Sex Educator Profiles: Dr. David Hersh
What led you to become a sex educator?
I got lucky. I got to read Havelock Ellis from my parents’ bookcase at age 10. Though I didn’t understand much of it, I loved the glossary at the back of the book with all those fancy sex words I’d never heard or seen. When I was growing up, I had a mother who honestly answered every question I had about sex. She was so good at it that I never realized how shy she really was about it. The family story is that she held my father off from first intercourse for two months after their marriage. He was a patient man, and he loved her. She was a 31-year-old virgin. They had a wonderful, 39-year marriage until his death.
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
Part of clinical sexology is creating a safe space for people to learn to put together the information they already have, correcting the misinformation they already have, and helping them create their own gestalt for their sexual journey. Not everything about sex therapy is about dysfunction, but is also about making good better. I also spent many years as a branch educator for a local Planned Parenthood group and presented contraception and STI classes in the junior and senior high schools.
How did you start giving sex advice?
I’m always cautious about that word advice. I don’t have the right right for anyone, except myself, and I’m not always sure of that. I’m best at asking the hard questions to which only my clients have the best answers. I try to fill in their gaps in their knowledge base about themselves and help them define where sexuality fits into their relationships.
Soooo, here’s a bit of “advice” for good sex: Hide all clocks in the room. Shut all telephone ringers. There are no goals in bed. The whole body is potentially erotic. Keep your eyes open. Talk to your partner during sex. Laugh. Yes, you really can have sex for eight hours. Sex is not necessarily about intercourse or orgasm. It’s about scratching the itch, and occasionally one can reach transcendence.
Then there are the 6P’s (Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance). When you’re gonna have sex, plan ahead what you need and set up your space¦ towels, lots of lube, refreshments, music, videos, etc., so you don’t have to jump up and down to get stuff.
Also remember, if sex is not happening spontaneously for you, it won’t! Plan for sex. Then spontaneity may return.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
To me, sexuality has always been the most interesting topic of all. My study of it has been lifelong. I remember as a teen standing at the news stand reading Sexology Magazine in the 50s, and was especially attracted to the writings of Albert Ellis. I’ve probably read everything he’s written, and my therapy style is closest to his. After a master’s degree and much of a doctorate, I practiced as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over a decade before I returning to complete my doctorate in sexology. I was trained and mentored by Dr. Wardell Pomeroy, who was Kinsey’s closest associate, and the second author on the Kinsey books.
What is your most common question?
Am I normal?
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
All the questions posed to me are interesting, and the difficulty lies in how to help people find their own answers and integrate them in their lives with themselves and their partners. Most of the material I discuss is available free online, but sorting out fact from fiction and morality is what people find most difficult. Even if all the information were accurate, there is nothing to replace the face-to-face dialogue that therapy sessions offer, where data can be massaged with feelings.
What is your favorite sex toy or product and why?
It’s been interesting watching the development of toys and products during this last 30+ years, from sleaze to acceptability. I’m told that the Hitachi is still the favorite vibrator for women. It’s nice to know that men are now exploring more toys. Many of the shapes have humor and creativity to them. Sex should make you smile. I find much of the packaging to diminish the actual value of the product, and prices are generally outrageous for the cost of the materials. Quality is also still an issue.
I think the best lubricant on the market is the least expensive. It is called J-Lube, and is a veterinary powder, that you mix yourself to your desired viscosity. It is available online for about $10 for a 10-ounce bottle of powder that will make about 10 gallons. It is a water soluble, fragrance free product. I think it is the best of the best.
How do you think your website is different from others out there?
The goal of my website is to encourage people to call me for an appointment. It does that. I don’t sell anything online. I think it is unprofessional to sell products from a therapy website. I have a few articles for people to view to get an idea of who I am and my perspective. I’m not interested in people attaching themselves to me as a guru whose pontifications they can read on a weekly basis. I don’t reprint news people can read elsewhere. I have no fancy pictures or blinking lights.
Where do you teach? If you travel, what is it like? Where was your favorite place to teach? Most unusual panel or experience?
I rarely teach. My one course is that I have taught many therapists how to do clinical sexual interviewing using a modification of the Kinsey Sex History as a tool. I keep an office in Calgary, Alberta, and Nelson, British Columbia, and come to San Francisco a few times a year.
What was the most interesting thing you learned in your exploration of sex?
I found a way to make a living from my hobby. It’s been a wonderful process getting here. As Trudeau said, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.
This is it! Though it may appear so because of the change of seasons, life is not circular. You don’t get to do this one time sprint down the track again. If the great magician, Harry Houdini, couldn’t make it back from the dead, you won’t either. The damage done by lying to children about sex is despicable and all in the name of religion. The early leaders of tribes clearly understood that if you could control a person’s sexuality you could control anything about them. They also feared the potential sexual power of women.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
I’ve known Joani Blank since 1979. Good Vibrations is the inimitable.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Explore sexual experiences for yourself. Be a participant observer. Get a good, formal academic foundation. Read everything that interests you in the field.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
Except for procreation, sex is about havin’ fun. My definition of Catch-22 is “Disparity of libido coupled with sexual exclusivity. The one who wants more always loses.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
There is no such thing as sexual addiction. These are horny people who make bad choices.
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
Saying “no” has no meaning unless you can say “yes.” Own your sexuality. Learn and practice assertive behavior. Ask for sex. Initiate it. Claim your power.
What projects are you working on now?
I’ve been mentoring some therapists over the past few years to do sex therapy and have started sharing office with them in Calgary, Alberta a week a month.
Where can people find out more about you?