“What made you get into…this?”
Many hear the term sex education and think of a high school curriculum focused on STI’s, HIV, condoms, and how not to get pregnant. While these are important topics for a sex educator or sexologist, they are not my primary engagement. My workshops and research focus on desire, pleasure, arousal, exploration, identity, communication, self-awareness, consent, body positivity, and more. So when I describe my “Using the Five Senses for Arousal” workshop, which involves people blindfolding themselves to heighten their experience of touch (and hearing) while other participants touch their arms with different objects, it’s common for people to ask, “what made you get into… this?” It’s a bit of a complicated response.
My own sexual development, including initial experiences of arousal, gender and orientation identity formation, awareness of likes/dislikes, and the culmination of my sexual experiences over time, have been crucial to my development as a whole. Recognizing the ways in which I fit normative standards and the ways in which I don’t, have formed in me an awareness around how one’s identities and preferences may or may not be represented or even seen as OK. It can feel really uncomfortable when you think there is something wrong with you because what you do, enjoy, or even who you are, is not validated in the spaces you inhabit.
I initially got into this work because I wanted everyone to feel seen, heard, and valid in what they were experiencing. I wanted people to experience themselves and sex, if they were interested in having sex, as positive and beautiful.
Even as a kid I would answer any questions that people had in a judgment-free manner to encourage comfort and normalcy in having these conversations. If I didn’t know an answer or needed more context for a discussion, I’d speak to my mom and report back. It felt irresponsible to leave people with questions that could be addressed, especially since there were so few places to get good information.
After experiencing my own sexually traumatic events, I became even more invested. I started doing work to understand trauma and the experiences of those who have had one or multiple traumatic events linked to sex in some way. This work is incredibly important but after several years of working with different populations that experienced persistent trauma over extended periods of time, my mental health needed a redirect. This eventually led me to what I do now, helping people have safe, fun, sexy, pleasurable, and consensual sexual experiences. I see what I do now as a way to prevent negative and traumatic experiences that would be the result of date rape or instances where there may not have been negative intent but someone would still be harmed.
My work constantly energizes and inspires me.
Given how important sexuality and sexual experiences are for most people engaging in solo (masturbation) or shared sexual experiences, I am reminded about how much work is left to be done when folks are surprised by what I do. When people of diverse ages and backgrounds tell me how needed this kind of sex education is in our world, I am proud to be one of the many championing this work. I’m in this because we all deserve to live in a world full of positive sexual, and personally validating, experiences and free from sexual harm.