Sex Educator Profiles: Cory Silverberg
Good Vibrations interviews Cory Silverberg!
See our collection of Sex Educator Profiles.
What led you to become a sex educator?
Sexuality is, for me, the most interesting lens through which to look at the world and to learn about myself and others. I was raised by a sex therapist and a librarian, so there may have been something in the water.
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
Most of my work is “train the trainer” so I am usually training sex educators, therapists, and other health care professionals. I tend to focus on three areas in my training. First is sexuality and disability. My first book, The Ultimate Guide To Sex And Disability, was about sex and disability and this is still the work that takes up most of my professional and personal attention. I also write and train around sex and technology. A lot of that work involves helping folks think beyond sex tech as being about Internet porn and thinking more holistically about the ways that we interact with each other and with ourselves through and with technology.
Finally, and most recently, I have begun to train around issues of inclusion in sex education. This is a word that gets used in a lot of different ways, but for me it is a way of shifting what I see as a lot of tokenism in the way sex education talks about race and class and gender.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
Much of my non-professional training came from working in sex shops since I was 17. Spending thousands of hours listening to people talk about their sex lives, their sexual desires and concerns, is itself a kind of education. But my formal education came first from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education where I got my Masters of Education, and then from professional trainings and development which I continue to participate in. You never stop learning.
What is your most common question?
My newest book, What Makes a Baby, is for very young children and is meant to help parents have early and inclusive conversations about reproduction and gender. So these days I’m giving a lot of workshops for parents, and the most common question I get from them is: where do I start?
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Find a way to get some training, which usually involves volunteering somewhere, and just jump in. Sex education as a job is completely different from being the friend that everyone turns to with sex questions. You may love being that friend, but working for very little money, often with audiences that are resistant or downright aggressive, is a very different thing. The earlier on you can get a sense of what it’s like the sooner you’ll know if it’s the idea of being a sex educator that you like, or the actual work. Having said that, I will also say that for me it’s simply the best job I could imagine.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
So hard to pick one! I’d have to say the misconception that encompasses the greatest number of other problems with how we think about sex would have to be that sex is natural.
What projects are you working on now?
I am writing a series of three children’s books for Seven Stories Press. The books offer inclusive sex education (specifically in terms of LGB as well as Trans* and queer families) that allows parents and families to talk with kids about sexuality, gender, and reproduction in ways that reflect their values, but also teach kids that there are things that make them different AND things that connect them to all other kids. The first book was released last month and is geared to kids 4 and up. The next book will be out in 2014 and will be for children 8 and up. The last one will be out in 2015.
Where can people find out more about you?
My regular writing job is for about.com.
People can read my work at sexuality.about.com, which is where I blog, answer questions, and write articles on sexual health, culture, politics, and more.
I use social media for work only (so I don’t share anything personal) but if folks want to follow my work
I’m on Twitter @aboutsexuality.
I’m most active on Facebook on my book page which is: facebook.com/whatmakesababy
And my more formalized work website is just my name: corysilverberg.com
Where do you teach?
Depends on what I’m teaching. In any month I may be at a hospital doing a full day workshop, a conference giving an hour long keynote, and a community center talking to parents. Every day I teach online through writing and email. I don’t have a favorite place to teach, for me what I like best is variation.
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
I can’t pick one, so I’ll pick three. My newest book, What Makes a Baby, which started as a Kickstarter project (it was, and I think still is, the most funded picture book ever on their site). My involvement with Come As You Are, which is Canada’s best sex shop and the world’s only remaining worker co-operative sex toy store. I left back in 2012, and miss it terribly. And the last big disability related project I was involved in, which was called the Sexuality and Access Project.
What was your most unusual panel or interview experience?
I was recently doing an interview about What Makes a Baby via Skype. The journalist was talking to me from her home and about half way into the interview her son (who I think was 2 or 3) appeared, and essentially took over the interview. He had read the book and flipped right to the birth page and started talking about it. It was hilarious and I only wish we had been video recording it.
When did you first hear about Good Vibrations?
I grew up knowing about Good Vibrations. I still have my parents first edition of Joani Blank’s book Good Vibrations (which is on my shelf beside a first edition of Liberating Masturbation that belonged to my mother). For me flipping through the old paper catalogs, particularly the Sexuality Library catalogs, was like being transported to another world where sex was fun and understood to be many many different things. I bought my first Magic Wand at Good Vibrations during my first trip to San Francisco almost 20 years ago. I’ll admit to being a complete nerd about this, but it was magic.
What made Good Vibrations so special?
Good Vibes really was the first store to take values that we now think about as sex-positive and deliver them as a professional reliable retail experience. At the time the industry had no interest in this, and in fact most people would have said it would never work. But Good Vibes not only survived it thrived and in this way proved a model that now we see replicated and expanded on across North America. There was a pioneering spirit back then that you can feel when you read the writing of people like Dr. Carol Queen, Susie Bright, and in the catalogs and first edition of Anne Semans and Cathy Winks Good Vibrations Guide to Sex.