Banned Words

On December 16, 2017, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

I’m old enough to remember when comedian, George Carlin’s “seven dirty words” were banned from TV.  I am not old enough to remember when another White House banned the CDC from using seven “dirty words.”  According to Fox News, CNN, and the Washington Post, the White House has banned the CDC from using these seven words: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence –based” and “science-based.”  How then, are we supposed to refer to our transgender bothers and sisters, daughters and sons, mothers and fathers? One of the classes I teach is called, “Sexual Diversity.”  The therapy that most competent licensed clinicians practice is “evidence-based” with the alternative being experimental therapy.   I don’t think it matters what side of the political isle we stand on, these are confusing times!


Love Serves All, Hate Serves None

On August 22, 2017, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

As AASECT’s Colorado Section Leader for the past decade, I am proud to be an active member on days like today when such a powerful message is sent…

On behalf of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), we are heartbroken, disappointed, outraged, and horrified by the recent displays of racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, and violence in Charlottesville. We recognize that white supremacy is not limited to this historical time or place. We also recognize that bigoted actions such as those displayed have deep and lasting impacts on us all, including our students, patients and clients. As sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists, we want to re-iterate our core values described in our Vision of Sexual Health where we note: “AASECT also opposes all abuses of sexuality including, but not limited to, harassment, intimidation, coercion, prejudice, and the infringement of any individual’s sexual and civil rights.” While this particular statement pertains to sexuality, we want to be clear that AASECT opposes all forms of harassment, intimidation, coercion, prejudice, and the infringement of any individual’s civil rights.

Black lives matter. The racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism and other messages and acts of violence cast toward communities of color and faith communities must end. People of all faiths, genders, races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual orientations, and abilities have human rights, and those rights must be respected. As an organization, we acknowledge that our journey for cultural competency and progress will never end because there is always more to learn, teach, and share. We care deeply and are committed to continuing to address these issues, and living our values, in our own work. As an organization that represents therapists, counselors, and educators, we are committed to the work of helping everyone understand the cultural and historical impact that bias, discrimination, racism, and trauma have on personal, psychological, sexual, and emotional experiences.


AASECT Board of Directors & AASECT Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

August 2017


Am I Normal?

On July 20, 2017, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

If you are like most people, you have probably wondered how you compare sexually to others.  Here is a summary from a large newly published study led by Dr. Debby Herbenick from the Indian University and her team of researchers.

The survey was confidential and the researchers never had access to respondents’ identifiers. Respondents reported on demographic items, lifetime and recent sexual behaviors, and the appeal of 50+ sexual behaviors. Most (>80%) reported lifetime masturbation, vaginal sex, and oral sex. Lifetime anal sex was reported by 43% of men (insertive) and 37% of women (receptive). Common lifetime sexual behaviors included wearing sexy lingerie/underwear (75% women, 26% men), sending/receiving digital nude/ semi-nude photos (54% women, 65% men), reading erotic stories (57% of participants), public sex (43%), role-playing (22%), tying/being tied up (20%), spanking (30%), and watching sexually explicit videos/DVDs (60% women, 82% men). Having engaged in threesomes (10% women, 18% men) and playful whipping (13%) were less common. Lifetime group sex, sex parties, taking a sexuality class/workshop, and going to BDSM parties were uncommon (each <8%).

Thank you, Debby for such an important contribution to our field!

© 2017 Herbenick et al

Dr. Alfred Kinsey

On June 29, 2017, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

© Kevin Ruck | ID 79058695

Dr. Alfred Kinsey was born during this month of 1894, two years before my beloved grandmother was born.   Having some sense of that era by learning so much from my grandmother, I would like to take a moment to celebrate Dr. Kinsey.

To this day, Dr. Alfred Kinsey remains one of the most important sex researchers in history.  The Kinsey Institute was named after him at the University of Indiana.  Liam Neeson played Kinsey in the movie called Kinsey and it is definitely worth watching.  When I was going to “sex school” I was required to read Kinsey’s two hallmark books that were published in 1948 and 1953 respectively. The first book was about male sexuality and the second book was about female sexuality.  I counted at least 5,000,000 data points that Kinsey and his small team collected during this monumental research in the era before PC’s and programs like Access data base management systems.  It was truly remarkable!  My favorite quote from Kinsey nearly 2,000 pages:

“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual.  The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats.  Not all things are black, nor are all things white. . . .  [O]nly the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separate pigeonholes.  The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects.  The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.” (Male, p. 639)


University of Michigan: Go Blue!

On May 1, 2017, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

dreamstime_s_10600055 2

© Snehitdesign |


For current students and/or alumni at the University of Michigan School of Social Work Sexual Health Certificate Program, the dates for this summer’s “Neil Talks” were just announced.  We hope you can join us.  Please note, all times are in the wonderful city of Ann Arbor, MI (Eastern Time).

Neil Talks


Two Legends in the Field of Human Sexuality Pass

On April 26, 2017, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

Albert Freedman (Ph.D., 1981) died April 11th at the age of 95.  As Dr. Ted McIlvenna said, “Al Freedman is a man for all seasons of sexology as creator, academic and supporter.  Creator through Forum, Penthouse, Variations and women’s sexual advocacy; academically as a scholarly teacher, champion and person I consider the greatest friend of sexology of the 20th century.” 

Margo Rila (Ed.D., 1977) died yesterday after a protracted illness.  Her background includes social work and encounter group work.  She also served as coordinator of San Francisco Sex Information, a community telephone service.  


New approach allows more options for sexual assault victims

The Commerce City Police Department (a neighboring city of Denver) recently became the sixth city in the nation to be certified by the You Have Options Program, a national program that focuses on changing how law enforcement responds to sexual violence.

The program centers on the victim, giving him or her choices when reporting and control over the investigative process. YHOP allows victims to feel more at ease, which allows them to move forward with the case and not get discouraged. The program also focuses on conducting thorough investigations of offenders in the community.

“Our usual response to sexual assault puts many barriers to victims when reporting and accessing the medical and advocacy services they need,” said Kim Messina, victim services coordinator. “The You Have Options Program is designed to break down all of these barriers to allow victims to report in a way that is best for them.”

The traditional law enforcement response to sexual violence may discourage sexual assault victims because they feel there is a lack of confidentiality, they fear their story will not be believed and their report will be delayed. This prevents victims from seeking assistance through the criminal justice system. As a result, law enforcement often doesn’t receive the information necessary to hold sexual offenders accountable, and those offenders go on to victimize others.

Through YHOP, victims can report online, in-person, submit a medical report only, through a third person or make an anonymous report. This new approach also ensures that every victim reporting will be believed and have access to medical and advocacy services.

In partnership with the University of Colorado Denver, CCPD carried out exhaustive research and data analysis to find the best practices on how officers relate to victims, investigate assaults and find suspects.

“A couple years ago, we initiated a review into how the department handles sexual assault cases and one of the things we determined was that we can do a better job serving the victims,” said Dennis Moon, deputy chief. “YHOP is an excellent example of CCPD determining the best practice and implementing a program that is victim-centered and offender-focused, ultimately paving the way to provide exceptional service to victims.”

It is estimated that one in four women and one in seven men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and only 10 percent of the cases are reported. In Commerce City there were 63 reported cases of sexual assault last year.

In conjunction with Brighton’s Police Department, which was also one of the first departments to join the program, the Victim’s Service Unit has 17 volunteers, five victim advocates and one coordinator, who are all available to help victims anytime.

Every Commerce City police officer, victim advocate and member of the department has been trained on YHOP’s 20 elements, which center on the victim and finding offender, as well as the common behavior and reactions of trauma.

“Now, through the certification of YHOP, every member of the Commerce City Police Department will be able to assist any resident who calls asking information about the program,” Messina said.

To learn more about the program and CCPD’s responsibilities as a certified agency, visit


Please Help Stop Hate!

On November 19, 2016, in GLBT, LGBT, sex therapy, by drneilcannon1


My heart broke this morning when I heard about this hateful act that occurred right here in Denver.

Despite the nature of the hate crime that occurred yesterday, this post is not about politics.  It is about love, safety, education and awareness.


Tomorrow of all days is Transgender Day of Remembrance. This is the day we honor transgender folks who are savagely murdered each year as a result of their gender identity. Yesterday a trans woman right here in the Capital Hill district of Denver was the victim of a hate crime. Look what somebody did to her car.

It appears this act of hate was fueled by the election as “Trump” was written on the hood of her car.  This is but one example as to why so many members of the LGBT community are terrified by the election results.  Can you imagine how violating this must have felt to her? What else must she be worried about?  Who is watching her?


I’m on the Board of Trustees at the Gender Identity Center of Colorado and have been volunteering at this special community resource center for the past decade.

Regardless of where we each stand politically, we all need to step up and care for our neighbors. How would you feel if this woman was your friend? Perhaps you’ve never had a trans friend, or at least you didn’t think you did. In a recent Minnesota study, 2.5% of high school students reported being transgender, gender-queer or gender non-conforming.  That is about the same percentage as there are for Jewish people living in America.  If you know a Jewish person, odds are you also probably know somebody who is gender non-conforming but may not feel safe to come out.


  1. HELP RAISE AWARENESS: Tell at least one person in your circle of influence about this local hate crime as a way to raise awareness.  “Hey — Did you hear the horrible news about the hate crime in Cap Hill?” If you have children, employees, or students; use this as an opportunity to educate.  Diversity is not to be feared, but rather it is the backbone of our great country.  Forward this link to your friends, family and co-workers.  It’s not as cute as a cat video, but it just might save somebody’s life!
  2. EDUCATE: Transgender folks identify differently than the gender they were assigned at birth. That’s all.  We use the term gender non-conforming because gender identity and gender expression are on a spectrum.  To keep it simple however, you can simply educate by saying that most trans people are either Male to Female (MtF) or Female to Male (FtM). Make it simple and age appropriate.  You can explain to young children that a Male to Female for instance, has a boy body with a girl heart.
  3. IDENTITY vs. ORIENTATION. As an ally, explain that gender identity is who we are, while sexual orientation is who we are attracted to.
  4. USE PROPER PRONOUNS.  Use the person’s preferred pronouns.  A simple act of respect is to use the pronouns that the person identifies with. In other words, most MtF’s want to be referred to as she or her. If you are not sure, just don’t use any pronoun.  Sentences don’t need to start or end with sir or ma’am. These are simple acts of kindness that cost nothing but can make the day of a gender variant person.
  5. DONATE. The Gender Identity Center of Colorado (GIC) is needed more today than ever before.  This is a 501c3 non-profit organization that needs funding to support the community with free counseling and suicide prevention services. It is estimated that 40% of trans people have attempted suicide.  If you want to help, please contact me or Karen Scarpella, the Executive Director of the GIC.








Make America love again!


(c) Credit photos CBS.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

On November 18, 2016, in Denver Sex Therapy, GLBT, LGBT, sex therapy, by drneilcannon1
© Osaidism |

© Osaidism |


Transgender Day of Remembrance has occurred annually on November 20, since 1999.  It is a day to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia and to bring attention to the continued violence endured by the transgender community.

Now more than ever, we need to embrace diversity.  As I write this in mid November of 2016, at least 27 known transgender people in the United States alone have been murdered due to their transgender status.  One is too many!  How many more have been bullied, harassed, discriminated against, or in any way made to feel bad or less than?  Imagine what it must be like to be part of a community that fears being harmed simply for who one is.

There are far more gender non-conforming people than most people think. It was not long ago that it was generally believed that prevalence of gender dysphoria was 1 in 10,000 or so. Recently there was a large study of high school students in Minnesota reporting that 2.5% answered yes to a question about whether they identify as “transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or unsure about your gender identity.”  When speaking about intersex condition, author and gender expert, Arlene Istar Lev recently asked the audience at a gender care training she conducted at The University of Denver in conjunction with the Gender Identity Center of Colorado; “Do you know anyone that is Jewish?”  Of course, every hand went up. The answer is about 2.2% of Americans are Jewish.  So if you know or love someone who Jewish, you just may know or love there someone who is gender non-conforming, even if they haven’t felt emotionally safe enough to share that part of themselves with you.

My vote is for us is to just everyone.  Not regardless of gender identity, but because of the beauty of diversity.  Imagine how boring the tapestry of our great nation would be if we only had one color in the pallette.


Dungeon Monitors

On October 12, 2016, in Uncategorized, by drneilcannon1

How to Train Your Dungeon Monitor
by Amanda Arnold
OCT 11 2016
Dungeon monitors are like the lifeguards of the BDSM scene, but without a standardized certification process, some DMs don’t know when to blow the whistle, and when to just sit back and watch the kinky show.

Stefanos Tiziano was grasping onto a single-tail whip, his partner Shay awaiting his next strike, when the dungeon monitor chose to step in. The Tizianos, new to doing BDSM together in public but not new to play in general, followed standard protocol before starting their scene: They made clear to the monitor what they were there to do, explaining that the loud cracks of the whip were a sign of pleasure, just like Shay’s shrieks. But during their play, the monitor chose to interrupt—a call they did not anticipate.

“We asked why [he intervened], and he said ‘she doesn’t look like she’s enjoying herself,'” Shay recalls of the event, which occurred at a BDSM convention in 2005. “But I was enjoying myself. And I was devastated.”

Read more: The New-Age Kinksters Mixing BDSM with Energy Work

Essentially lifeguards of the pools that are BDSM dungeons, monitors are brought in to ensure guests are having fun but also being safe. A good dungeon monitor knows when to step in and also when to stay back and watch. But with a lack of standardized responsibilities and comprehensive training on how to correctly assess every possible BDSM scene, it’s not only difficult for hosts to pick monitors, but also for those chosen to know their exact role in a dungeon.

“Were somebody to walk into a BDSM scene in a dungeon, they might think, ‘oh my god, they’re hurting each other,'” says Dr. Neil Cannon, a licensed marriage and family therapist, as well as an AASECT-certified sex therapist who’s known internationally for his expertise on BDSM. “But what they missed is that beforehand, participants had careful negotiations, describing their wants, their needs, their soft limits, their hard limits, and aftercare. In most dungeons, the DM wouldn’t be involved in anything all night.”

Often identifiable by neon armbands or other bright accessories attached to their upper body, dungeon monitors are typically active members of the BDSM community who sit out a night of play to work an unpaid shift to support their go-to dungeon or community. Arriving early to check in, monitors let kinksters tell them what they’re planning on doing so they can know what to expect; after which they’ll spend anywhere from one to four hours watching over the couples in the dungeon, often equipped with fanny packs, walkie-talkies, and first aid kits. If a woman wants to drip hot candle wax onto her partner’s nipples, the DM will make sure there’s a tarp beneath them; if a leather daddy requests water during aftercare, they’ll bring him a cup. And were something to go wrong, a DM serves as the first responder to provide help or first aid.

Shay and Stefanos Tiziano, “pansexual polyamorous playsluts [and] purveyors of perversion,” have taught dungeon monitor training classes since 2007 after their bad experience at the BDSM convention and a joint realization that their city lacked an effective training program. In 2005, they moved to the Bay Area from Minnesota and decided to take a DM course so they could give back to their community. When they found themselves in a full-day lecture that ended with a test about various types of play, they weren’t impressed.

Image by Chris Blakeley via Flickr

What dungeons ask of their monitors vary. In Minnesota, where Shay and Stefanos often found themselves playing in home basements, owners of the house would often choose people as monitors who seemed like they had “a reasonable headspace.” In larger, more structured dungeons in major cities, monitors are often expected to be both CPR- and first aid-trained, as well as DM-trained—the later of which has no standard certification process.

While some have made detailed guides available online, it often falls on the local BDSM community to provide training for their monitors. So, it’s inevitable that different dungeons have varied rules and regulations.

The Tizianos ended up creating their own type of case scenario training, using Shay’s experience with “mega-code” scenarios in the ER (she’s an emergency nurse) and Stefanos’ military training. For nearly 10 years, they’ve been traveling the US, putting guests in realistic play situations in dungeons for them to troubleshoot: If someone is suspended in a dangerous way, how do we get them down? If a man faints during needle play, what’s the first thing you need to do?

The training gives prospective monitors hands-on training so they know what to do in physically or emotionally dangerous situations, as well as how to identify when a scene actually is dangerous for either party. However, Shay stresses that more than being unable to recognize a dangerous scene, DMs have a problem with intervening too much.

Read more: Beyond Safe Words: When Saying ‘No’ in BDSM Isn’t Enough

“We tell DM trainees over and over that there are only three reasons we want DMs to interrupt a scene: if there’s a question of danger to life, limb, or property,” she says. “The DM’s main role is to facilitate play and provide excellent customer service, ensuring everyone has a good and safe time.”

According to Cannon, all the training boils down to one concept: consent.

“Everything in BDSM starts and stops with consent because if there’s not consent, it’s not BDSM…it’s violence,” Cannon says. “But when things go wrong, it’s because consent was maybe taken away. When consent is taken away, and the person who is the dom or top continues, then the sub feels violated, raped, abused, or victimized. With that comes emotional wounds that can be severe.”

While Cannon emphasizes that it’s rare that DMs have to step into scenes, there are always exceptions—even when they merely live as hypotheticals in a DM’s mind. And because of the lack of clear-cut guidelines, kinksters will often talks through scenarios, asking for input and advice from the community.

On FetLife, the predominant social network for the BDSM, fetish, and kink community, entire discussions center on questionable dungeon play and the role of the DM in specific scenarios. Many focus on those involved in rope scenes, a more advanced play that specialists teach entire classes over, with members debating whether partners should be made to keep precautionary EMT shears or rescue hooks nearby. Some conversations are just chains of straightforward questions pertaining to a DM’s involvement: Would you allow a dom to step away momentarily from their bound and blindfolded sub? Would you correct a couple who was engaging in a riskier-than-usual flogging scene?

And then other discussions sway toward the deeply psychological, with DMs considering how to handle things like rape scenes and especially violent play, which could be triggering to those surrounding. In a dungeon, while not physically engaged with everyone in your immediate surrounding, you’re inextricably linked to their psychological and emotional wellbeing.

Peoples’ play is really personal to them, so call a party host if you have a question
“As a DM, how are we supposed to protect and interact with a community member that professes to be in an almost constant suicidal state and places their triggers as a community responsibility?” one FetLife user asks in a thread from six months ago. Some DMs say they wouldn’t allow a high-risk person into the dungeon, others say that person shouldn’t be ostracized from an otherwise open, welcoming community.

The conclusion that most threads come to is that, ultimately, DMs don’t get to make the rules—the owner of the dungeon does. While it varies from state to state, if a death, assault, or violent crime happens in the dungeon, the legal responsibility can fall on the owner of the property or the host, if there’s a contract between the host and the venue. Dungeons often have release forms for attendees to sign to minimize problems, but ultimately, legal cases around play are often complex. Even when clearly consensual, many types of BDSM activity can be “prosecuted under state criminal laws dealing with assault, aggravated assault, sexual assault or sexual abuse,” according to The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.

And because dungeon owners aren’t often in the room during play, and rules and guidelines vary from dungeon to dungeon (and in some cases, from event to event within one dungeon), DMs feel the weight of that responsibility, and are also the ones who ultimately make the calls in the moment. It’s something that Shay wishes weren’t always the case.

“Peoples’ play is really personal to them, so call a party host if you have a question,” she says. “I wish more wouldn’t hot-dog it by themselves because sometimes it’s hard to make decisions. You don’t have to make them by yourself.”

Master Gabriel, a sadist and dominant who’s been a leader in LA’s BDSM scene for over ten years, says he feels fortunate that most DMs he hires for his play parties come from within House RavynBlood, a selected group of people in the area’s BDSM scene that, under Master Gabriel, organizes, produces, and hosts various events for the local community. Before you’re admitted into the house, members go through everything from first aid to play training, so once you’re in, Master Gabriel feels a certain level of trust.

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Because he hosts Gentlemen in Charge, a play party for dominant men and sub/switch/bottom women, he says he meditates more deeply on who’s DM’ing the party to ensure the women in the dungeon feel like they have someone they can trust, lest they find themselves in a scene that pushes their boundaries. For every party, Gabriel makes sure he has as least one female DM on the floor. But in some scenarios, and for other parties, he can’t always have DMs that he knows well, and calling on new volunteers can be difficult.

“I’ve had [volunteer] DMs get in the way of a lot of scenes,” he says. “They’re well-meaning, but that’s not helpful when you’re dealing with head spaces.”

However, not all DMs are so well-meaning. DMs are human; they can use their authority irresponsibly and abuse their power. “It’s really easy for a person who’s learned a few things in the BDSM world to come in as a DM, and they can be a little heady,” Gabriel says. “You can get the feeling that DMs are there to be assholes.”

As with any sexual minority population, because the community’s fetishes and kinks are often considered taboo by society’s heteronormative, vanilla-flavored standards, many assume that people who get off on whipping a partner until they bleed or engaging in “needle play” would have more incidents of sexual assault. But BDSM communities have been found to be “less rapey” than the general population and that practitioners have more secure relationships and lower anxiety.

Jade, a female submissive who “loves public play,” speaks of the good-cop, bad-cop duality of DMs to Broadly over email.

“I think of DMs like lifeguards,” she writes. “You don’t particularly care about them until you need them.” However, like many public players, she’s had one of those experiences where she didn’t need them—yet there they were.

We like to joke about how we should rename them dungeon bunnies.
“I did have a scene planned, which was okayed by the club owner, where I was going to be bound and beaten while I sang the Marine Corps Hymn to my then-Master/Daddy, a deployed Marine, but it had to be recorded so that he could watch it,” she writes. “[And then] one DM sees me being filmed and shuts down the scene.”

Overall, Jade says she loves that dungeons have monitors to ensure that people follow community rules, citing an instance where she once informed a DM about a couple that had been heavily drinking before play, which she believed jeopardized their safety. Upon hearing this information, the DM promptly spoke to the couple and removed them. No one wants to be interrupted during sex; it’s just that sometimes—when fingers turn blue or a partner faints—it has to happen.

“You’re not policing them—you’re serving them,” Shay says. “We like to joke about how we should rename them dungeon bunnies.”

Reprinted with permission.
© 2016 VICE Media LLC