ISRC Research Highlights from SSSS

In early November, ISRC faculty and staff presented their original research at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) in Atlanta, Georgia. Their work highlights the diverse interests represented at the ISRC, as well as innovative approaches to understanding sexual and reproductive experiences and the discourses that shape sexuality research.

“A Qualitative Exploration of Play Party Experiences Among Attendees with a History of Sexual Assault”

Authors: Brooke Wells, PhD & Zhana Vrangalova, PhD

Summary: Play parties (swinger clubs, BDSM/kink parties, sex parties, etc.) involve the potential for sex with multiple partners in contexts that may include alcohol and other drug use, both of which can complicate the negotiation and communication of consent. Analysis of a survey of 1,389 play party attendees found that 49% of the sample reported adult experiences of sexual victimization and 28% reported a completed rape, with prevalence highest among women and those who identified as transgender or gender non-binary. To better understand the role of sexual assault history in play party experiences, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 people who reported a history of adult sexual victimization and attending a play party in the past year. Preliminary analyses indicated several emerging themes. First, participants reported finding comfort in sexual spaces that are consent-focused and where boundaries are respected. Participants also reporting using these sexualized spaces, particularly kink/BDSM spaces, to process some of their sexual trauma. In both of these themes, participants contrasted play party spaces with mainstream contexts, highlighting the behavior and communication distinctions (with play party spaces being the better spaces) and highlighting the effectiveness of community policing in play party communities. Results highlight the potential for improvements in other sexualized spaces as well as ways in which clinicians might work with survivors of sexual assault.

“From Risk to Pleasure: The Role of Sexuality in Cannabis Discourses”

Author: Lindsay Lock, MSEd, MS 20171220_100613

Summary: The legal status of marijuana is changing rapidly across the United States.  As this occurs, various discourses around cannabis serve to support or undermine arguments for decriminalization and/or legalization.  Applying a discourse analytical framework developed in the UK during marijuana’s drug reclassification, this systematic review examined the ways in which research on marijuana and sex contribute to various cannabis discourses.  Of the 77 findings from 38 articles used in this analysis, 46% focused on associations between global marijuana use and sexual risk behavior or other negative outcomes while a majority of the remainder focus on the enhancement of sexual desire and pleasure, and sexual arousal and orgasm (11% and 15%, respectively).  These findings suggest that more marijuana and sex research is supportive of cannabis discourses that promote public policy to legislate use and treatment for users than those which promote medicinal, recreational, and ritual use.

“Convictions, Circumstances, & Conflict: Pregnancy Decision-Making in the Context of Pro-Life & Pro-Choice Ideology”

Authors: Megan Simmons, PhD, Jessica Hille, JD, Elyssa Klann, MSW, & Gina Rhodes, MEd

Summary: Decisions about parenting, adoption, or abortion often incorporate a variety of factors, including partner/social support, readiness to parent, and personal values. In the United States, abortion is a highly controversial and often stigmatized decision, which may cause distress during the pregnancy decision-making process.  In order to understand the relationship between personal abortion attitudes and decision-making when confronted with a pregnancy, this study analyzed the call logs of 61 women who sought assistance from a national pregnancy options counseling hotline and who explicitly stated their pro-choice or anti-abortion/pro-life attitudes. Themes for the pro-choice group of women included believing women generally should have the right to choose abortion but feeling uncertain about the decision for themselves. For women who identified as pro-life/anti-abortion, their general opposition to abortion did not always prevent them from considering it as an option given their particular situation. Women discussed experiencing or anticipating stigma in relation to having an abortion, parenting, and adoption. Grappling with pregnancy decision making is a complex process that is not necessarily made easier by general political or philosophical views about abortion.