How long have you been teaching?
I’ve been teaching technically since 2000, at the behest of the members of the club that I was pledging (though I’d done some corporate training prior to that). I started to teach at other local groups, and then offered to present at Black Rose’s big event a year or two later…and I was off and running.
How did you get started in sex/kink education?
I’ve always felt a passion for teaching – starting in college, when my intended major was geared to prep me to teach high school (though that never materialized). Finding the connection between my own personal growth as a sexually aware and responsible adult and the ability to help give other people the opportunities for learning & growing really charged my “calling” to be an educator. In 2004, I started taking that calling very seriously, and put myself out there to events & groups as a skilled educator. Since then I’ve taught over 650 classes to an immense range of people, groups, events, and professional organizations.
Are there any topics that you consider your specialty?
When it comes to a “specialty”, you have to look behind the class descriptions. I have a tremendous range of classes (which I believe makes me an easy fit for a group or event, as I can tackle a wide variety of topics), but one of the core concepts that I talk about in every one of my classes is communication. Learning to build the skills necessary to communicate with our partners is important, whether you’re talking about open relationships, g-spot play, butt sex, or even impact play!
Have you seen any changes in the BDSM community education over the years?
BDSM community education has really grown and stretched in ways that I think are amazing. We’re integrating more concepts from social media and crowdsourcing for opportunities to learn in more hands-on, informal ways, rather than in the traditionally structured manner that most of us are accustomed to. Sadly, some of the result of that is that there are people teaching out there that lack the combination of technical skill and interpersonal communication skills (not to mention the ability to get- and hold – the audience’s attention), and so there is little in the way of discourse on how to gain those skills. I’m trying to change that in small ways, by talking about becoming a sex or kink educator, helping facilitate conversations & workshops on skill building, and other things – but there is still a long way to go!
You’ve been head of education for a few events, can you talk about what the pro’s and con’s were of those experiences?
When I’ve been the programming director for events, it’s been a joy – and a pain. The class offerings that educators submit range from the super basic to the highly arcane – no event needs 15 basic play classes, and for many events, something that is highly specialized or specific isn’t a good choice. I have seen classes that, based on the description, could not have been done in 90 minutes, and classes that had one good, 30 minute class with too much padding – and neither of those serve the attendees well at all. What I have loved is working with educators who really do focus on what they can bring to the attendees to help them learn & grow; I’ve seen so many people who have been flexible, responsive, professional, and really “got” that they are the key to a successful event, and they make doing the programming side a true joy & pleasure. What really made the events amazing for me is hearing the chatter between classes or after the event on mailing lists or forums that spoke about those perception-changing moments that people have when they’re in classes – when they learn something in a way that really clicks for them, or when they hear an idea that they’d never explored, but was a perfect fit for their next step in growth. The knowledge that all the work that the staff and the educators had done was really yielding benefits for the attendees is really an amazing gift.
Now you work as a manager/education booker at the Pleasure Chest in Chicago, what’s it like to schedule educators in a brick & mortar store?
Scheduling educators for us at The Pleasure Chest is very different than at events. We definitely go through a vetting process with any outside educators that we bring in; we often have conversations with other store managers and owners to try to find great educators, and we have to ensure that the people we bring in are giving education in a way that’s compatible with our own corporate brand – so their point of view, their ability to teach to all genders, orientations, backgrounds, and socio-economic levels is a key part of what we’re looking for. Because we are a retail store, we also have to ensure that our educators bring in a crowd and help them feel great about their experience with us, because that experience will determine whether the attendees shop & recommend us to others. Fortunately, we have a lengthy training process that our own staff go through to become Sex Specialists, so we have the ability to have our educators on premises regularly – and that helps our customers to learn & grow, even outside of normal class times.
Do you have any pet peeves about sex educators?
I have pet peeves about everything – just ask anyone who knows me :) Seriously, though, there are a few things that really turn me off when I see them in educators:
-Overly competitive attitudes – I promise you, there are enough places for educators without having to fight over them. When a presenter touts themselves over others, it creates a situation which isn’t good for any of us. And educators do talk with each other & with the people who book us; if we don’t feel like someone has our backs, we won’t recommend them. Ideally, educators should be able to help each other rise to their greatest abilities, not serve as backs for another person to stand on.
-Big egos – a lot of us to go into events where we teach or play, and constantly hear how awesome we are. Unfortunately, some folks get into teaching because they want the attention or approval of others, and that can end up setting the educator up for a big ego challenge that’s based on surface performance, not true inherent value. Most people go through this on some level or another, but when it’s too prominent, or turns into the educator feeling that they have a license to act in whatever way they want regardless of the rules or of community standards, it can become poisonous.
-Lack of professionalism – It may not be a written contract with a gold seal on it, but when an agreement is made, everyone should do their best to fulfill their end of it. If I agree to come to your group & teach, I also agree to show up on time (or early), treat everyone there in a friendly & professional manner, do my best to educate, clean up after myself, and offer follow-up documentation or assistance as needed.
– Likewise, if your group asks me to come teach, I expect that you’ll communicate what you need from me, honor your compensation agreements, and treat me with respect. And while for some folks, talking about professionalism in the BDSM community education outreach seems anti-community, the reality is that the professional attitude towards education can provide a foundation that leaves everyone – the group, their attendees, and the presenter – feeling really good about the results.
If you’re getting started as an educator, here are a few things I recommend:
-Start out small, and grow. Don’t expect that the 800-person event is going to give you a comp, or even ask you to teach. Offer to lead a discussion at a munch, or teach at a small local group. Do that as much as you can. You’re getting two things – practice, and a resume. And both of those things are what will help you become more successful.
-Practice, practice, practice. The classes that I am best at are the ones that I have done multiple times. Call your friends, and ask them to help you with a dry-run. Write your outline and talk yourself through it a few times. Have mini-conversations about different parts of your class. The more you practice, the more fluid your delivery will be, and the more able you’ll be to handle the questions that take you a little off-topic.
-Be a partner with the group or person that books you. Promote the hell out of your class & the event. Tweet, facebook, fetlife – whatever. Understand that their success and your success are intertwined. Encourage your friends to show up. If you have a great relationship with them, say thank you (a written thank you note is a great way to do that, so they can look at it when they’re not up to their eyeballs in event- or group-running). Going above and beyond the call of duty leaves them wanting to see you again – and leaves them recommending you to others.