What do you do after breaking a relationship agreement? How can we look at sex addiction through a new lens? What’s the difference between a “healthy sexuality” and “sexual health”?
This week our guest, Doug Braun-Harvey, answers these questions and more about what’s working in queer relationships.
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Doug: I use the phrase sexual health. Sexual health is an aspirational concept of balancing the pleasure of sex and the necessary safety of sex.
Melisa: Hello everyone. Welcome back to Queer Relationships Queer Joy. I'm one of your hosts, Melisa DeSegiurant.
Keely: Hello, and I'm Keely C. Helmick, the other host, and we're here today to talk to Doug Braun Harvey. So we're gonna do quick introductions, and then we wanna get right into the interview because I love hanging out with Doug and hearing all of his wonderful stories and his plethora of knowledge around topics, especially with, out of control, sexual behavior and sex drug linked behavior.
And so we'll do quick introductions and then get going. So my name is Keely C. Helmick. I'm a licensed professional counselor. I'm also the owner of Connective Therapy Collective. I'm queer white, non-binary, pronouns they them, and doing pretty well for, for right now, Melisa.
Melisa: And I'm Melisa DeSegiurant. I'm licensed as a professional counselor and a marriage and family therapist. I am white, I'm bisexual, I am polyamorous. I am able bodied and I am gender fluid. I use she and they pronouns.
Doug: And I am Doug Braun Harvey. I'm coming to you from San Diego. and, I identify as white, gay, cis male. and I'm in a open relationship with my partner of 37 years.
Keely: Oh, lovely. I know we're not supposed to talk about time. Not supposed to, but we try to get out of this like, relationship escalator. , where you know, the quality of a relationship is based on time. But I will say, especially like all your experience, Doug, it's just so beautiful to hear you say that you've been in this relationship with another man for 37 years.
You've made it this, as so much of our community, we don't see elders as much. And so seeing the two of you be in connection and together for so long is just so beautiful.
Doug: Well, well, I hit the jackpot in finding my partner. we met in 1987 at a dinner party hosted by friends, who my husband, future husband was the best friend of one of the men and the couple.
Now they had been a couple for one year, and Al and I met at their house that night. And, we have remained a couple since that night. We dated for quite some time and became a couple. The house we met at, the couple whose house we met at, I have been together one year longer than us. They have also remained a couple all these years and on our 25th anniversary.
I arranged for the table Al and I met at their patio 25 years ago. it was still owned by some people we knew. So I moved the table in chairs to our house and had Michael and Paul and Al and I have dinner at the same table we ate at 25 years before.
Melisa: That is incredible.
Keely: Oh, we love those stories. We love them.
Keely: So Doug, you are a specialist in your own right and you've done this work for so many years and we thought to start out really helping. We have such a variety of listeners and some people have different vocabulary understandings, and we've talked in a previous episode about the terminology of sex addiction.
And we wanna start right off the bat using the vocabulary that as sex therapists and as therapists, that we really wanna utilize that de pathologizes sex.
Doug: Well, yeah, I didn't say in my introduction. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, which I've been since the early eighties. and a group psychotherapist, that was my primary treatment modality, I really identified as a group therapist and I worked with men who identified,as having concerns about their sexual behavior since the early nineties.
Um, and, I ran groups and had an individual program for men concerned about their sexual behavior. And from the get-go in the early nineties, I never aligned with the sex addiction model. I didn't agree with it. And my initial population I was working with was gay men. And the reason for this is, I'll go into brief story.
Uh, in the early nineties, the underground vice police of San Diego were arresting,gay men or men who were having sex with men in public spaces, parks, things like that. And they were using very attractive police officers in the vice squad to entrap men who were, you know, attracted to these police officers.
And then police officers would come out of, this was public parks and they would come out and arrest these men. It was humiliating and degrading. and this was in the nineties, the darkest days of the HIV epidemic. it was really brutal times. Brutal, brutal times. And so they were court ordered, all the men pleaded guilty immediately.
Just they wanted to get these court cases away from their lives. So they, the courts had all the control. They pleaded guilty and they were court ordered to sex addiction treatment. . and so men were calling me after completing the sex addiction treatment kind of a bit, you know, really, injured by the process.
They were at the time, sex addiction therapy involved combining both consenters and non-consenters in the same group. So they would be going to groups as gay men hiding, passing as straight men so they could be safe in groups with predatory, heterosexual,you know, convicted sex offenders. And that was the environment they had to go to in order to complete their court agreement.
So I was very concerned about this. I went to the San Diego Court and asked if therapy with me could be the same kind of therapy the court would order for men arrested in these circumstances. And the court agreed. So the, I went around and thought the attorneys told the attorneys about me. And so now the men no longer were sent to these groups. They were sent to me for therapy. And out of that I saw some men who were arrested for public sex, in these terrible circumstances, did have some concerns about their behavior, not all men, But you know, just having the public sex doesn't mean your sex is outta control. but some of them did have some concerns about their sexual lies and out of that grew my wanting to provide therapy for gay men concerned about their out control sexual behavior, because the only sources available in San Diego for therapy were the sex addiction model. And at the time I just saw it as very sex negative and quite, heterosexist in its approach. And so, you know, and there, there still remains a 12 step program called sex, uh, sex ano- alcoholics anonymous essay where the definition of sobriety in that 12 step program is to only have monogamous sex in a heterosexual marriage and never to masturbate.
Now, these are real, this is still real out there. So the heterosexist narratives, as far as what, what defines. you know, abstinence sex from an addictive process. you know, it's still very controversial and, and remains kind of polarizing in some communities. So, so my work grew from, actually starting a gay man's group.
Fast forward to December, 2019, I retired as a group and individual psychotherapist, and I'm in December 17th, 2019. I ended the gay men's group that had run continuously for 27 years.
Doug: I, uh, then I did other groups for heterosexual men as well. Because the gay men's group grew out of those era, I never combined my groups with, some mixed orientation.
I think that's a different time now. Things are handled differently clinically, but that was, you know, that was, I just sort of stayed with that because that's how those groups evolved. So, so that's a little bit about, you know, the evolution of why I'm having this conversation.
Keely: That's wonderful.
Melisa: I appreciate the reframe so much around what our expectation is for a healthy sexual behavior. And you're right, I mean, there's still so many models that only promote one way. I think that's part of what we do on the podcast is try and promote all sorts of kinky queer, non monogamous versions of sex that are quite healthy. Can you talk a little bit more, if not an AA addiction model. What does treatment look like? What are we hoping for? And how do you teach people, to perhaps become more in control of their sexual behavior?
Doug: Well, let me do some things around language. Whenever I do podcasts, I introduce the language that I use. So a word was already said in the podcast is a language I don't use, I don't use the phrase healthy sexuality um, healthy sexuality is a binary concept. There's one side that's healthy and one side that's not, and it creates division and conflict. and,and it's,it's actually not a, it's not a real division. It's an arbitrary, culturally defined division. and so it, it has many problems, healthy or unhealthy sexuality.
So I use the phrase sexual health. Sexual health is an aspirational concept of balancing the pleasure of sex and the necessary safety of sex. So sexual health is a balance of human behavior, and it's not based on specific sexual acts. Now, the sex addiction model often focuses on specific sexual acts, which body part goes in which orifice, with which person, under which circumstance, and under which religion, under which, you know, you know, the situation. And so oftentimes sex addictive behavior is very much defined by sexual acts, what you're doing with your body, with another person or yourself. Sexual health is based on six principles of sexual health.
Is these, my, I took from a definition of responsible sexual behavior from 2000, the Pan-American Health Association and the World Association of Sexual Health. I took from that definition six fundamental ideas that I called the six principles of sexual health. So working without a controlled sexual behavior involves, there's a third element I'll get to, but there's three elements that are basic to understanding working with out of control sexual behavior.
One is it's working with people who are interested in balancing their safety and their pleasure in sex in a way that works for them. Secondly, are they willing to align their life with these six principles of sexual health? And they are that sex is consensual, that sex is non exploitative. That sexual sexuality involves a degree of honesty that each person has to determine for themselves what level of honesty is important to them and their partners.
That sexuality involves sexual values. So are, am I bringing my values to my sexual relationships, my sexual activity with myself? and are there values congruent or am I having difficulties with certain values, that sexual health involves a protection from,HIV, unplanned unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
So what is my relationship with HIV is a very important part of sexual health. What is my relationship? Do I know it? With sexually transmitted infections and every human being needs to have a contraception plan, and then particularly for men, men need to learn how to ejaculate responsibly. And then, and then the pleasure component,is really all of those safety issues have to revolve around pleasure.
You do. You're not having a sexual health conversation unless you're balancing all these safety concerns with pleasure. Pleasure has the same space at the table that all those other sexual health principles do. And the third component of working without a controlled sexual behavior is most people come for therapy or want to change their sexual lives because they're not keeping the relationship agreements.
In their sexual relationships. They're not either keeping the relationships with partners with one time sexual partners, or they're actually not even keeping relationship agreements with themselves around their solo sex and their use of pleasure on however they find pleasure in their solo sex life, or with multiple relationship partners, whatever the agreements are.
How, how, how. Uh, confident does the person feel that they're able to maintain the agreements they're agreeing to? and how do they take responsibility when they do not keep relationship agreements? Because everybody falls down sometimes on keeping relationship agreements. We're human beings. And so, so it's about how am I handling, search certain situations where I'm maintaining or not maintaining a relationship agreement.
Those are the three general concepts of working without a controlled sexual behavior.
Keely: Well in that agreement we talk a lot about agreements and how even within agreements they shift and change. I think that so often people want to have a hard set, like this is what it is, and then that stays that way. And doesn't change, and the conversations become really colorful when we can expand and say, okay, we made these agreements together and they're shifting and changing consistently. Just like everything in our bodies for ourselves is shifting and changing.
Doug: You know, one of the things that I think is a strength of same sex relationships, anybody who identifies as having sexual attractions or interests with, you know, somebody who doesn't identify clearly as, cis heterosexual,and, is they're better.
At being o openly discussing sexual relationship agreements. and we have research to show this. I mean, and the, actually the relationship configurations that seem to do the best are between, men. Men, people identify as men it's a recent study that just came out about this, that they seem to do the best at these negotiations.
and the people who do the worst are the, cis heterosexual couples.
Doug: And so one of the things that I have a lot of empathy for is many people don't discuss their relationship agreements. Until somebody's been hurt.
Keely: Yeah, yeah.
Doug: That, that we kind of go kind of silent or avoidant. And I have a lot of empathy with people.
there's no villains here. We live in a sex- a sexually illiterate society that doesn't really teach people how to have effective sexual health, conversations.
Doug: To negotiate and discuss relationship agreements. So oftentimes these are avoided, even in queer relationships.
Keely: Oh, for sure.
Doug: Until somebody's hurt and what, uh, you know, my, my work was primarily with men. I worked exclusively with men and outta controlled sexual behavior, people identified as men,and cis people identified as cis men. I did not have, people who identified anywhere on the, you know, the newly emerging. I started in this in 1992.
There weren't language like, uh, you know, non-binary, and the trans spectrum was a much more limited idea of what the TransSpectrum was, and the whole idea of gender spectrum health was not even really in the world at that time. So, you know, so my, I primarily worked with cis identified men, and, you know, when I, when my, what I really came to understand about men was that we really aren't interested as a society in the sexual health of men.
Doug: Until they hurt somebody. or themselves, then men and their sexual lives are of interest. And usually there are three circumstances where men's sexual health becomes of interest. They either become, a non-consenter and violate somebody else non-consensually, or they are a victim, a target of non-consensual sex, either historically or currently, or they're identified as a sex addict. Those are the three tickets that men have in our society where somebody's gonna talk with them and be interested in them in their sexual health.
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Melisa: So much stigma and so much shame, which I think we know exists around sex altogether. And with that, I'm curious, and I know you did a lot of the group work with people who were either identified as having an issue with their sexual behavior. Um, but I'm curious about,
Doug: So my issue, here's my wording for this Melisa
Doug: Rather than with their sexual behavior, there are men who wanted to improve their sexual health.
Doug: You know, they didn't know how to say that when they came to me.
Doug: But they'll say to them, oh, it sounds like you wanna improve your sexual health. And they'd look at me like I was nuts. They had no idea what I was saying.
Melisa: Yeah, right. Cuz the outside world has given them this diagnosis that you have a problematic behavior. And that's like what I see in couples though, is regardless of like the progressive language of the therapist is the partner is still sitting with this idea of this is a problem, especially if there's been secrecy around it.
And I'm curious, like how can partners be more empathetic and understand this as a sexual health exploration and not a problem to fix?
Doug: Well, I think the first step is with a person and who has violated the sexual health principle of non exploitation, and that's typically what has happened in relationships where a partner is so injured and and so emotionally, emotionally hurt, is they are in love with somebody who resorted to exploitation to solve a conflict in their relationship. People don't know how to have sexual health conversations. And so one of the avoidant strategies when you don't know how to renegotiate or discuss an erotic turn on that your partner doesn't know about, or maybe there's something you're interested in looking at in solo sex and you're a little, you know, unsure about how you feel about that, or maybe you have a particular erotic turn on, you've never told your partner.
I mean, these are, this is human behavior. Yeah. and people don't know how to have these conversations. So what they do is they resort to what I call exploitive behavior. Now, exploitation is a power difference. Having information you don't disclose to somebody is power. That you have a power differential in a relationship.
So when somebody is, engaging in sexual activity, erotic pleasure with somebody other than a partner, and they have an agreement that their sexual relationship is exclusive with each other, that's an exploitive solution to a sexual health dilemma, and it's one of the most common solutions in couples in the country.
Keely: And so what I encourage people to think about is you never expected the person you love to resort to exploitation. Yeah.
Doug: That's an inch that hurts. we don't think of it, we always kind of think of if somebody loves us enough, they wouldn't exploit us.
Doug: And it's very painful to find out that somehow I can love somebody, and the best they could do to solve this solution was to resort to exploitation.
Now, this is a human behavior. This does not make people, terrible people. We all exploit at some time. we need to get over this that exploitation is an allegation of pathology, it is not. Exploitation's, a very human behavior, in the elementary school, and we call 'em bullies. I mean, we have words for people who exploit all, you know, at different age ranges, you know?
and so we have to normalize the human behavior exploitation and bring that into the conversation of people. I never imagined you'd exploit me.
Doug: And now I have to know that sometimes in distress all by yourself without talking to me, you could resort to another exploited decision and we have to somehow make peace with this, or are we expecting that the person we're in a relationship with would never, ever resort to that behavior again?
And then we have to ask ourselves. Would I never resort to that behavior again? And there's exploitive behavior in partners. They pick up the phone and search their, you know, their history and never tell them that's exploitation. You know?
Doug: I got power over you. I, what's on here. Now we don't like to think of that exploitation, but that's another, uh, solution to a problem. Right. These are things that are human behaviors that people do out of desperation when they don't know what else to do. And so people resort to exploitation. So I think that's an important word that has to come into couples. where they both have resorted to exploitive behavior.
Melisa: And like you said, just naming it like this is something to accept, that this is human and we are all part of that. That is a impulse that we all have.
Doug: And people hate that word, I gotta tell you. I mean, I have to really prepare men for that word. They do not like to think of themselves as somebody who's exploited somebody they love. That's tough. But it's also, I think, a more accurate description. because it's power you're using power over another person to resort to a problem. That's what people do when they exploit. Non-consent is a violation of another person's personal bodily integrity that's different in, in couples.
Oftentimes they'll call exploitive behavior non-consent, they'll call the lack of negotiation, a non-consensual behavior that I do not agree with. That non-consent is when you violate another person's body through force, coercion or violation to have some sort of physical or sexual contact. We have to reserve non-consent for that range of human behavior.
If we start calling violating relationship agreements, non-consent, we then hide all the sexual violence that really needs attention in this country.
Keely: That, that wording. Yeah. I wanna explore that a little more because I think a lot of people who are listening and folks that we work with in therapy are using this word consent and non-consent and informed consent and boundaries in a way that actually isn't helpful because we're losing the true definition. And then we're talking, as you stated, we're talking about things that have a different language.
Doug: So I use the word agreement, so you'll hear I save the word consent and non-consent for that egregious human, ultimate sexual health violation.
There's no more severe of a sexual health violation than crossing the non-consent boundary.
Keely: So would we, I mean, I'm thinking of questions that people listening may be asking, and when I think hearing exploitation and non-consent. When someone comes in and has broken the agreement, really common, one broken the agreement of monogamy.
Keely: What wording is used when you talk about that?
Doug: Well, the first time I ask him is what was your agreement and when did you verbally discuss it?
Doug: But you know, you know, I go to weddings, I go to weddings all the time. It's mainly, you know, I say this at heterosexual weddings. I, I must be honest here, well go to heterosexual, my husband and I, and when they get to that part where they speak about this vague kind of agreement, A fidelity, it's, you know, it's very vague language.
It's not clear at all what they're agreeing to. It's all flowery and, you know, and I'll lean over to my husband and I'll say, that's the last time they're gonna talk about that for a long time.
Keely: Yeah. So true. I know.
Doug: So, so when people come in and they're injured, And feeling betrayed by an agreement. The first thing I want to talk about is tell me when the explicit agreement was made.
And tell me what part of that explicit agreement, if it was made, has been crossed. And this is the important part. Which part of that explicit agreement was maintained? There's always something they kept in addition to something they crossed. An example, somebody hires somebody, pay somebody for sex. They used a condom.
Doug: Good for you. You were interested in protection from STI and an unwanted pregnancy. while you're having this other violation, but you kept another one, this is why these principles are important. Which principle did you maintain? Which principle did you cross rather than an all or none?
Something was unhealthy and something was healthy. This is how the principles create a more nuanced and kind of complex dialogue rather than just somebody doing something wrong.
Keely: And I do think when we're talking about exploitation. We're talking about power and control and the conversations in about relationship agreements can become this tug of war of power and control of wanting, of using the agreements almost as a way to try and control another person.
Or I've hear the dialogue of well, you broke my consent, or you're crossing my boundaries. Because you did X, Y, or Z, and we're like,no. That's not the act definition of boundary this, but going back to the relationship agreement and those nuances of the relationship agreement.
Doug: And then the other thing I really encourage people who work with couples to address is have each member of the couple agree that they're, they wanna align their sexual life as a separate human being with the six principles.
let's start there. Are they both on board with these principles as a place That is the foundational kinda infrastructure of everything else they discuss. And if those six are kept, then there's the potential for sexual health. if you're not in agreement with these six principles, it's very difficult to maintain and aspire to sexual health.
They're that fundamental. So that's the building block. That's, you gotta start somewhere. So those six is what I encourage everybody to agree with. And then I ask individuals first, what's your vision of sexuality? What would your sexual life look like that you would feel proud of, that would be aligned with these six principles and, you know, and give you pleasure and safety?
What would that look like? And then you ask the other person, you do all of this before you get to the couple.
Keely: Yes, the individual,
Doug: Because everybody has their own vision of sexual health.
Doug: And then you gotta figure out how to make these two visions work as a couple. Nobody talks about this before you enter into relationships, before you, you know, get married or form a long-term partnership or whatever the relationship configuration may be.
These are not discussions that people sit down and say, you know, here's kind of how I think of my sexual health. How do you think of yours? This is, and p- you know, this, I'm not trying to. unrealistic here. This is what people learn.
Doug: After they've hurt somebody.
Keely: And what we're trying to do is help them learn before the hurt happens. At the beginning, we just had an episode where we talked about the idea of integrity. And if you're walking in, when you're starting a relationship, how do you wanna start it off? And what you're saying right now and what we're hearing, and we know this is therapists, is hey, start from this foundational work.
And guess what you do it with yourself, you don't even have to be in relationship, a sexual or romantic relationship with somebody else or with other people. Yeah. That work first. And then you can have these conversations with people way early on.
Melisa: I feel so important too. Um, Doug, everything you're sharing here, because I know a lot of the listeners have been in therapy, even couples therapy and not been asked at all about their sex life, their sexual health. Certainly not about pleasure. That's an experience I have whenever people come to Connective, Therapy, Collective, it's the first time. Therapists are just naming like, how sex going for you, how you know, and asking those questions in the first session. So we do have to advocate for ourselves still in those spaces, and or find clinicians who have this perspective and this experience.
Doug: Well, you know, unfortunately we don't like to talk about this, but the mental health field is primarily a sexually illiterate training.
Keely: Oh my gosh, yes.
Doug: You know, so, so, so you can become a licensed professional, you can become a psychiatrist, you can become a psychologist, a social worker, marriage, family therapist, a licensed professional counselor.
I may have missed some others, but you can become any one of those folks. And depending on the state you live in, there's no requirement to have any training in human sexuality. These are varied by state to state and licensure, so it's different states have different criteria, but even the states that have some expectation of human sexuality training, it's very basic. Do you know that in physicians in our country, this is any physician who identifies as a medical provider, the average number of hours in medical school, four years of medical school in the nation, the average number of hours of human sexuality education is four hours. That's the average in four years of medical school training. So, you know, you've got medical professionals, psychotherapists, other healthcare professionals. Who have no expectation of having good sexual knowledge. so, so, you know, we need to be empathic here to our professions. The, these are not expectations that are made of therapists and they're failing at that expectation.
They've never been expected. As a licensed professional to have these skills, so people such as yourself, you have found this education and training beyond your education, beyond your licensure supervision. You are in this room talking with me because something was important to you to get this education in advanced training, and it wasn't because somebody in your state said, you better get this, or, we're not gonna license you. That's not why you're here in this room talking to me.
Doug: That's the way it's in the country.
Keely: Well, and so yeah, they're coming. Then people are coming to couples counseling or going to individual therapy, and we notice, even just say the word sex in counseling, please. Just when you meet someone, have an intake paperwork, have it in the first conversations.
Just use the word so that people will talk about it, and so that we can help them and learn about themselves, but also it's having to unlearn all of the social media and these wordings and phrases and ideas that pathologies and continue to create this shame feeling around sex.
Doug: Well, Keeley, I have a little bit of a hopeful narrative, and this is based on my own experience. I found people don't have to unlearn.
Doug: When they learn sexual health, they're drawn to it.
Doug: And, and they can still know everything they learned. They're interested in learning something new. That's what I have found so exciting about the sexual health principles, the term sexual health making relationship agreements. These are concepts people can understand. Those six words and concepts of sexual health are not. Complex words, like what do you mean by that? Other than exploitation, non exploitation is a little tougher one cuz nobody likes to talk about exploitation in our culture. you know, so I find it's more hopeful than that.
You don't have to, you don't have to excise bad information. You have to give them better information. And when people are given better information about sex, they like it.
Keely: Yes. Well, yeah, because what you're, what we're just saying is pleasure and I love, you know, Emily Naski says it, the best pleasure is the measure.
Yes. And say that time and time again, and that focus, now we just have to get into this. Into the schools and talk about pleasure in the schools.
Doug: Well, yeah, well step at a time. What I, the studies are clear when it comes to mental health professionals.
Doug: But if this is going to change in the therapy office. It's up to the therapist. Yes. Because when we study this, we actually see clients want to talk about their sexualized in therapy-
Keely: For sure.
Doug: They really do.
Keely: Start with ourselves. The therapist has examine their own stuff.
Doug: Yes. But the biggest reason clients are not talking about sex with their therapist is they sense their therapist discomfort talking about it.
Doug: And clients will avoid the subject if they sense in any way their therapist looks uncomfortable. Squeamish doesn't quite say the words comfortably, you know, whatever it may be. And it doesn't take much to telegraph. The best way to telegraph a therapist's discomfort with sexuality and sexual health is the therapist doesn't say the words in the first session.
Doug: That is a huge telegraph to a client that, that we're here about. We're interested in your mental health, we're interested in your physical health. We're maybe even interested in your spiritual health, but I'm not gonna talk to you about sexual health. That says something powerful to a client.
Keely: Doug, so much information. Do you have one more story or you wanna wrap up something, this theme of things working well or where to move forward in this positive light something to one last thing to talk about before we jump into queer joy.
Doug: I, I don't have a story that pops out, but if, if one does,I'll, you know, I wasn't ready for the question and something didn't just pop into my head.
Keely: That's all good. Why don't we hear a little bit more, do you have anything else? I loved hearing that beginning story about you and your husband. Is there any, um, peace. either maybe how you have navigated this or,
Doug: Well, I, here's a story I've been telling recently when it comes up. This was years and years ago.
My husband and I were at his family's home in the East Coast and it was a holiday time and we would stay at my husband's parents' house, while we visited. And, two stories. The first time we ever stayed at his parents' house, we had heard in advance that, the, his parents had changed out in the bedroom.
We were gonna sleep in the double bed for two twin beds. They literally did this before we arrived. Uh,so we knew this, so we get to the house and we were prepared and we said to them, we don't sleep like this. Um, and so we're fine with going to a hotel if you really are not comfortable with us sleeping in the same bed.
And his parents were just the most lovely people. They, we changed out the twin beds. They were, and brought up the bed from the basement, the double bed that night, and ever since. that was like probably 35, 36 years ago. Ever since we've always slept in the same room. We've traveled with them and stayed in the same hotel, and they, you know, we, they like to save money.
So we would sleep in the same hotel with them, room with them. We'd be in one double bed, they'd be in the other. so they changed. They, they were remarkable. They were remarkable. People who ch- their lives were changed by having a gay son in a gay relationship. Fast forward, we're at a holiday gathering.
And one of my sister-in-laws comes out of the bathroom on our toilet article, kid, our, you know, toothpaste, all that kind of stuff was in the tooth, in the bathroom. And she comes out and she says, I wasn't Snoopy. I swear to God I wasn't Snoopy, I was just walking my hands. And I looked over and I saw this.
She said, and I said, well, what did you see? She said, well, I saw condoms. And she looked at me and Alan, she said, Why do you need condoms? And we just looked at her and didn't say a word. And then she sat there quiet and she went, oh, we said,
Melisa: Oh my gosh. I love it.
Keely: Uh, well, Doug, it's a delight. What are you up to before we get into queer joy let's hear, are there ways you know, people are going to hear this and want to know more, and I can vouch having seen you seen your workshops and they're so wonderful and so informative and you're a great presenter.
So what's coming up and how do people find you?
Doug: Well, my, our website, the Harvey Institute is the website for my husband's and my, consulting and training, organization where we consult and train professionals around the world. we've traveled to four continents and trained on sexual health in various ways.
We train on sexual health conversations. We empower professionals to enter into sexual health conversations with confidence, and good words. . and so, one of the things at our website as well is different training opportunities. If somebody wants to see if you're a professional or interested in more training, there are, different,video recorded, lessons where you can learn about the outta control sexual behavior model that we talked about briefly here, my three books are listed there.
I wrote two book on sexual health, in substance use treatment, I have one's called sexual health and drug and alcohol treatment, and the other one's called Sexual Health and Recovery. Those are books for professionals,to work with people in recovery and learn how to work with people in recovery, and integrate their sexual health.
As an essential ally for recovery in however they define recovery in changing their relationship with substances. The third book I wrote is treating out a controlled sexual behavior, rethinking sex addiction. that is a clinical treatment manual for professionals to learn how to implement the sexual health model.
for treating out of controlled sexual behavior. I'm now writing my next book, which is for the general public, uh, on this, these very sexual health models. The three ideas I just talked a few about balancing sexual, safety with pleasure is sexual health, the six principles of sexual health and keeping relationship agreements.
Those are the three themes that I will be addressing in great detail in the next book. I'm. For the general public so people can read this book and learn about this without necessarily having to hurt somebody before they, get this information.
Keely: Oh, wonderful. Everyone, please check him out. And his website and his books.
Doug: And let me mention one other thing. I have a podcast, uh, 25 session podcast we've recorded during covid called Rethinking Porn Addiction. Uh, and it's, uh, there are three men all identified. as previously seen themselves having an addiction to porn, and we do 25 hours. It's a 25 hours session podcast where we introduce 'em to all these different sexual health concepts and you watch them change their notions of identifying their relationship with sexual imagery from a porn addiction to a sexual health model for reusing sexual imagery for pleasure in their solo sex lives.
Um, and, and, and you just watch these men transform and feel so good about themselves as they shed the idea that their relationship with sexual imagery is an addiction and they see it as a source of pleasure that they can claim as long as this is within the boundaries of the six principles and their personal vision of sexual health.
Keely: What a wonderful note.
Doug: And that's free. You could go online, just Google, rethinking Porn Addiction, and you'll find the podcast. If you go to any podcast site, put in Rethinking Porn Addiction, you'll find the podcast.
Keely: Great, and we'll make sure and link it in our episode. Well, now we can talk about queer joy. I mean, we were talking about pleasure and these are great concepts and, Melisa. I'm scrambling in the moment of my brain. I know that-
Melisa: I can lead off with queer joy, as you said. I feel like this whole episode is queer joy for me. So, well, you know, I've named on the podcast the last couple weeks.
There's been a grief process. For a number of reasons I've been going through, but I do wanna take a moment just to honor. my high school drama teacher passed away a few weeks ago and Arlene Hood was just an incredible, feisty, tough woman and really as a previously musical theater person before coming to therapy.
And still those concepts inform all the work I do. she was such an influencing person in my life and first person to like, take me to New York City First Broadway show. I got to see Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and the producers. It was unbelievable. She also used to be friends with Gary Beach, so I got to go backstage and see his dressing room was incredible.
Taught me how to hail a cab. So just like this is a person, it goes, director, , like this was like life skills. And one of the things I really appreciated, although we had been out of touch for a few years after, high school when I did my, like coming out on social media, she's one of the people that responded, and then later I had.
Somebody had commented on a picture I put up that showed like my half sleeve tattoo and they were like, oh my god, your tattoo. And I made a comment about how well I've officially screwed myself out of all the chorus school parts. Like now you know, I can't be cast in those roles. And she loved that comment right away.
And I know she was just like, yeah, right on self expression. You be your queer self. Forget all this Broadway co chorus girl crap. So anyway, I have been spending the last couple weeks really reflecting on what a big influence she's had on me and the gratitude that I have is just unreal right now.
So this is just in memory of Arlene Hood
Doug: To honor her. That's lovely.
Keely: Yay, My queer joy currently is it might not sound, it's joy is using these relationship agreement ideas and utilizing them in all of my relationships and navigating and really taking ownership with the idea of integrity. It's idea of relationship agreements and having these really rich conversations all these different people in my life and not focused on relationship, on romantic relationships, but in with all people. obviously the sexual, the sexual health component is with certain people, but having these conversations, continuing to have these conversation and more depth and getting to hear the joy is.
Hearing and learning more about people in my life, in ways that I, that the conversations hadn't been there, and getting to just see people and hear their vulnerability and hearing that in a different way than we do as therapists. I think sometimes as a therapist I've had. You know, Doug, you said you had stopped doing running groups in 2019 and something I found last year is I took a break from seeing clients for a while and what I really noticed is since I've been running the business and not seeing clients how much more emotional availability I have for other people in my life, and recognizing as a therapist, how much of my emotional energy was going to my clients. And so now having that space and creating a new queer community, a new comm, or adding to my community in my forties and having the energy to do that again, so that's my queer joy.
Doug: I have two queer joys. One happened on Sunday, and, and one happens tomorrow. we are really good friends with, two, lesbian couples and one of the couples, invited us to be at the birth of their second child.
Keely: Oh, wow.
Doug: 26 years ago. We saw Evan, who is our goddaughter, born 26 years ago, tomorrow. , and we got to 26 years ago, be completely accepted in a space that was almost exclusively for heterosexuals throughout all of history, we got to watch a human being be born as an open male couple in the delivery room with complete acceptance and excitement by everybody that was there.
And that was 26 years ago.
Doug: And then flash forward to Saturday, another lesbian couple of ours, have, two kids, and kids, they're adults. their oldest daughter,had a baby shower on Saturday and she's having a boy. They, well, they're, he has the fetus has a penis is what we've been saying.
and so here's, we're going to a baby shower of a woman who I remember her at one year old sitting in our backyard with her mother's spoon, feeding her under our gray. And now I'm standing with her as she's about ready to become a mother herself. And this is the queer life that Al and I have had for most of our entire adult life.
This is our world, and that is a joy. I cannot tell you. It is a joy I never imagined as a queer man. When I came out in the 79, one of the, one of the first thing I thought when I realized I was gay is the children would not be part of my life.
Doug: That was the way it looked back then.
Doug: And we are surrounded by children and multiple generations of people. That is the queer joy I'd never imagined in my life.
Keely: Yay. Thank you for sharing. I am crying now. Thank you, it's so beautiful, so well spoken. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. What a wonderful human. Thank you for all that you do, and thank you everyone listening, and I hope everyone has a queer and joyful week.
Thanks for listening to queer relationships, queer joy, a podcast by the Connective Therapy Collective. Hosted by Keely C. Helmick Melissa DeSegiurant with audio edited by Ley Supapo Bernido and myself. I'm your producer, Cardinal marking. Intro music is by bad snacks. This week's guest was Doug brown Harvey.
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