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Member Spotlight: Susan Wright

Member Spotlight: Susan Wright

By Steph Auteri | From the April 2014 Issue

AASECT member Susan Wright has published over 30 novels over the course of her writing career, many of them sexually charged fantasy novels. Considering her output, you'd assume she'd have no time left over after she finished plotting out storylines, writing manuscripts, and making her way through the editing process.

Surprisingly, however, Wright actually spends the bulk of her time acting as an educator and advocate for people who have been persecuted for their sexual preferences. She does this through her work with the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom — which she founded — and through a multitude of other projects.

Here, we delve a bit deeper into the advocacy work she's been doing.

1. As a slash-careerist (author / educator / advocate), you have a lot going on. Can you give me a quick rundown of what keeps you busiest these days?

My work for National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) is my biggest commitment. Most recently, I've taken over as director of the NCSF Incident Reporting & Response program, which helps people who have been discriminated against because of their alternative sexuality, whether it's the loss of their job or child custody or dealing with law enforcement and the judicial system.

I'm also conducting a survey on Consent Violations in a BDSM context with Russell Stambaugh, PhD, DST, and a former board member of AASECT. Thousands of kinky people have already responded, and we're very excited about this research.

2. What are your main areas of interest within the sexology industry? What would you consider your special niche?

For over 20 years, I've been an educator and advocate for people who are kinky and non-monogamous. I've conducted several surveys on this population to assist in creating educational materials and presentations for professionals in social services, health care, and law enforcement. I also give dozens of media interviews every year to de-stigmatize kink and polyamory.

3. What has most informed your trajectory within this field? How did you get to where you are today?

I've always been motivated by the plight of people who are persecuted because of who they are. One project I created was for the National Organization for Women (NOW), the SM Policy Reform Project, which successfully removed NOW's anti-SM policy in 1999. Over the several-year history of that project, I kept hearing stories from women. One was beaten up when she told a date she liked to be spanked. Another lost her job because someone found out she was kinky and then sexually harassed her about it until it became a problem at work. I realized there was a real need for a kink advocacy group so I formed the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

4. What do you feel has been your biggest contribution to the field of sexology? What do you want to be known for?

I would like to be known for speaking up for the rights of consenting adults when so many others couldn't or wouldn't. There's been a change in the past few years with more people coming out and speaking out about kink and polyamory. I'm glad to see that because when people talk about their own experiences, that helps build tolerance.

5. What obstacles have you faced over the years, and how did you overcome them?

I've dedicated a lot of my life to my volunteer work for NCSF and the projects I've been involved with, so that's taken a toll on my writing career. Yet somehow I've managed to get over 30 books published along the way, so I can't complain! I'm very fortunate as a working writer and an educator to have my husband's support — Kelly Beaton was the first volunteer for NCSF and remains our staunchest supporter.

6. What has been the most exciting project you've worked on, and why?

I'm very excited about my work on the DSM Revision Project for NCSF. I was able to explain to the members of the APA's paraphilias subworkgroup that the DSM was being used against kinky people in courts and by health care professionals who were misdiagnosing healthy people as mentally ill. The differentiation between paraphilias and the Paraphilic Disorders has been helpful. NCSF went from only a 20% success rate in dismissing BDSM as a concern in child custody hearings to removing BDSM as an issue in 2012 in every single case in which we submitted the proposed DSM criteria. Now, even in the most conservative areas of the country, I talk to lawyers and family advocates who are already aware of the change in the DSM-5 and no longer consider kinky sex to be a reason to remove child custody.

7. Where do you see your career five years, or even 10 years, from now?

I sincerely hope that the recent wave of tolerance we're seeing will continue. It's been sparked by the widening acceptance of gay marriage and, ironically enough, the romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey. That book got everyone talking, and that's what we want. In 5 – 10 years, I'm sure I'll still be recommending that everyone talk more about sex with their partners, especially their desires and limits and the gray areas of consent.

8. How has your relationship with AASECT affected your career?

AASECT has had a significant effect on my work. Between the Alt Sex SIG, the members I've met, and AASECT's annual conference, I've been able to network productively and get the feedback I need on my work. When I think of the amazing people whom I've met at AASECT, I'm grateful I've been a member for so many years and for having had the chance to volunteer for AASECT's Advocacy Committee.

9. Do you have any tips that might be of interest to educators and/or therapists?

When it comes to alt sex, it's not why but how that's important. You may never know why someone is excited by something and, in the end, it doesn't really matter. What we do best is help people with the process of sexuality: how to be safe, how to explore their sexuality comfortably, and how to ask for their own needs to be met while respecting the needs of their partner(s). We are teaching people how to communicate about sex so they can grow to their full potential in their own unique way.

When I think of the amazing people whom I've met at AASECT, I'm grateful I've been a member for so many years...