Ah yes, another Valentine’s Day is upon us. It seems like almost everyone you meet has a rather complex relationship with this particular “celebration.” Lots of folks accuse it of being a fake, just a Hallmark holiday. Many people have feelings of sadness, and even deep grief at being single on Valentine’s. Of course, there are folks who find sweet or sexy or satisfying ways to celebrate their love.
The sex educators at the Tool Shed talk to all of these folks during the big lead up to February 14. This is our busiest season of the year. Sex toys are basically flying off the shelves and out the door to their new homes where they will hopefully bring some happiness and be well-used. In between helping people find the perfect gift for a partner, or a new favorite toy for solo-play, we hear the stories of new love and love lost. People share with us the joys and disappointments of their relationships past and future, and the sexual struggles of their present day lives. It’s beautiful, and it’s hard, this sex ed thing.
In addition to questions about sexual function or pleasure, questions about wellness and illness, questions about relationships, sexual orientation, and gender identity, we are frequently asked, “How do you become a sex educator? Because I think I want to do what you do.” I wish there was a simple, clear answer to that one, because we need more sex educators in all of our communities.
The path to becoming a sex educator isn’t as clearly marked as in some other careers. Some people come to sex ed from other professions like family therapy, various kinds of teaching roles, health care, and the like. Others might come from a public health framework, or from a background in research. Some take their passion for helping people and combine that with an education in gender studies, journalism, or public policy to cobble together a career in sex ed.
There are also many people who become sex educators through self-study. There may be a particular topic or two they feel especially drawn to (often due to their personal experiences), and they read, attend classes, and go to sexuality related events to develop their expertise. Maybe they blog about their interests, or write articles for publication. For instance, Joan Price is a woman in her 70s who teaches about senior sex. She started writing about sex at 61 years old, after falling in love and discovering an exciting sex life. Since then she has written books, maintained her blog, and traveled the world teaching.
A great way to explore some of the many possible career paths within sex ed is to attend sexuality-themed conferences. The National Sex Ed Conference is the largest conference in the United States that is exclusively devoted to sexuality education. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) hosts an annual conference averaging over 800 attendees from around the world. The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Summit features human rights activists, sexuality educators and researchers, as well as other professionals and leaders. These events are not only fantastic for learning the latest information and research about topics in the field of sexuality, they are also great for networking with others and discovering new resources.
Some folks may choose to pursue a career in sexuality education through a more traditional academic program. There are a growing number of academic programs that focus specifically on the study of human sexuality. Indiana University offers several areas of study that focus on sexual health including an undergraduate minor, a graduate certificate, a master’s in public health, and a Ph.D. Widener University in Philadelphia offers both a Master’s and a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, as well as dual graduate degree programs combining Human Sexuality with Social Work, Clinical Psychology, School Counseling, or Public Administration. Widener also has online degree options in Human Sexuality. The University of Michigan offers a few graduate certificates centered on sexual health. There are other formal academic offerings around the country that can lead to a career in sexuality education—a few internet searches can get you started on finding something that fits with your situation and goals.
To learn even more about becoming a sexuality educator, check out this resource by the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health.
Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll get back to you with an answer.