“Let’s talk about all the the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about sex.”
It was 1990. I was in middle school and Salt-n-Pepa’s “Blacks' Magic” was my jam, but that song, “Let’s Talk About Sex,”* shined a light on the idea that a good side and a bad side of sex could coexist. It also seeded in me the understanding that we had to talk about it because “...It keeps coming up anyhow. Don't decoy, avoid, or make void the topic, cuz that ain't gonna stop it”.
I was lucky to have gotten a fairly decent sex education in my years in public school. To be fair, most of it was happening in the height of, and political denial of, the AIDS crisis, so the overwhelming message was that sex equals death, but that definitely meant I'd been shown how to use a condom. Fortunately for me, this was all before the abstinence-only education movement really got started. Unfortunately, however, there is now an entire generation of adults who, either because of abstinence-only education or poor academic standards, have been left to fend for themselves when it comes to incorporating sexuality and pleasure into their lives in a healthy and embodied way. That means that they likely get most of their information from porn. As educator Reid Mihalko says, “Learning to have sex by watching porn is like learning to drive by watching The Fast and the Furious.” Currently only 13 states have laws or regulations that require schools to provide medically-accurate sexual health information to students. That means that 37 states have no checks for medical accuracy, or, worse, openly promote falsehoods about sexual health.
So when Salt-n-Pepa said to teenage Jessica, “...let's talk about all the good things...,” a door was opened to the possibility that sex wasn't just "all the bad things” that I’d been taught. I’ve now spent the better part of my adult life advocating for folks to have a better, healthier understanding of sex and how it fits into a full and satisfying life. Six years ago I took the plunge and started a business devoted to providing adults with healthy, pleasure-based sex education in DC called The Garden where I emboldened people to give themselves permission to learn and grow. Then in 2015, when Freed Bodyworks moved to our current space, we decided to prioritize the creation of a classroom so that we could provide our clients Whole Body Wellness Education while acknowledging that sex, for many, is a part of that.**
From a sex-positive wellness perspective, a healthy sexual self can be one of many factors that helps maintain a balanced system. But, it can also be hugely challenging to get to that point--chronic pain, depression, dysphoria, grief, and many other factors can be powerful barriers to awakening that part of oneself. Sex can also be seen as ‘extra’ or ‘a frivolity’ by yourself or others, making it easy to back-burner when we get busy, stressed or just have a lot on our plates. Where do you have the conversations if you want to work sex back into your life after a major illness, loss, or incident of violence? Who can you go to for advice if you are postmenopausal and ready to reclaim your pleasure? How can you be sure you are having the necessary conversations to keep you and your partners healthy and sharing satisfaction if that was never a part of your education? How do you make time in your life to even feel sexual when the world is the mess that it is? These are all questions that we strive to answer by bringing in some of the most respected sexuality educators in the business.
The goal of including sexual wellness in Freed’s education program is to help folks understand that claiming, owning and talking about your body and your sexuality does not make you bad or immoral. I believe, in fact, that it makes you a well-rounded and aware human being. Adding a regular dose of endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine into your system has been proven to increase one's overall sense of happiness and contentment as well as assisting the body in healing and pain management. These hormones are not drugs that dump into your system to confuse you and enable bad behavior as many were taught. With embodiment, consent and knowledge, they are powerful tools of growth and understanding. So, at Freed we will talk about all the good things--happiness, empowerment, contentment, and pleasure--as well as all the bad things--STIs, abuse, violence, and shame--and hopefully help you find ways to add in all the good and avoid as much of the bad as humanly possible.
Stay tuned in the coming months for announcements about classes on topics like sex after menopause, sex for survivors, and QTPOC sexual wellness, various relationship workshops, and more.
* “Let’s Talk About Sex” is problematic in that it is gender essentialist and casts sex workers in a disparaging light. For the time that it was produced, it was fairly revolutionary, but I did not want to gloss over the ways in which it could also been seen as harmful.
** In all of my sex-positive dialogue, I want to acknowledge that sex is not for everyone. Asexuality (and graysexuality) are perfectly normal and healthy!