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Joint ICJR/HEAL event, 21st October 2014: Dr Ummni Khan on ‘SM is sick but Kink is cool’

In human body, Meetings on October 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

Joint ICJR/HEAL event on Tuesday 21st October, at 1-3pm in bldg 34/rm 2003, on ‘SM is sick but Kink is cool – exploring ambivalent discourses that surround sadomasochism and health’, with Dr Ummni Khan, Associate Professor, Carleton University, Canada.

Abstract Where does sadomasochism (SM) lie on the spectrum between healthy and unhealthy? This presentation explores scientific, feminist, pop cultural and legal engagements with this question. From Krafft-Ebing’s 1886 tome Psychopathia Sexualis, to the current editions of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the scientific discourse generally accepts mild forms of SM as normal and natural, while more “risky” desires are considered a mental health issue. Feminists continue to debate whether SM – particularly when practiced by submissive women – is a patriarchy-induced infection or an embodied cathartic ritual. In films like Secretary and books like 50 Shades of Grey, pop culture has embraced mild kink as healing within otherwise heteronormative relationships, while often dismissing more hard-core desires as an effect of past trauma. Finally, the legal system sometimes characterizes SM as an unhealthy predilection, drawing explicitly from psychiatric diagnoses of disorder, as well as anti-SM feminist explanations of psychologically damaged women coerced into accepting (and even eroticizing) abuse. Yet a few other cases have found SM to be an acceptable and benign sexuality that, in and of itself, does not indicate criminal or pathological tendencies. Thus, a key goal of this presentation is to map out these disjointed and often contradictory discourses of SM’s status as (un)healthy.

All welcome. Event link available here. For more information please contact Dr David Gurnham D.Gurnham@soton.ac.uk.

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