Sex Educator Profiles: Dr. Amy Marsh
What led you to become a sex educator?
When I was sixteen I worked as pregnancy counselor at The Women’s Clinic, a free clinic in San Diego. Women’s reproductive health issues, birth control, queer issues, HIV/AIDS, sex work – these have all had a huge impact throughout my life. To top it off, a spontaneous kundalini surge in 2001 really knocked my socks off, and so I started to learn Tantra. And when I discovered the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality – I finally knew I wanted to be a sexologist when I grew up!
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
I have a clinical practice as a sexologist, and I write and publish, so I’m kind of a multi-tasking conduit for erotic intelligence! In my practice, I combine sex counseling and education – depending on client needs – sometimes combined with hypnotherapy, because hypnotherapy is somatic as well as intuitive. I offer classes in beginning tantra and relationship communication and conflict resolution too. It all involves sex, one way or another. I consider my “Love’s Outer Limits” column on Carnal Nation. In addition, I just started publishing The Intimate Aspie – a print on demand magazine, as a way to offer socio-sexual education to adults with Asperger’s Syndrome.
How did you start giving sex advice?
That really started when I worked at the Women’s Clinic, and then came up again when worked with new mothers as a doula and post-partum care provider later on.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
Formal education: The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. I have a DHS – Doctor of Human Sexuality degree, as well as a certificate in sexological bodywork from IASHS. I also count what I’ve learned from my tantra teachers and of course what I learned from life and lovers! My hypnosis training started with Marilyn Gordon in Oakland.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
It’s so wonderful to engage with people on the topics of sex and gender and all things erotic! It’s not so much that I love giving advice as I love creating big open spaces for dialogue and conversation. Many people are still starved for that. They don’t have permission or opportunities to explore sexual questions and issues in a safe, fun way.
What is your most common question?
Am I normal? Is this okay?
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
I saw a couple – one partner had a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome and the other person had numerous traits and may have been diagnosable. They had a complex set of sensory integration and fetish issues between them that were not complementary. The lack of sexual compatibility and willingness to be flexible was damaging their sex lives and their relationship. I am not sure that the sexual activity compromise I suggested was much good – but I couldn’t think of any other options. It was not an easy fix, if it was a fix at all.
I guess another difficult question was from an Objectum Sexual who had fallen in love with someone else’s machine. She wanted me to help her get access to it. It was not something I could do, obviously. And I had to let her know that pestering the machine’s owner was not a good idea.
What is your favorite sex toy or product and why?
I like sex toys that are non-toxic and free of phthalates. As a person with multiple-chemical sensitivities, it is important to me to have something that doesn’t cause a reaction to sensitive tissues. I’m not a huge fan of vibration either – I have my own sensory integration issues with things that buzz and make noise.
How do you think your practice is different from others out there?
I combine clinical sexology with hypnotherapy, for one thing. Most hypnotherapists don’t have real training in human sexuality, and most sexologists don’t use hypnosis. But these two approaches really work well together!
Plus, I research and explore in some unusual areas, like Asperger’s Syndrome sexuality, sensory integration and its effect on sexual behavior, and Objectum Sexuality. Also Native Hawaiian sexual traditions, within the larger context of the old culture. So I think I bring some different ideas and interests to my clients and the materials I produce.
Where do you teach? If you travel, what is it like? Where was your favorite place to teach? Most unusual panel or experience?
I have gotten to teach a few classes at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and make presentations at various conferences. My most intensive experience was teaching a six-hour SAR (sexual attitude restructuring) program at the American Counseling Association conference earlier this year. I taught it single-handed and felt like a rock star by the time it was over. I was really energized!
I’m trying to get some teaching gigs and clients in Hawai’i, because of my strong affinity for the culture and the place. This month I’ll teach my first couples communication class over there, on Hawai’i island.
What was the most interesting thing you learned in your exploration of sex?
Three things stand out:
1) The existence of “subtle body sex”, which I cultivated through a Tantric gazing practice with a lover – and how surprisingly tangible, orgasmic and mutual it can be.
2) I was the first person in the world to conduct survey research with people who are sexually and emotionally attracted to objects (this goes beyond “loving” a sex toy!) and all the things I’ve learned in my research and conversations with Objectum Sexuals have been really amazing, truly eye opening. Human beings really can eroticize anything!
3) That cis-women’s bodies do not have a “point of no return” as cis-men’s bodies do, just prior to orgasm and/or ejaculation. I think a lot of men expect women to be able to go “over the top” and cum even if they change stimulation, because their own bodies are able to do that. So often men will change what they’re doing right before they think a woman will have an orgasm – and so often that doesn’t work.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
I have this super high level of trust in Good Vibrations – in its intention, information, community, as well as its products. Just knowing it’s there as a resource is great!
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Go into it with curiosity and joy – and don’t ever stop.
Also, never, ever shame anyone.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
There are so many good things, but I think that somatic (physical) learning has been the most valuable to me.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That having lots of sex (or different kinds of sex) is addictive or pathological.
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
I love writing my weekly column. I’m just so happy with Carnal Nation!
Aside from that, my largest labor of love went into producing a gigantic, georgeous slide show about Native Hawaiian sexual traditions.
And I’m also thrilled about my new magazine, The Intimate Aspie.
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
For anyone, get into your body and out of your head.
What projects are you working on now?
Doing a Hawaiian style version of the couples communication class I’ll be teaching. And probably another survey of Objectum Sexuals – a better one this time.
Where can people find out more about you?
My main website is http://www.dramymarshsexologist.com
My past columns are at http://carnalnation.com/category/column/loves-outer-limits