A Question of Ethics

A university student recently wrote to me and asked me for some information on ethics in the context of sex therapy. Here’s how I answered:

The short answer about ethics is that it depends on who you ask, and most (if not all) subscribe to some version of the Hippocratic Oath – or, if you prefer, the Wiccan Rede – i.e. do no harm.  The differences of opinion come into play when deciding what constitutes “harm”. And this debate goes back nearly a century.

In the heyday of psychology, Freud and Jung had their issues around ethics and sex. And Wilhelm Reich (a student of Freud’s) experimented as well. There are various suggestions that all three had, at times, had sexual relationships with their clients, criticized each other for the manner of their liaisons, and had various neuroses of their own.  Bear in mind that this was all before the days of the wire-monkey experiments and various other things that are now considered unethical and taboo, and long before the sexual revolution of the 60s.

If you look at the BESTCO or AASECT codes of ethics/conduct, “harm” involves touching or watching a client.  If you look at the ethics and values of the ACSB, IPSA, or ICASA it’s much less about “what” and more about “how” a practitioner interacts with a client.

Ken Pope gives a summary of the more conservative ideas of where to draw the line today, and Martin Williams gives (IMO) a well-thought-out rebuttal. For my personal perspective, have a look at my [clinic] website. I plan on being certified as a Sexological Bodyworker next summer.

A few other good resources are The Ethics Of TouchThe Intimate Hour, and Dual Relationships, among others.  And for the “modern age”, OTI has an ethical framework for on-line services.

I hope the above helps give you some foundation for your paper.  When you have it written, I’d be interested in reading it.

Phil

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