Sex Educator Profiles: Dr. Charlie Glickman
What led you to become a Sex Educator?
I started doing queer outreach when I was in college and I started getting a lot of questions about safer sex, so I did a little research about it. That led me into issues of negotiation and communication, which ended up drifting into questions about how to make sex more fun. At each step of the way, it turned out that there were related issues that I found interesting.
But I really got my start in 1996 when I was hired to be a Sex Educator-Sales Associate here at Good Vibrations. There’s nothing like having people ask just about everything under the sun to inspire me to learn more. And the more I studied, the more fascinated I became with the experience of sex.
Plus, the fact that people kept telling me that I’d helped them have better sex was really amazing!
Where did you get your education?
Besides the on-the-job training at GV, I did a lot of reading, interviewing friends and trying things for myself. I figured that since I wouldn’t trust a chef who didn’t eat his own cooking, I should try as many things as I could in order to be able to understand what people were asking about.
Over time, I noticed that very few teachers of the workshops that I attended seemed to know much about how to teach. For that matter, I’d been teaching workshops without much understanding of teaching methods. I was simply taking ideas from other teachers and using them, without really comprehending what makes one method more effective than another. This seemed really common in sex ed, so in 2001, I went back to school and got a PhD in Adult Sexuality Education.
My research explored the intersections of sexuality and shame and examined ways that adult education practices could help people learn how to overcome shame. It was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had and I learned more about how people experience sex than ever before.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
I really like knowing that right now, someone is having a better orgasm as a result of something I said or did.
I’m also especially interested in the topic of sexual shame, which was the focus of my dissertation. So many people experience toxic shame around their sexual desires, fantasies or experiences and it can have a major impact on our lives. I find that the most valuable thing I can do is to show someone that I don’t think there’s anything shameful about their sexual desires while also making sure that the health, pleasure and well-being of everyone involved is cared for.
What is your most common question?
It’s some version of “am I normal? Whether it’s phrased as “Do you know anything about this? or “I must be the only person who says this¦ or even “this is really weird, most people have internalized ideas that their sexuality is abnormal, sick, or wrong. It makes me sad, but there it is. I’ve found that most people feel such relief when they discover that they’re not alone. It’s really amazing.
How do you work to answer difficult questions? Do you ever consult other people?
All the time! I have a great professional network, including a sex educator email list through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, lots of colleagues, co-workers and friends and a lot of experience at researching sex online. I don’t think I go more than a few days without looking something up or asking someone for information. Sex is too big a topic for it to fit in one person’s head.
What is your favorite sex toy and why?
The Aneros. I LOVE the fact that more men and their partners are discovering how much fun prostate play can be. It’s about time!
What was the most interesting thing you learned in your exploration of sex?
That the meanings that we attach to any sexual act, or relationship, or form of pleasure is unique to each of us. A lot of people believe that the way that they experience something is that way that everyone else does, and it’s just not true. The diversity of sexuality never ceases to amaze me.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
It’s not an easy field to make a living in. There’s not a lot of funding for it and there’s a lot of political and social resistance. If you can find a way to work it into your day job, go for it but be prepared to have to work at something else while you do sex ed on the side. I also recommend this article by Megan Andelloux.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That we need to control it by shaming people. The way that US culture uses shame to control sex causes us to bounce between repression and rebellion, when what we really need to find is the middle path. The pendulum swinging isn’t working for anyone. I’ve written more about it here.
What projects are you working on now?
I’ve been teaching workshops on sex-positivity, sex & shame, and adult education practices (with a focus on sex education). I juggle several different projects for Good Vibrations, such as our After Hours classes, our Off-Site Sex Ed workshops, the staff training program, our Brand Ambassador program, and Good Vibrations University. I’m also writing sex advice columns for Carnal Nation and TrÃ¨sSugar.com.
Where can people find out more about you?