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Interviews

Dr. Ruthie – Sexuality Communicator

How long have you been teaching?

I began offering sex education in 2000, during an undergraduate college internship at a women’s health clinic. I first began teaching about sexual well-being professionally around 2003 and it has become a bigger part of my life every year since!

When did you start to identify as an educator? Was it the same time, or was it later?

I believe it was in 2005 that I first started thinking of myself as an educator instead of a volunteer or outreach worker. It was at that time that I began teaching about sex and gender as a guest lecturer in University classrooms, and that somehow legitimized things for me. Of course, now I realize that one doesn’t need to teach at a school to be an educator.

Did you do anything in particular to prepare for being a sex educator?

Yes, I got a LOT of training and mentorship! My own university studies did not focus on sex or gender most of the time, unfortunately. So, I attended a lot of professional conferences and other training events, read every good book and journal article I could, became a member of relevant professional associations, and went out of my way to network with experienced educators who could mentor me. And I still do all of those things! Now I contribute to all of those avenues as a professional, too.

How did you get started in sex education?

I was fortunate to have an internship with a local clinic’s pregnancy options counselors (aka an abortion counselor) when I was an undergrad. I learned a great deal during that time, and not just just about the politics and experiences around abortion.

Are there any topics that you consider your specialty?

I do a great deal of work around gender-queer and sex-queer experiences and identities, as well as sex & aging and sex & disability. However, most of my work is of a generalist nature, and is focused on sexual communication, techniques, and pleasure.

Have you seen any changes in the sex positive community education over the years?

It’s possible that I’ve simply become more aware of the community with time and involvement, but I do think we’re a growing movement! With the slow growth in relevant university programs and other training opportunities, we’re also becoming a better educated movement.

Do you have any pet peeves about sex educators?

There is a lot of value in sharing one’s sexual experiences, but that isn’t the same thing as sex education. Quality sex educators do not assume that their experiences are (or should be) representative of others’, nor do they teach from their own experiences. It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s unfortunately how often I see educators who seem to be unaware that it is a mistake.

What advice would you give aspiring sex/kink educators?

You don’t need a university degree in this area to do good work, but you do need to invest a great deal of your time, energy, and resources into your own training. And that commitment never ends! If you’re not willing to dedicate yourself to ongoing learning, then you’re putting yourself and those who learn from you at risk.

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Interviews

Sarah Sloane – Community Leader

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.

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Interviews

Graydancer – Ninja Sex Poodle

How long have you been teaching

That’s kind of a loaded question – I’ve been teaching in some capacity or other for pretty much since childhood, from Sunday school to Marine Corps Practical Knowledge to music lessons to dance & technology workshops at the University Level. But I started working in the Kink field around 2002-2003, first just as a volunteer at various conferences and then gradually as a presenter.

 

When did you start to identify as an educator? Was it the same time, or was it later?

I honestly don’t remember my first “presentation”, but I remember very clearly the moment when I walked out of an “Intro to Kink” workshop thinking “I could do that…

 

How did you get started in sex/kink education?

See above – I was at a conference, doing A/V support for a BDSM presenter, and while he was good, I felt that there were definitely gaps in what was being presented, and I wanted to fill in those gaps. At the time I was in a very supportive relationship with my wife and my slave, and they both helped me as demo-bottoms and co-presenters. I owe a lot to their willingness to try out new techniques and quite often use not only our bodies but our relationships as models to help teach.

 

Are there any topics that you consider your specialty?

The topics I most enjoy presenting on focus on passion – on first identifying what kind of kink turns people on, and then figuring out how to get the most out of that kink. Classes I’ve developed around that theme are things like cigar play, using language as a BDSM implement (“Beating in Tongues”), rope as a means of connection, and finding intimacy in Dominant/submissive relationships. There was a time when I was very identified with rope (due in large part to my podcast) and lately people have started to think I’m all about cigars, but the truth is that I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into one fetish. If I had to, I would say my fetish is connection – I just find that rope and cigars and words help me reach the places I want to go.

 

Have you seen any changes in the BDSM community education over the years?

I came into the community just as the internet was changing the way people were able to exchange ideas, so I can’t say I saw the “big” change – from pre-internet person-to-person instruction to bondage books in the malls and tremendously deep resources such as Kink Academy. But I’ve seen a few big ones – most notably FetLife, which changed the way kinksters relate completely. I also have seen an explosion of events and resources – it’s gone from occasional weekend events and munches to where you can do some kind of kink community engagement every day – if not live, then online in some discussion group or video broadcast.

While that has led to a lot of opportunities for more people to teach, it’s also led to a lot of people mistaking the ability to do as the ability to teach. The latter is much harder, and takes a different skillset. We’re finding out the hard way, as a community, that there is more to presenting than just imitating your high school teachers.

 

You run a very popular unconference called a GRUE, can you talk about why you started those and what your experience running them has been

I started the GRUE- “Graydancer’s Ropetastic Unconference Extravaganza” – for two reasons. One, Lee Harrington sat across the table from me and said “Gray, you really need to have an event with your name on it.” When Lee says you should do something, it’s a good idea to do it.

Two, at the time I was working for a school district and I encountered the concept of the “Open Space” (and its relation, the “Unconference”) from the work of Harrison Owen. As I read about the process, I found myself wondering “I wonder if this would work with kinky people?”

Now, with 36 GRUEs under my belt, six more in the next couple of months on two continents (and an island or two), apparently the answer was “yes, kinky people will love it!” I have been surprised by a couple of things – one, I thought that the event would be more localized, but people have been known to travel from overseas just to be at GRUEs. At the same time, I’ve also been surprised (and gratified) to see many of my fellow educators who have been burned out by the usual kinky con system get “recharged” by GRUEs when they see how passionate people can be about their kink.
You also have a popular podcast “Ropecast” do you consider that part of your educational outreach?

Yes, though I’ve been somewhat negligent with it the past few months. I did the podcast for 7 years, and it’s now a body of work that provides both education and a cultural snapshot – an oral history, if you will – of the rope community during that period of time. There are a couple of people I’ve interviewed who have since died, and having their voices heard is, I feel, possibly the most important work I’ve ever done.

 

Do you have any pet peeves about sex educators?

Damn, that would be a much easier question if you asked if I had pet peeves about the sex education system. So much wrong there…as for sex educators themselves, there is such a wide variety that it’s hard to pick out one thing that applies to the whole group. I think the biggest problem I run into is when people come from some traditional pedagogical method – such as corporations, or public schools, or academia – and try to simply replicate that in a sexuality context. It’s not that there aren’t valuable tools and lessons to be learned from those methods – but sexuality and kink occupy different cultural niches, and so even those methodologies that do work from those systems may need to be changed, adjusted, or adapted to teach sex ed. There’s also a great deal of evidence that the traditional lecture-hall method is one of the worst ways to convey knowledge, especially knowledge that has a hands-on component.

I guess that would be my pet peeve: any educator who stands at the front of the class, dispensing knowledge to the masses without realizing how much we all have to learn from each other. That drives me nuts.

 

What advice would you give aspiring sex/kink educators?

  • Don’t stand at the front of the class dispensing knowledge to the masses without realizing how much we all have to learn from each other.
  • Unless you’ve read the work of Gar Williams and watched a few Apple Keynotes (or the Al Gore environmental movie), forget about using PowerPoint.
  • Handouts are at best overrated and at worst a wasteful distraction. Have a PDF on your website and trust that people who need to take notes will take the notes they need.
  • If you’re in it for the money, get out. Not because we don’t need you, I just would hate to see you disappointed.
  • Get all the money you can. You’re worth it, and the community can afford it, even if they don’t know it yet.
  • Present on the things you’re passionate about, forget the rest (especially things you think will make you “popular” or “the people want”). Presenting about things that you don’t especially care about makes for boring presentations, and takes away the opportunity for someone else who is passionate to present.
  • Get the audience moving, engaging, contributing. If they’re just sitting there, they probably aren’t thinking about you.
  • Give lots of credit to those who taught you – even if what they taught you was how not to teach.
  • Give your demo bottoms credit. For instance, stop calling them “demo bottoms” and call them co-presenters, by name, in the program.
  • The key to a good sex education presentation: boobies, cock, or both.
  • Everything I’ve told you could be wrong. Figure it out yourself.

 

 

Exclusive BeASexEducator.com Interview

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Interviews

SPECTRA Interview with Kali Williams

1. Can you explain what type of coaching you offer?

My focus is on relationships with a Dominant/submissive dynamic as well as those who like to explore “kinky play” at any level. I help couples and individuals discover what they’re really looking for out of these experiences and provide them with concrete suggestions on how to make them happen. Focusing on “real life” solutions to bringing kink into a relationship, I use a playful approach to keep things sexy and fun.

2. How did you come into that style of coaching?

After being a professional dominatrix for almost a decade I’ve learned a lot about how to make play happen! Many kinky ideas come naturally to me, but that’s not usually the case for my clients. I started coaching so that I could help couples feel inspired about their kinky desires and to broaden their experience of trust, intimacy, joy and connection all through their kinky playtime.

3. Are you looking for a certain type of client?

I coach people at all levels, whether one partner is trying to introduce kink into the relationship for the first time or both partners have been playing for a long time and need a refreasher or some new inspiration. Regardless all of my clients walk away with an actionable plan to reach their sexy, kinky goals.
4. Please list any individuals that have influenced you in your practice?

All of my learning is self-motivated. Unfortunately there hasn’t been a strong mentoring process in the kink world, either for pro-domming or this type of coaching. I read a lot about psychology and relationships, communication and avoiding procrastination. Then I take those ideas and extrapolate them into a kinky experience.
5. What is one piece of advice you could give to professionals just starting in the field of sexuality?

Read, observe, ask questions, make notes and realize that the sexuality world has a lot of moving parts. Find the niche that suits you the best and focus on it. I’m a big believer in being a master of one subject rather than a jack (or jill J) of all trades. You can also use some of the great online learning opportunities such as Fetlife.com (although take a lot of that writing with a grain of salt, there are many people on there claiming to be experts that are anything but). I also run two websites that are great resources for sexuality professionals, KinkAcademy.com and PassionateU.com where you can watch videos featuring techniques and concepts by many of the most respected names in sex/kink education.

6. If you could recommend only one book for our readers, what would it be?

I have to pick just one?! For those looking to get into kink specifically, Dr. Gloria Brame’s “Different Loving” gives a good overview of the most frequently pursued kink experiences. Through anecdotes it’s a great introduction into the kink experience. You can check out her website here http://www.gloriabrame.com/

 

Originally posted on SPECTRA written by Lucy Lemons