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Travis Sky Ingersoll, PH.D., MSW, M.ED.

Social Work & Sexual Health Education/Consulting/Research

My Blog


Sexuality Concepts for Social Workers

Posted on July 22, 2015 at 9:38 PM Comments comments (0)
It's finally available! If you found the information in my sexuality blog posts interesting and informative, you'll love having access to all the important and relevant sexuality research and information contained in my textbook!
Here's the link that will show you how to get a free preview of our textbook. You can also order a copy for yourself, or adopt it for a class you teach:
This is how Cognella describes our book:
Sexuality Concepts for Social Workers is a research-informed, reader-friendly guide that helps practitioners address sexuality-related issues with a variety of target patient groups.

Topics covered include the role of values in sexuality, sexual health and reproduction, relationships, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, sexuality and the lifespan, sex work and sex workers, sexuality in the ill or disabled, and being a sexually healthy adult.

Several features of the book enhance learning, reflection, and critical thinking. Chapters feature discussion questions, implications and applications for real-world practice, case examples, and opinion pieces from each of the authors.

Sexuality Concepts for Social Workers fills a void in the literature of the social work field by giving practitioners a greater degree of sexuality literacy.

The book is a practical tool for those who haven't had the benefit of formal training in human sexuality. It can be used in upper-level undergraduate and foundation year graduate courses on human behavior, sexuality diversity, and human sexuality for social workers.
Travis Ingersoll is a researcher, therapist, and social work professor at West Chester University. He has worked in various areas of social work practice including gerontology, chemical addiction, mental health, domestic abuse, and sexual trauma. Dr. Ingersoll’s current policy work focuses on the development and implementation of sexual expression and protection from harm policies for retirement and assisted living facilities.
Brent Satterly is a licensed clinical social worker and holds a Ph.D. in education, specializing in human sexuality and strengths-based social work practice. He is an associate professor at the Center for Social Work Education at Widener University, and the director of the Bachelor's in Social Work program. In 2012, he received the university's Clarence R. Moll Professor of the Year Award.

A Comprehensive Framework for Understanding Human Sexuality

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (1)
A comprehensive framework for understanding human sexuality
Sexuality is an essential aspect of being human and contributes to the development of our identity throughout our lives.  As a construct, sexuality is not easily defined.  What do you think when you hearthe word sex?  If “intercourse” is the first thing you think of, congratulations, you’re among the norm.  Human sexuality, however, is far more than simply a physical thing.  Although it canbe physical, it is also mental, emotional, relational, biological, spiritual,cultural, and psychological. According to the World Health Organization (WHO,2015), sexuality encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction.  Sexuality is experienced and expressed through thoughts, desires, fantasies, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships. Another way to understand human sexuality is through the Circles of Sexuality model, created by Dennis Dailey (1981).  The Circles model utilizes a series ofoverlapping circles to exemplify the unique and organic nature of the various facets of human sexuality. Each component presented in the “circles ofsexuality” model has the ability to interact and affect any/all of the others.
The Circles of Sexuality
As mentioned above, sexuality is much more than just sexual intimacy or sexual behavior. Human sexuality is a significant part of what it means to be human.  It includes our identities, our bodilysensations, our experiences, our relationships, our behaviors, our health, ourpleasure, and many more aspects of oneself. The Circles present a comprehensive approach to human sexuality that includes: Sensuality, Intimacy,Sexual Identity, Sexual Health and Reproduction, and Sexualization (Advocatesfor Youth, 2007).  A final circle,Values, was not in the original model but was introduced by Satterly and Dyson (2010).  The “Values” Circle highlights the importance of examining how our personal values affect our relationship with the different circles; it is the lens by which a person perceives, interpretsand understands all of the Circles of Sexuality.
The Circle of Sensuality is the “body-touch-feel” of sexuality. Sensualityi s our awareness of our bodies and the bodies of others. It incorporates both how we feel about our body and allows us to connect with our own physical and sexual attractions and pleasures. The concepts in this circle include: BodyImage, Pleasure, Skin Hunger, Attraction Templates, Human Sexual Response Cycles, and Fantasy. 
The Circle of Intimacy is all about interpersonal connectedness. Sexual intimacy is the capacity to emotionally connect with another person – to feel close to them– and allow for the closeness to be returned (Advocates for Youth, 2007). Included in this circle are the concepts of sharing, caring, liking or loving another person, emotional risk-taking, and vulnerability.
The Circle of Sexual Identity helps people explore who they are assexual beings. Sexual identity refers to how an individual understands who they actually are as a sexual being, including their sexual orientation and gender. It involves various “intersecting components” that, together, influence how people view themselves (Advocates for Youth, 2007).  Included inthis circle are one’s biological sex, core gender, gender role, genderidentity, and sexual orientation.
The Circle of Reproduction and Sexual Healthrefers to an individual’s ability (or inability) to reproduce and function sexually. It also includes the attitudes and behaviors leading toward healthy and pleasurable sexual relationships (Advocates for Youth, 2007).  According to the WHO (2015), sexual health is “…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence ofdisease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.  In order for sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled” (WHO, 2006a, para. 4).  Included in this circle is factual information about reproduction, sexual intercourse, reproductive and sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, and our feelings and attitudes regarding all the above.
The Circle of Sexualization refers to all the ways in which we use our sexuality.  Sexualization includes the various ways in which we can use our sexuality in order to control, influence or manipulate others. Such behaviors vary considerably, ranging from flirting and seduction to abuse and rape. No one has the right to sexually exploit others. Included in this circle are behaviors such as flirting, seduction, sexual harassment, rape and incest.  Some of the behaviors just mentioned, particularly “flirting” and “seduction” can have a positive or negative impact depending on the intention of the person engaging in such behavior, as well asthe way in which the person on the receiving end interprets the behavior.
The Circle of Values puts the focus on how we, as individuals, perceive, interpret, and understand all the other circles (Satterly & Dyson, 2010).  Schwartz (1996) defines values as the “guiding principles in people’s lives” (p. 2) that influence an individual’s perception of right and wrong, and their subsequent and related behaviors. However, an individual’s values may differ from what is considered mainstream values. Forexample, the “culture wars” that permeate Western societies around the world regarding sexuality issues such as homosexuality or abortion, are rife with disparate claims of right and wrong. An individual may view homosexuality as anormative and natural variation of sexual orientation; conversely, some cultural messages may assert that homosexuality is evil and must be punished. Such conflicting viewpoints can create significant tensions in public debates around social policies, as well as the ways in which people experience their own sexual orientation (Satterly & Ingersoll, 2015).
As theprevious examples have demonstrated, human sexuality is a multidimensional construct encompassing far more than just penetrative sex. Sexuality has many different elements, and can mean different things to different people.  For older adults, sexuality can be as much about intimate touch and kissing, cuddling, masturbation or sexual intercourseas it can be about looking and feeling one’s best, companionship, engaging insexually explicit communication (i.e., “talking dirty” or “pillow talk”), and enjoying erotically-charged literature and movies (Bauer, McAuliffe, & Nay,2007; Nay, 2004).  However the unfortunate reality is that in many cultures around the world, there exists an oppressive cloud of negativity and judgment surrounding any and all manifestations of older adult sexuality.
(*This is from an upcoming chapter I am writing in a Nursing textbook due to be released in Australia in 2016. The chapter focusses on Intimacy in Older Adulthood)
Bauer, M., McAuliffe, L., & Nay, R. (2007).  Sexuality, health care and the older person:An overview of the literature. International Journal of Older PeopleNursing, 2, 63-68.
Dailey, D. (1981). Sexualexpression and ageing. In F. Berghorn & D. Schafer (Eds.), The dynamics of
ageing: Original essays onthe process and experiences of growing old (pp. 311-330). Boulder, CO:
Westview Press.
Nay, R. (2004). Sexuality and older people. In NursingOlder People: Issues and Innovations, 2 ed. (Nay
R. & GarrattS. eds.). Elsevier, Marrickville, NSW, p. 276-288.
Satterly, B. A., & Dyson, D. A. (2010).  Social work practice with gay, lesbian,bisexual, and transgendered
persons. In J.Poulin (Ed.), Collaborative social work:Strengths-based generalist practice (3 ed.).
Belmont, CA:Wadsworth.
Satterly, B., & Ingersoll, T. (2015). Sexuality Concepts for Social Workers. SanFrancisco, CA: Cognella
AcademicPublishing, Inc.
Schwartz, S. H. (1996). Value priorities and behavior: Applying a theory of integrated valuesystems. In
. Seligman, J.M. Olson, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Thepsychology of values: The Ontario Symposium (Vol.
8, p. 1-24). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
World Health Organization (WHO).(2015). Sexual and reproductive health. RetrievedJune 18, 2015, 
from the WHO Web site:

Q: I just learned a little about Native American two-spirited people. Is being transgender and being a two-spirit the same thing?

Posted on February 24, 2013 at 8:32 PM Comments comments (1)
A: What we know about trans-related (i.e., transgender, transsexual, intersex) topics has grown significantly over recent years. However, individuals who identify as being neither “male” nor “female” or of being something entirely different, a third gender if you will, is a human reality depicted in our earliest writings and artworks. Before getting to the answer, I feel it’s necessary to provide a brief historical background of indigenous American Two-Spirit people.
Throughout North and South America, many of the native population’s creation myths
appear to have led to the establishment of egalitarian gender roles within their societies.
Where western ideologies, based primarily on Christianity, emphasized a singular male
god, most indigenous North and South American cultures emphasized the importance of both male and female deities. Under the moral authority of western religion, women were considered inferior, whereas with most Native American cultures women were viewed as equals to men (Bonvillain, 1989; Picchi, 2003; Tannahil, 1982).
In Eskimo culture the most powerful deity was called Sedna. She was responsible for
ensuring the survival of the Eskimo people through the yearly creation of the sea-life on which they depended. Navajo people stressed the importance of women’s fertility, and of the spiritual bond between mother and child. Many Navajo mythical stories involve
mother figures, such as the “Changing Woman,” who came when early humans lost their
ability to reproduce. She mated with the Sun, producing twins, who eventually gave birth
to all Navajo clans. Among the Iroquois, symbolism of female fertility and power was
also expressed through their creation myths. According to Iroquois legend the female
figure, “Aataensic,” was responsible for creating all life and is honored for being the
caretaker of human souls (Bonvillain, 1989).
Although some Native American religions talk of great female deities responsible for
giving and sustaining life, many stress that the great spiritual beings were neither male
nor female, but a combination of both (Powers, 2000; Williams, 1983).  This way of thinking about gender has been documented in over 155 American Indian tribes that revered the Two-Spirits. Within the two-spirited person, the creators are said to have instilled the spirit of both man and woman, creating a third gender, who act as intermediaries between the polarities of male and female. The Two-Spirits were said to have been created for the purpose of improving society through their creative ingenuity, their spiritual power, and their ability to act as go-betweens for addressing relationship issues between men and women (Williams, 1983). 
There were many tales of women engaged in tribal warfare and who married other women, as there were men who married other men.  Such individuals were often viewed as a third and fourth gender, and in almost all cultures they were honored and revered. Two-spirit people were often the healers, the visionaries, the medicine people, the care-givers and the nannies of orphans. They were respected as fundamental components of their cultures and societies (Roscoe, 1988).
Around the 16th century, the egalitarianism of most Native American peoples would
come under attack with the arrival of foreigners upon their shores. The European
emphasis on Christianity and male dominance would permanently alter the lives of most
indigenous Americans. When the Spanish explorers arrived in South America they
quickly began to push their agenda of male supremacy and sexual oppression, which had
a disastrous effect on the status of South American women (Picchi, 2003; Powers, 2000;
Tannahil, 1982).
Under the Spanish colonial regime, women would become stripped of their autonomy,
and the gender-parallelism that governed the Inca society would be left in ruins. The
Spanish, being a patriarchal war-like society, was built upon a foundation of Christian
evangelicalism. The Spanish soldiers and missionaries would not tolerate women
holding power economically, politically and/or religiously. As a result, women began to
lose their status on all levels. Their matrilineal access to resources was obliterated, being
replaced by male-centered organizations. Although women did put up resistance, and
used whatever means were at their disposal, over time the Inca men would come to internalize the male-centered ideologies of their conquerors, which led to a pervasive
atmosphere of male-superiority (Powers, 2000).
On the continents of North and South America, the constant stream of incoming colonizers would also significantly alter the gender roles of the indigenous populations. Christian missionaries, like those in South America, preached of strict gender roles and the
subjugation of women. Within this atmosphere of sexual suppression there was no place
for the Two-Spirits, who through western eyes were nothing more than sinful sodomites
(Williams, 1986).  Two-spirited people were viewed as an abomination, which was just the kind of justification the colonizers used when ordering the torture and killing of two-spirited people.  In fact, all expressions of gender variance were oppressively
Just as with the invasion of South America, the patriarchal ideologies of North
American colonizers persistently eroded the status of Native American women. Male
dominance was preached and even forced upon the indigenous peoples through
government-funded re-education programs. This pressured assimilation eventually
resulted in Native American rejection of cross-gender roles (i.e. a third gender/two-spirited), and the adoption of the male-centered ideologies of the colonists. Over time, as western colonization spread, the traditional gender-allocated system of reciprocal labor would be replaced by a market in which the demand for male-labor dominated. So not only was the spiritual role of women depreciated through the emphasis of a supreme male God, but women’s means of contributing equally to their people’s livelihood was also stripped away (Bonvillain, 1989; Williams, 1986).
Now that you know a little about the history of Native American two-spirited people, let’s examine the definition of transgender.  The word “transgender” means different things depending on whom you ask.  At its most basic level, “transgender” is a word that applies to anyone who doesn’t fit within society’s standards of how a man or a woman is expected to look or act.  The term “transgender” may be used to describe an individual assigned the sex of female at birth, but later in life realizes that label doesn’t exactly reflect who they feel they are inside.  Such an individual may now live their life as a man, or they may feel that their gender identity cannot be accurately summed up by either of the two strictly defined gender options available (male or female).  They may feel like they’re in between those two options (both male and female), or that they’re outside of the dichotomous two-gender system.  In other words, they may neither feel male nor female, but something completely different.
So, back to the question. Is being transgender and being two-spirited the same thing?  I’d have to say yes, being two-spirited is one form of being transgender.  Transgender people have been with us from the beginning, and will be until the end, regardless of the mechanisms of social oppression aimed at enforcing the dichotomized, heterosexist, homophobic and sexist gender ideologies pushed upon us through educational, political, and religious institutions. Now you know:)
Bonvillain, N. (1989). Gender relations in native North America. American Indian
     Culture and Research Journal, 13:2, 1-28.
Picchi, D. (2003). Unlikely Amazons: Brazilian indigenous gender constructs in a
     modern context. History and Anthropology, 14:1, 23-39.  
Powers, K. V. (2000). Andeans and Spaniards in the contact zone. American Indian
     Quarterly, 24, 511-536.
Roscoe, W. [Editor] (1988).  Living the spirit: A gay American Indian anthology. St.   
     Martin: St. Martin’s Press.
Tannahill, R. (1982) Sex in history. Briarcliff Manor, New York: Stein and Day
Williams, W. (1986). The spirit and the flesh: Sexual diversity in American Indian
     culture. Boston: Beacon Press.

Why do so many girls call their female friends “my wife”, ”Honey”, etc, but boys think it’s sick. What make girls do that? Does it mean they changed their sexual orientation?

Posted on June 22, 2012 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)
Why many girls call their female friends “my wife”, ”Honey”, etc, but boys think it’s sick.
What make girls do that? Does it mean they changed their sexual orientation?
What makes girls do that? Doesn’t it mean they changed their sexual orientation? I find these to be interesting questions.  All stereotypical “male” and “female” behavior has to do with socially-constructed gender roles and gender-based ideologies. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a female calling her female friends “my wife” or “honey”.  Just as there is nothing wrong with males calling their male friends a “man crush” or saying that they love each other.  However, we live in a very sexist, homophobic world where people automatically assign a sexual orientation label to people depending on how much they conform to the dictated rules and roles assigned to their gender.
When the term “homophobia” was first coined in the 1970s, it was described as a mental disorder, a condition relating to the irrational fear of homosexuality or homosexual people. Over the decades, this definition of homophobia has evolved to include all of the negative feelings and attitudes that people have about being gay or bisexual.  Although common among both sexes, men and women have been found to experience homophobia for slightly different reasons.  According to Basow and Johnson (2008), women who scored high on homophobia tended to disagree with sex role egalitarianism, held authoritarian attitudes, and perceived stereotypical feminine attributes as being of great importance to their personal sense of femininity.  Homophobia among men, on the other hand, is mostly related to the cultural expectations of masculinity. Homophobia plays a significant role in maintaining patriarchal power structures.
In U.S. culture (and in cultures throughout the world including China), the social construction of masculinity and femininity has been formulated and promulgated in a way that highly values “masculine traits,” while devaluing “feminine traits.”  To be masculine is often seen as being strong, powerful, dominating, unemotional and violent, whereas being feminine is often viewed as being sensitive, maternal, submissive, passive, and weak.  American males are pushed to separate themselves from all that is feminine in order to prove their “manliness”.  This societal pressure often manifests into violence against women, gay-bashing and homophobia. In fact, being homophobic and participating in gay-bashing is often viewed as a rite of passage into “manhood” by many young males. Because male homosexuality is often erroneously associated with femininity, it violates the strict gender norms of traditional masculinity.  Homophobic bullying destroys lives.  Avoiding discussions of homophobia, homosexuality, and sexist gender ideologies can help foster a culture of intolerance and non-acceptance, thereby allowing violence against non-heterosexuals and women to flourish.
So, NO, females calling females “my wife” or “sweetie” or saying “I love you” doesn’t necessarily have any connection to sexual orientation.  I mean it could have, but just as likely may not have. And NO, people don’t change their sexual orientation; their decision to hide or show their sexual orientation is often based on how safe they feel they are in doing so.  Heterosexual females often express such “terms of endearment” to other heterosexual females, but so do homosexual and bisexual females.  In both Chinese and North American societies, same sex affection is often something tolerated among women, however, same sex affection among men, regardless of their sexual orientation is rarely tolerated, and is often attacked. 
It’s sad to me that people, especially men, are forced into tiny, oppressive, and extremely limited gender boxes.  In my opinion, it robs men of their freedom to be who they truly are.  Women are imprisoned by their gender boxes as well, however, they are often given more freedom to be affectionate with other women, or even to be sexual with other women.  But of course, that’s often for the sole benefit of a man's sexual fantasies.
Basow, S. A., & Johnson, K. (2000).  Predictors of homophobia in female college
     students. Sex Roles, 42(5/6), 391-404.
Claassen, C. (2000).  Homophobia and women archaeologists. World Archaeology, 32(2),
Finlay, B. & Walther, C. S. (2003).  The relation of religious affiliation, service
     attendance, and other factors to homophobic attitudes among university students.
    Review of Religious Research, 44(4), 370-393.
Kimmel, M. (1996). Manhood in America: A cultural history. New York: Free Press.
Mills, M. (1996).  ‘Homophobia kills’: A disruptive moment in the educational politics of
     legitimation. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 17(3), 315-326.
O’Neil, J. M. (1981).  Patterns of role conflict and strain: Sexism and fear of femininity
     in men’s lives. Personnel & Guidance Journal, 60(4), 203-210.
Szymanski, D. M., & Carr, E. R. (2008).  The roles of gender role conflict and
     internalized heterosexism in gay and bisexual men’s psychological distress: Testing
     two mediation models. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 1, 40-54.
Van Der Meer, T., & Herdt, G. (2003).  Homophobia and anti-gay violence:
     Contemporary perspectives (editorial introduction). Culture, Health & Sexuality, 5(2),
Wickberg, D. (2000).  Homophobia: On the cultural history of an idea. Critical Inquiry,   
    27(1), 42-57.

Do you agree that we are all bisexual?

Posted on April 8, 2012 at 5:48 PM Comments comments (0)
Do you agree that we are all bi-sexual?
No I don’t.  However I do agree with the growing volume of research that asserts the majority of human beings are bisexual to some degree; with individuals being purely attracted to the opposite sex or purely to the same sex being the true sexual minorities.  And when I refer to the term “bisexuality” I’m defining it as a sexual orientation in which the individual is capable of being romantically and/or sexually attracted to members of both sexes (i.e., male and female).  It’s important to understand that one can be bisexual without ever actually having sex, and bisexual individuals who state being equally sexually attracted to members of both sexes is quite rare.  Although I’ll go into more depth about sexual orientation in a moment, in general, it is safe to say that if you can sexually fantasize about members of both sexes, and become sexually aroused by those fantasies, then the core of your sexual orientation is likely to be bisexual by nature. 
There’s a big difference between our sexual orientation, our sexual behavior and our sexual identity.  Some people are gay, lesbian or bisexual throughout their lives, yet never let anyone know due to the various risks involved.  They may marry individuals of the opposite sex, have sexual intercourse with those individuals, have children, raise families and never actually engage in sexual intercourse with anyone of the same sex.  However, they never lose that core attraction to same-sex individuals, and may frequently drift off into same-sex sexual fantasies.  Such individuals, if simply judged by their sexual orientation would be labeled “homosexual” or “bisexual,” however, if judged by their actual sexual behavior would be labeled “heterosexual.” 
The same can be said for the man who lives the life of a stereotypical heterosexual male.  He may have a man’s job, such as in construction or business management, may be married with children to a stereotypically attractive female, and spend his time with other “manly” men doing things like gambling, hunting, fishing or watching other men fighting in a ring.  But that same man may secretly be meeting up with other men to engage in sexual activity.  That same man may also identify himself as being “heterosexual,” but engages in sexual activity considered to be “bisexual,” while internally only truly being sexual attracted to other men, therefore “homosexual” by nature.  I know it sounds a bit complicated, but it is what it is.  Human beings are extremely complicated life forms!
So to directly answer the question posed: No I don’t think everyone is bisexual.  I believe that the majority of human beings are capable of being romantically/sexually attracted to both sexes to some degree, but due to the human tendency to force everyone into dichotomous boxes (i.e., male or female, gay or straight, white or black, republican or democrat, pro-life or pro-choice, etc.), there is little tolerance for those who don’t fit such predetermined, and extremely limiting, social categorizations.  If societies around the world became more open to the wide range of non-harmful human sexual  experiences and expressions our planet has to offer , and didn’t cling dogmatically to the force-fed hegemonic-masculinity based gender dichotomy we are all subjected to, I guarantee we’d see a lot more people willing to admit being bisexual to some degree.
Klein, F., & Reinhardt, R. U. (1993). The bisexual option. United Kingdom: The Hawthorn Press. ISBN: 1560243805.
Laumann, et. Al. (1994). The social organization of sexuality. The University of Chicago Press. ISBN: 022649573.