It’s only been this year that I have come around to calling myself a sex educator. I am late in the game compared to some of my fellow bloggers and authors, perhaps because I failed to see how this hobby could become a legitimate career for anyone. Before this, I would describe myself as a freelance writer who often, but not always, wrote about sex. While this isn’t wrong, it’s not the complete picture. I compartmentalized the work I am paid for and the words I write on this blog, despite much of it being about sex and despite that some of my working relationships originated because of this blog.
It’s 2018, I have been writing about sex, toys, and relationships in this blog for over a decade, and I have finally accepted myself as a sex educator. Yet, I am still hesitant to be upfront about what I do for work.
When people ask about my job as a writer, I usually gloss over the specifics. The reasons are twofold and while explaining how copywriting on the Internet works and reassuring people that, yes, you can get paid for that, the bigger hangup I have is that I so often write about sex. It’s not my own shame that prevents me from answering honestly; although, others sometimes respond in that manner, which I’ll touch on later.
No, it’s the response, almost always from straight men. It’s the assumption that any mention of sex, no matter how intellectual or removed from my own preferences, is viewed by these people as an invitation to pry into my personal sex life. Specifically, these men want to know if my interest in writing about sex, which must be spurred by a personal interest in sex, will lead me to sleep with them.
Then comes the question. To be fair, it’s not exactly one question. It’s simply the type of question that follows what was previously a non-sexual discussion. The question often pries into whether it’s my sexual interest that inspired me to write about sex. Of course, this is the case for me and plenty of other sex educators. I know this. You, my readers, know this. But that’s not the point. People will take any mention of sex as an invitation to ask invasive questions or as a segue to discussing sex with them.
Let me make it clear: just because I talk about sex for my job doesn’t mean I want to talk about my personal sex life with you.
Sex coach and erotica writer Stella Harris discussed this briefly in an episode of American Sex about sexual communication. Stella, like myself, is a sex educator. Ms. Harris mentioned how disheartening it can be when these discussions happen because people may be so starved of any opportunity to discuss sex or because they “conflate the job with the person,” losing the decorum people usually abide by. I immediately knew what Ms. Harris meant when she said this about interactions with female-presenting people who are sex educators:
gives them license to be overly intimate right away
Although I would never classify myself as highly as someone who is certified as a sex coach, I have come to realize how valuable it is for as many people as possible to discuss sex in a positive and healthy way. In doing so, I have “invited” some of the same unwanted attention that Stella Harris discussed. And it’s not fun.
I write about sex and may be willing to talk about sex intellectually and hypothetically with you, but I don’t want to talk about my own sex life or my preferences. This is not an invitation for a man to fish to see if I might be willing to sleep with him and, dear god, I certainly don’t want dick pics from anyone with whom I have not already established a sexual rapport.
I do not want my personal space, safety or comfort invaded in the way that men so often do when the subject comes up. Yet they continue to fail to see how inappropriate their questions are.
While I have thus far focused on my interactions with men, I’ve noticed a different trend in some people when I reveal what I do for a living. Instead of creeping on me, they respond with coquettish giggles or hushed whispers. I realize both of these responses are due to society not discussing sex often or positively enough, in part because I was once guilty of the same behavior. Sometimes people are so starved for discussions about sex that they act giddy because it’s oh-so-naughty to do so. But there’s a place for knowing winks among friends, and it’s usually not when I am in sex-educator mode.
There’s no doubt that sex is concomitantly on display and hidden away in American culture. Those people who want to talk to sex may resort to hushed tones because they have never been taught how. And others may respond with shame because they have been taught that sex is something we don’t speak about.
That ties into how men react when they find out that I’m a sex educator. No matter the response, it’s based in the way that sex is shrouded. The response I often receive when people learn that I am a sex educator devalue the work I do because society devalues sex.
People probably don’t mean it, but because they don’t see sex as something that should be talked about, let alone something that needs to be discussed, they respond with giggles or jump straight to intimacy that is unearned. It’s not their fault if they’ve never been taught anything else.
Truthfully, this makes educating people about sex all the more important because they don’t treat the subject with the respect it deserves. They haven’t realized how significant sex can be to a satisfying life let alone a relationship. They fail to understand that an inability to discuss sex with partners leads to orgasm inequality, breeding resentment, boredom, and potentially cheating. People have yet to learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, and psychology that play very real roles in the sex they have — or don’t have. And this dearth of knowledge leads to risky sexual decisions including those that sometimes lead to sex.
The fact that some people try to change the subject or hem and haw over my job as a sex educator and others try to force themselves into my sex life when they realize that I write about sex means I need to keep talking about it. I’ve read the comments and emails from readers whose sex lives have somehow improved after reading my work, and I know there are people who have yet to stumble upon the information that will transform them and their understanding of sex, even if the information is presented by someone else.
I’ve stated that we don’t talk about sex often or correctly enough so many times that it might as well be my mantra, but it’s sadly as true today as it was when I started this blog a decade ago, and the interactions that follow after I explain to people that I am a sex educator prove it. I will continue to use myself as an example and continue to educate about sex, even if it leaves me open to inappropriate comments because I know how valuable sex education is — always will be.
If I, and others like me, keep talking about sex, we may eventually see a world where people make smarter decisions about sex and more fully experience their sexualities and, perhaps, when someone reveals to another person that they are a sex educator, their audience will respond with, “Wow! I respect what you do.”
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