On a recent facebook thread I read the following things being said about me:
“Parker is a social and sexual radical and sexual revolutionist.”
This was not meant as a compliment by the way…
“So extremed and ideologically fevered that she even outdoes among the most exuberant of her ideological comrades from my generation – no small task.”
Although I’m not interested in further dialogue with any one person who personally attacks me in ways where I’m not even invited to the conversation… I thought I’d touch on some broader points that have implications larger than one person’s particular opinion, and yet mirror a significant segment of our population and cultural climate:
1. I do see this statement as a compliment. So, first off… thank you! To be on the side of social justice and sexual revolutions… is to be on the side of mental health, sexual health, relational health, physical health and public health. Hooray for me!
2. Sadly, he’s not correct. I am not a radical nor a revolutionary. I may look like one within the context of a very orthodox Mormon viewpoint… but the reality is that I’m fairly mainstream in my field, and am called out appropriately by colleagues on an ongoing basis in regards to blind spots and biases I still have. I do take risks in my own faith community… but I’ve never taken the types of risks true outliers have had to take to overturn systemic and sizable cultural dysfunction. My AASECT comrades would chuckle at this description.
3. Unfortunately, and to our detriment, sexology is often not taken seriously as a scientific study of human behavior. We have many hurdles within the political and academic arenas that get in the way of accessing research approval, funding, etc. Much is misunderstood and treated suspiciously when it comes to the public opinion of sexual study. Even psychology as a whole is often seen as “suspect” amongst religiously conservative groups… making it less likely that people will seek accurate, health-affirming information and treatment that can make a significant difference in their quality of lives and the lives of their families.
4. After having just presented at the Mormon Mental Health Association’s ethics conference…. it continues to be very concerning to me this intersection of respecting religious beliefs and values even when and if they promote harm. It was telling how many professionals spoke about the qualm they feel working alongside other professionals that have either direct unethical stances… or who have not done appropriate levels of self-work to catch their own religious biases when working with clients. These are problems of licensure, as fellow colleague Lisa Hansen (who works in Provo with Encircle) quickly reminded us. And many professionals may have to rethink if this is the field for them if they aren’t willing to practice according to our codes of ethics. This is a problem that goes widely unaddressed under the umbrella of “religious freedom” and yet has policy, health and discrimination implications for the general public.
6. It’s also common in our current political climate to dismiss experts in a variety of fields. This “leveling” the playing field so that any opinion can carry equal weight due to over characterizations of experts due to some past mistakes (usually corrected by… you guessed it, research and further study) or catastrophizing of “corruption” is extremely dangerous…
7. And the name is Helfer Parker…. thank you very much.
So… yes…. it is time to be radical and revolutionary. Since, for many….. basic tenets of mental and sexual health require as much…. not so much to advance… only to get to a point of common sense.
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org and runs an online practice, Symmetry Solutions, which focuses on helping families and individuals with faith concerns, sexuality and mental health. She hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex Info Podcasts, is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association and runs a sex education program, Sex Talk with Natasha. She has over 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.