Sex Educator Profiles: Emily Prior
What led you to become a sex educator?
So many things really. One, I have a child (well, now she’s 18) but when she was little I recognized that I didn’t want her growing up with the same misinformation, and total lack of information, that I did. I wanted her to have enough knowledge to make healthy decisions for herself. I also found myself in a place in my life where so many people were asking me for advice about their sexual selves. The most common question was, and continues to be, “Is this normal?” I realized that although I could answer “Yes” most of the time, I wanted to be able to answer not only with confidence, but with credentials.
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
Most of my work tends to focus on breaking down barriers and allowing people to see and understand themselves and others. I work within the BDSM/Kink communities, but I also work outside in the “vanilla” world, essentially teaching that even vanilla can come with some kink on the side. I also teach about the differences between paraphilias and BDSM, polyamory, and even topics such as childhood and adolescent sexuality, communicating your sexual needs, and others. Within the SM community I’ve taught rope bondage, hot wax play, spanking, tickling, the history of straitjackets, and most recently force fantasy role play.
How did you start giving sex advice?
Really, it started a long time ago. I had an advice column in my school newspaper in middle school. Every once in awhile I would get questions about what to do if I think I’m pregnant, or how do I ask out the girl I like. Then, in high school, I was the one people came to for advice. Even the people who didn’t like me knew I would keep their confidences and answer them honestly. It just evolved from there.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
I have a BA in Psychology with minors in Anthropology and Human Sexuality. I am a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists and the Community-Academic Consortium for Research on Alternative Sexualities, and attend a variety of conferences throughout the year. I also was a SFSU Summer Institute participant, which is a 3 week intensive on human sexuality. Currently, I’m working on an Interdisciplnary Studies Masters which focuses on Anthropology, Sociology, and Archival History and how they intersect with the study of Human Sexuality. I also went through Sexual Attitude Reassessment training with Dr. Patti Britton a few years ago. (Now I guest lecture part of it each year.)
What do you love about giving sex advice?
It’s incredibly fulfilling. I get the unique opportunity to see someone’s perspective change. I can actually see the shift in their body language and facial expression as they realize the impact of what I’m teaching. It doesn’t happen with everyone all the time, but it happens a lot.
What is your most common question?
As I said before, it is “Is this normal?” Everyone wants to know that what he or she does is not that different from anyone else.
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
Sometimes I lecture and present panels in graduate classes, and every once in awhile I get hit with some really intangible, high brain question about sexuality that just leaves me baffled. Unfortunately, I can’t possibly give it to you, because it probably left my brain moments after it occurred. 🙂
What is your favorite sex toy or product and why?
Well, aside from a variety of SM toys that I enjoy greatly… Vibrators rock! I want to teach a class on how to add them into your “regular” partner sex. Vibrators can be enjoyed on a variety of levels by many different people.
How do you think your book/film/website is different from others out there?
Although I believe the research and information that is based on a medical model of sexuality is valid and needed, my website and educational information comes from the perspective that sex and sexuality are normal, healthy things. Sex and sexuality is not only about the possible negative results, like HIV, STDs, unwanted pregnancy, etc., it is also about connecting with others, finding yourself and your happiness within your sexuality, and experiencing joy and fulfillment.
Where do you teach? If you travel, what is it like? Where was your favorite place to teach? Most unusual panel or experience?
I teach mostly in Southern California, although I’ve given demos and taught workshops all over the U.S. My favorite place to teach right now is in the college classroom. It is amazing to see so many young adults who really know next to nothing about their own sexuality, much less edgy topics like BDSM and polyamory.
My most unusual, and amusing, experience so far actually happened after a workshop. My partner and I taught a force fantasy role play workshop for an SM club, then a bunch of us went out for a late dinner after. During the course of the evening, the waitress, who was utterly charming, kept hinting at how evil and corrupting she was. We eventually started laughing, and she asked something like “Oh yeah, what have you been doing?” We proceeded to tell her that we had just finished teaching around 50 people how to act out a rape fantasy in a consensual way with a partner. It only paused her a moment, then she was right back in, wanting more information. It was really a lot of fun.
What was the most interesting thing you learned in your exploration of sex?
How varied it is! There is so much more under the sun, so much to be explored, and I don’t think I’ll ever sift through all of the potential information. It’s a fun search, though.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
I toured Good Vibrations during my Summer Institute. I really enjoyed seeing the collection of historic vibrators. I’m into that sort of thing, and I think it’s important to stress that sex and sexuality is not just here and now… it has always existed and will continue to do so.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Focus on that which you are passionate about. If you feel something strongly about some aspect, use that to guide you. You will succeed if people know you are coming from a place of honesty and integrity.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
Don’t be afraid to be who you really are. I’m not sure I’ve entirely learned that yet, but I’m working on it.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That it is not important. So many individuals and couples believe that sex just happens, or that it’s supposed to just happen, without any thought or planning or foresight. As far as I’m concerned, our sexual self is the core of who we are, and sex is incredibly important. It deserves our concentrated attention.
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
I did an ethnographic study of what it is like to be a newcomer to a BDSM organization. I really enjoyed that process of being a participant-observer, interviewing people, and seeing everything come together. I love ethnography as a method of research, and hope to get to do more.
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
Never expect your partner to “just know”. You need to tell your partner what you want and how you want it. It is okay to want sex, and it’s okay to have sex.
What projects are you working on now?
Currently, I’m working on “building” a Center for Positive Sexuality in SecondLife.com. A friend donated some land a building, and I’m trying to create a virtual Center where I can hold meetings, workshops, and see private clients, as well as a place within SecondLife that is open to the larger community already there. It’s steep learning curve for me to figure out how to maneuver and communicate within this virtual world, but I’m already getting some response and I hope that it will be very successful.
Where can people find out more about you?
The main website is http://www.positivesexuality.org . From there, you can see links to the presentations we have available, the online live broadcast I do each week (“Is This Normal?” on TSRNetwork.com), our Youtube channel, and everything else. Also, feel free to email me directly: Emily@PositiveSexuality.org.