I get really excited about new ideas and projects. That fresh exhilaration takes over and I usually go into warp-speed organization mode. Particularly when it comes to sex projects. Be it writing, interviews, event organizing—I jump right in with both feet.
I have to admit though, I sometimes don’t stop to reflect on what the hell I am doing until that cold water of reality is splashing up on my ass.
And leading adult sex education workshops certainly gave me shivers.
Here’s the rub: I am not an educator. I have knowledge and experiences that I feel are notable to share, but I am hesitant in taking on that esteemed mantle (though, I have on occasion). I know and have been taught by so many great sex ed masters that I bow down to their skills.
However, that did not stop me from wanting to get in on the action. Not only do I like to talk about sex and, hopefully, be informative, but I saw some potential dollar signs and I figured I would horny in on that action.
Over the past few years, I have taught two types of workshops: sex journalism and prostate pleasure. The former happened just once at a now-closed sex shop in Toronto. I suggested it and it received a modest turn out. The latter was offered to me Toronto’s incomparable Come As You Are. They approached me and we have run successful discussions coinciding with the last two Movember campaigns.
I have been both excited and nervous for every talk. Excited because I do know my shit, I am constantly learning and getting people excited about writing or playing with prostates makes me happy. Nervous because I always get antsy when I have to speak publicly, despite 7+ years as a radio host, conference speaking gigs, event hosting and being buck ass naked on stage. There is always an internal voice telling me to freak the fuck out. And the idea of teaching brought this to a new level that hadn’t surfaced since I did a speech on kangaroos in elementary school.
Fortunately, I can say that all of the workshops have gone well. Definitely not perfect, but I did receive many compliments and thanks. In my head I was going over countless things I did wrong—spoke too quickly, didn’t answer that question clearly enough, jumped around from topic to topic—but at the end of each session, I went home feeling good and with a little more lucre in my pocket.
And then the reviews came in.
Okay, they weren’t bad (that seemed a little ominous) but this wannabe sex educator definitely got schooled.
Because the sex journalism workshop was small, the participants gave me feedback right away, and one emailed me a bit more later on. Come As You Are asks attendees to fill in a survey—and then they provide feedback as well as all of the attendees comments.
It was all enlightening reading. I have a pretty thick skin and took the critique in stride. A few seemed a bit harsh, but most offered respectful, constructive criticism. Beyond noting my sometimes lacking (and personally noted) presentation skills, some questioned my authority on the subjects and some thought the events weren’t informative enough.
Initially, I was a bit upset but then I took the time to remember: I am learning just as much from them as they are from me. If I want to continue teaching people about sex, I need to continue learning about learning and teaching. In reflection, maybe it was a bit foolish to think I could just jump right into educating.
So I scrutinized the suggestions and feedback. As a result, the workshops have been getting better each time out. However, through reviewing the collected data, I have learned there are some key elements people want from a sex ed workshop:
Visual aids: Talking about sex is one thing, illustrating it visually is another. Many people are visual learners, especially in a group setting. For the first prostate class, I didn’t even bring an anatomical drawing of where the prostate is! I think this is especially helpful if you are presenting on sex techniques.
Resources: Everyone loves a takeaway and continuing the learning beyond the workshop is the best way to ensure people remain interested. Tell them about videos, lectures, books and other people who can help them with their exploration.
Show and Tell: This may be tougher to pull off, but if you are presenting on sexual technique, consider having a live demo as part of your talk. I mean, you can’t get anymore descriptive than that! However, you should ensure that participants are fully aware that live sex acts will happen so they can determine if they are fully comfortable.
Controlling the Environment: This is a tough one to say, but every sex educator needs to know how to regain control of the conversation. Definitely encourage students to interact and offer thoughts, but if one or two are constantly interjecting with stories or ‘information’ be prepared to reaffirm your place as session leader. If not, the whole group can suffer.
Relate and Be Genuine: This is the one thing I was most commonly praised for. I naturally like to tell stories and while I didn’t plan as many at first, when I added more personal experience to the teaching, the tension in the rooms decreased. When I said that guys often lose erections when being anally penetrated, men’s eyes lit up and several told me they were so glad I mentioned that. Remember though, don’t go overboard. People will need to connect your information with their sexuality. But knowing that someone else has experienced the the myriad of sensations related to that type of sex can really ease folks.
I continue to reflect on these experiences, and am considering leading workshops again in the future. However, because sex is so complex, because people are so complex and lifelong learning is an ever-evolving adventure, I know I want to teach…but I still have so much to learn.