The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health was by sexual health educator Megan Andelloux opened in February 2010. Megan noticed that the same questions about sex were being asked by adults as the youth she was worked with. She also knew that pleasure-inclusive sexual health conversations were rare. Medically accurate information is incredibly important, but when pleasure is left out of the conversation, folks are often left asking “Why would someone want to engage in that behavior?” or “Am I normal for liking this?” When the conversation about sex & pleasure is suppressed, the shame that folks feel about being curious, asking for information, or about things that might not be working for them, can increase. Consistent inclusion of pleasure as a part of sexual health education is a huge part of the work that the Center does. Our mission is to advance culturally inclusive, medically accurate, and pleasure informed sexuality education, therapy, and professional training. We provide the sex education you deserve.
2) We see a lot of sex shaming of women in the media, in entertainment, and in our day-to-day lives generally. How can we combat that, as women?
Sexual shame is a learned behavior that stems from society reinforcing the idea that sex is wrong, dirty, or sinful. Breaking down the fictional but pervasive idea that something is “normal” (versus being common) is an integral part of lessening sexual shame. If someone feels they don’t fit in or they feel ashamed, that can be incredibly isolating. The more conversations folks have with sexual health educators, their friends, even their family, the more possible it is to reduce the amount of shame they feel in their own sex lives. The world of human sexuality is vast, and there is no absolute universal sexual experience. While there can certainly be a lot of overlap in experiences, we always want there to be room in the conversation for someone to comfortably say “My experience has been different.” and to learn from that difference.
Recognizing when shame is being used as a method of control is also very important. Often, women are shamed for their sexual behaviors in a way that encourages their silence. Breaking that silence can be very powerful. Often, toxic masculinity (the system by which folks who identify as male are socialized to repress feelings, emotions, and reduce communication) plays a huge role in how sexual shame is implemented in society. One of the most important pieces of work that the CSPH is doing at the moment is facilitating our Non Toxic Masculinity series, which helps men (primarily cis men) unlearn socialized toxic behaviors. This means that the burden of reducing sexual shame does not lie solely with women, or people who are trans or non-binary/gender non-conforming, it is also up to cis men who often hold higher platforms of privilege & can have greater impact by using that privilege as a tool to speak out against oppression.
3) Do you see that access to reproductive health services are related to your work at the CSPH? How/how not?
Access to reproductive health services is absolutely connected to the work of the CSPH! Bodily autonomy is a vital part of sexual health, and that means having the power to make decisions about and gain access to all reproductive health services. One of our organizational values is that the CSPH is a pro-reproductive justice & pro-choice organization. SisterSong (and more broadly, communities of color) are responsible for the concept of a reproductive justice framework. Birth control & sexual health research has a deeply racist, ableist history, and we have not yet moved past that history as a society. Even today, choices about reproductive healthcare can be limited based on race, location, economic status, gender, age, ability, and many other factors. The CSPH believes in creating a world where all folks have a comprehensive range of reproductive and birth control choices.
4) What’s something coming up in 2018 with the CSPH that you are excited about?
We have an amazing Spring ahead of us! The CSPH is hosting some fabulous folk including: Midori, a famous rope bondage educator, and Lynn Comella, author of the new book Vibrator Nation. We are also launching the second series of our Non-Toxic Masculinity workshop in May (which sold out each session this past Fall). Our annual event, Curiosities, is happening March 23rd. It’s a live & silent auction, which features an art exhibit called “Bodies: I Live Here”. We’re currently accepting artist submissions for the art exhibit! If folks would like more information about any of our events, they can feel free to follow us on social media or reach out to [email protected].
5) Do you have any words of wisdom for folks reading this who are worried about threats to women’s bodily autonomy and sexuality?