Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


46th Annual Convention; Washington DC; 2020

Event Details

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Symposium #442
CE Offered: BACB — 
Ethics Under the Umbrella: Sexual Behavior Considerations for Client Intervention and Beyond
Monday, May 25, 2020
8:00 AM–9:50 AM
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Level 1, Room 103
Area: DDA/AUT; Domain: Translational
Chair: Barbara Gross (Empowered: A Center for Sexuality; Special School District of St Louis County)
Discussant: Barbara Gross (Empowered: A Center for Sexuality; Special School District of St Louis County)
CE Instructor: Robin Moyher, Ph.D.

Sexual behavior is a complex and wide-reaching topic. And though sexual stimulation is considered to be a primary reinforcer for most, there is frequently shame and stigma associated with sexual behavior, leaving it under-discussed within our field. This symposium examines an array of ethical considerations pertaining to sexual behavior, from direct client interventions and supports around assent and noncompliance, to scholarship and theory on sex and risk, to legal considerations in sex education and censorship, to dissemination of behavior analytic analysis as it benefits pleasure-based sex education at large. Presenters will discuss resulting data and their implications as applicable, and will discuss recommendations for future research, instruction, and applied projects.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): ethics, sex education, sexual behavior, sexuality
Target Audience:

Practicing BCBAs and BCaBAs

Learning Objectives: Not required for BACB
What Is Sexual Behavior Anyway: A Biopsychosocial Account of Conceptualizing Sex and Risk
BRYANT ANTOINE (Empowered: A Center for Sexuality; Special School District of St Louis County), Worner Leland (Empowered: A Center for Sexuality; Upswing Advocates)
Abstract: Because of the complexity of potential sexual repertoires and beliefs about sex at both the ontogenic and cultural level, it can be difficult to tact what “counts” as sexual behavior. Additionally, multiple factors impact the labeling of sexual behavior as “high risk.” Relational Frame Theory (RFT) provides an account of language as operant behavior (Hayes, Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001). This presentation will examine different possible response classes and consequences which may be labeled as “sex” and which may be described as “risky” and will examine both derived beliefs and transfer of stimulus function when considering potentially risky sexual behavior. Relying on scientific knowledge both within and outside the field (BACB, 2019, 1.01), sex and risk will be examined as a biopsychosocial phenomenon, and the acquisition of these labels will comparably be examined through a contextual examination of selectionism at the phylogenic, ontogenetic, and cultural levels (Skinner, 1953). Harm reduction modalities will be considered as the impact of this language is examined.
Censorship, the Right to Effective Treatment, and Avoiding Legal Risk
(Service Delivery)
ALEXANDRA ZHESTKOVA (Moscow Centre of Pedagogy and Psychology)
Abstract: Behavior analysts must conform to the legal and ethical codes of their social and professional communities, and must resolve any conflict in their ethical obligations and legal obligations in accordance with the law (BACB, 2019, 1.04 d & e). When considering the law regarding sexuality and sexual behavior education, behavior analysts must be especially mindful of potential conflicts between the ethical code and the law. While behavior analysts must advocate for the most effective interventions - keeping in mind cultural differences, resources and practices - legal considerations must not be forgotten. While most countries have direct laws regarding censorship and/or sexuality, the writing of these laws often leave room for loopholes or ambiguity. One must often look to legal precedent to examine actual consequence of the law in addition to the law’s written intention. This presentation will provide examples of sexual behavior related treatments that can result in legal proceedings in different countries, highlighting legal ambiguity regarding sexual education and, finally, will offer some steps that could be taken to avoid or minimize risk of legal proceedings while pursuing ethical and effective intervention.
The Use of Preference Assessments in the Selection of Sex Toys in Adult Retail Environments
(Service Delivery)
LANDA L. FOX (Positive Connections)
Abstract: The utility of preference assessments in the discovery of powerful reinforcers is a vitally important technology within the field of applied behavior analysis. While preference assessments have been researched and used extensively in the area of developmental disabilities and autism their application outside of this area is more limited (e.g., Organizational Behavior Management; Applied Animal Behavior). As ethical dissemination of our science to novel environments is of value (BACB, 2019, 6.02), this presentation will explore the potential for the use of preference assessments (free operant, paired-stimulus, multiple stimulus without replacement) in adult retail stores. We will review important considerations in the application of preference assessments in adult retail stores. Considerations include: determining the type or types of preference assessment that are most appropriate; the ethics of implementation of an assessment in this environment; barriers and ethics related to effectively identifying potential reinforcers when the items in arrays cannot be directly experienced; and the potential temporal stability or instability of preferences with reference to knowledge about shifting preferences in sexual stimulation across time. Effectively assisting customers in an adult retail store in the selection of sex toys/pleasure products that will ostensibly serve as a reinforcer after purchase is a novel application of this technology.
When Should or Shouldn’t an Individual be Compliant to an Instruction?
(Basic Research)
ROBIN MOYHER (George Mason University)
Abstract: Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Delays (IDD) are victims, with alarmingly high rates, of sexual abuse and/or harassment (Sobsey & Varnhagen, 1989; Tyiska (1998). Compliance to instructions given to them from others, especially those in a position of authority, is often taught to individuals with IDD as part of their IEPs and home programming. However when considering our ethical obligation to our clients (BACB, 2019, 2.02, 2.05a) it is crucial to consider the benefit of direct noncompliance instruction, such in the case of a sexual harassment lure or sexual abuse lure. Presenting statistically significant data from a sexual harassment in the employment intervention to young adults with IDD (29 single subjects), the research will share data that demonstrates individuals are more likely to comply with instructions when presented from a person of authority versus a person of no authority. Data from this research study also shows that this population can be taught to recognize a sexual harassment lure, to respond appropriately, and report it accurately (Moyher, manuscript in progress). In the time of #metoo, it’s crucial to bring this topic to the IDD population. Instead of citing statistics of abuse that do not change decade after decade (Casteel, Martin, Smith, Gurka, and Kupper; 2008), this presentation will specifically discuss ways of teaching prevention skills to this population.



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