignored and are therefore invisible in sexuality research. Many of the presentations made it clear that people with different bodies and cognitive abilities are still thought of as asexual and powerless beings as seen in reported social attitudes hat reflect both prejudice and pity from the public and even from people who work with individuals who have different abilities. The actual feelings and experiences of disabled people are scarcely represented in the literature. The truth is that many people with physical and cognitive disabilities are just as sexual as everyone else and are perfectly capable of having healthy sexual lives when given the opportunities. After seeing this symposium I am excited about the potential to work with organizations and educational institutions such as the National Sexuality Resource Center and the Morehouse School of Medicine that are working toward a more inclusive sexuality research agenda. With a shift in the political atmosphere there is no where to go but up right? Or in this case IN. I left for Puerto Rico feeling optimism about the future of sexuality education and research in the United States and I headed back feeling empowered with a ridiculous amount of bug bites, a bottle of rum, and a new understanding of inclusive comprehensive sex education.
--Amanda Hoffman

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