Any Advice for a Person Pursuing a Career in Sex Education?

Wed, 01/19/2011 - 15:26
Submitted by Betty Dodson

I'm interested in pursing a career in sex education and wanted to know if you have any advice for a person starting out. I'm presently working on a bachelor's degree and going for a master's degree in the future. I know I will get doors slammed in my face with my lack of experience and education, but I'm presently trying to read and educate myself anyway I can for the time being (books, internet, and small workshops / classes, etc....). I would really appeciate your advice.

Thank you.

Dear CM,

On becoming a Sex Educator, therapist, researcher or sexologist.

Unfortunately, there are few schools offering courses and degrees in human sexuality. As far as I know, the only undergrad program in sexology is at the University of Quebec. Go to the Quad S website (The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality) and search educational opportunities: http://www.sexscience.org/resources/index.php?category_id=492

The most common course for entering the field of sexuality is usually the study of psychology. However, many sex researchers, educators, therapists and sexologists have had backgrounds in medicine, sociology, and nursing to name a few. One of our best sex researchers Alfred Kinsey was an entomologist studying gall wasps. Alex Comfort who wrote The Joy of Sex was a zoologist. Some educators have studied Eastern teachings of Tanta and Taoist religions. Other sexologists began by working in sex shops and a few segued from working in the adult industry. My background was the study of fine art. So there are many paths to getting involved in the field of human sexuality.

Earning a degree in psychology and getting certified as a sex therapist can be both beneficial and restrictive if you ever want to stray from the traditional path. In terms of how people will respond to you, letters after your name will always help. However, in my opinion, words alone won’t solve the problem of conveying sexual skills. We learn how to dance by dancing. As an artist, I learned how to draw by drawing. My Ph.D. in clinical sexology came from The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco (IASHS), a private school offering advanced degrees in Sexuality. I was sixty-four at the time and the degree was based upon twenty years of field work running workshops for women, a book I’d written on female masturbation and a video documentary I produced of the workshops. I accomplished all of that long before I had any credentials as a sexuality educator. I was simply a brazen feminist determined to change the way society viewed female sexuality by liberating masturbation. It's been quite a ride and I'd do it again in heartbeat.

What I like best about the field of sexology is that it’s considered descriptive, not prescriptive: It attempts to document reality, not to prescribe what behavior is suitable, ethical, or moral. I have never wanted to be a licensed sex therapist as it would actually prohibit hands-on Sex Coaching. Any therapist that physically touches a client can lose her license. That law and the litigious nature of many Americans have kept people fearful of including touch in the therapeutic process, something that I personally feel is essential for sexual healing.

The one exception to the no-touch rule is the use of a surrogate partner under the supervision of a licensed psychologist certified by AASECT. Surrogacy is primarily done with a woman trained to work with a male client in tandem with a licensed therapist. Due to our sexual double standard, there are very few male surrogate partners for women. In a sense, the way I teach masturbation skills to women could be seen as a form of surrogacy. Except I teach my clients how to have sex with themselves. Once they learn about their own responses, they can share that information with their partners. To date, there has been no precedent established for the practice of surrogacy or Sex Coaching, so it remains a gray area. The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco is where I got my PhD based upon running my masturbation groups for 20 years and that was without any credentials. They now have trainings to certify Sex Coaches. Personally I don’t regard “certification” to be of any great benefit, but that’s a personal thing.

I continue to believe that experience is still one of our best teachers. Meanwhile, I support you in your desire to become a sex educator, therapist, researcher or sexologist, whatever that path might be. I’m convinced that an important part of America’s future happiness will depend upon educating the public about the pleasure aspect of human sexuality to heal our sorry world.

Liberating women one orgasm at a time

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