Sex Educator Profiles: Andrea Zanin
What led you to become a Sex Educator?
I kinda fell into it. I had just found my way into Montreal’s queer community, and had signed up as a volunteer with Gay Line. They provided a 30-hour training session for new listeners, but their focus was largely on gay and lesbian concerns, and I found myself frequently speaking up about how things might look different for bisexual and queer people. The facilitator asked if I’d be willing to put together a lecture on the topic for the next volunteer training session, and things snowballed from there.
How did you start giving sex advice?
It started when I was a young teen, and I actually took the time to research things like safer sex, contraception and pleasure\’despite the active and very vocal disapproval of my parents\’because I didn’t want to end up a statistic. Needless to say, teens like to talk about sex, but not all of them spent time hunting down books and pamphlets on the topic, so I wound up being more knowledgeable than my peers.
Where did you get your education?
Building on that teenage drive to understand how it all worked, I took courses in feminism and sexuality at John Abbott College (Montreal, DEC 1997), and minored in women’s studies at Concordia University (Montreal, BA 2001). After graduation I went back to do an independent minor in interdisciplinary sexuality studies (finished in 2006), and now I’m pursuing a master’s degree in the same vein (York University, Toronto). That’s the theory part at least. But really, my nitty-gritty education in the realm of sex comes from twenty years of very active sexual adventuring in my personal life, ten years of in-depth participation in the queer and leather/kink communities, voracious non-academic reading about all things sexual, and taking hundreds of workshops and seeing countless films.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
I believe the very fact of talking (or writing) about sex in an up-front manner, with no sense of shame or disgust, can help people to heal their broken relationships with their bodies and with their own right to pleasure and health. Yes, accurate and sensitive information is important at a very basic level, but ultimately sex education is a political act for me, particularly since I do most of my work around questions of alternative sexual practices (BDSM, fisting, anal sex) and relationships (non-monogamy, dominant/submissive dynamics, etc.).
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
It always kills me when submissive-identified people describe a terrible situation they’re experiencing with an abusive (or just plain inconsiderate) dominant, and then turn to me to ask what they can do to make it better. Don’t get me wrong\’abuse is not rampant among kinky people, or at least, no more so than anywhere else. But it does happen, and the people on the receiving end of it are typically twisted in knots trying to fix things when all they can really do to make it stop is leave, and heal. But I can’t step in there and play the hero, they have to do it themselves. And for the person in question to do so represents the beginning of a long journey to self-respect, which is a lot of work at the best of times and made all the more complicated by the mainstream rejection of kinky sexual proclivities.
What is your favorite sex toy?
My right hand. Seriously. Works on me, works on other people, easily converts from impact play instrument to penetration toy, and gives a helluva back scratch too. Not to mention writing love notes and dialing the phone. Versatile and cheap!
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That it’s supposed to be perfect the first time you do it with a new partner. Um, no. It doesn’t work that way. Sure, the lust is running high, but you don’t know a damn thing about each other’s bodies and preferences yet. So first time’s nice, but the second time’s great, and the third time’s the one to really look forward to. And if all that goes well, then you have many more good nights ahead.
What projects are you working on now?
A master’s degree. It’s eating my brain, and most of my non-existent spare time too. Other than that, I’m working on turning my “10 Rules for Happy Non-Monogamy into a zine, co-organizing Canada’s annual leatherdyke gathering An Unholy Harvest (www.unholyharvest.ca), running the Leather Bindings Society (a book club for sadomasochists) and writing as much as I can for various queer publications. Oh, and I just added four new workshops to my roster. Good times!
Where can people find out more about you?
http://sexgeek.wordpress.com is the place to go. I blog regularly and post links to my other writing, as well as a constantly updated list of workshops and talks. Come say hello!