Sex Educator Profiles: Heather Powers
What led you to become a sex educator?
I have always been interested in sexuality as both an art form and a science but my very first teaching experiences were community based classes on body image. My body has always been naturally larger and as a teenager I struggled a lot with self acceptance. When I began to embrace my body in its natural state, everything in my life instantly felt more fulfilling.
I thought that by sharing my experiences with other women I would be able to empower them. Questions about the body very quickly led to questions about sex & relationships and I found that providing information about those areas was just as comfortable for me. Now its over 15 years later and I’m still doing it!
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
I provide individual sex therapy, couples/poly group counseling & educational workshops for community groups of all types. My favorite topics include pleasure physiology, sex & pregnancy, body image, sexual communication, sex techniques, sex during aging, bdsm, & sex positivity for health care providers. My classes are provided through Good Vibration’s OSSE program, independently & through local universities & community centers.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
Like most sex educators I have a mix of formal education & informal community training!
I have a BA with highest honors in Psychology from UC Berkeley where I studied body image & sexuality through their honors program.
My Masters degree is in Counseling Psychology where I did a Master’s thesis on training therapists to work with kinky clients.
I also completed San Francisco Sex Information’s sex educator training & Good Vibrations OSSE training in addition to thousands of hours of workshops and independent study.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
I have always believed that the hardest topics to discuss tend to be the ones most worth tackling. Although sexuality is both a beautiful and necessary aspect of human nature, it is often discussed with shame and secrecy. I love knowing that by providing information about sexuality I am able to help bring sexuality and sensuality into the spotlight where they belong.
What is your most common question?
“Am I normal?” I’ve been asked this thousands of times and the answer is always “Yes!”
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
“I was raped and can’t enjoy sex any more but I want to. What should I do?” This is not something that can be answered in a few lines! I really wished that it could be! I referred her to a fabulous therapist that she loves and now reports having a much better relationship with sex..
What is your favorite sex toy or product and why?
The most important sex toy by far is a good quality lube. My personal favorite is PleasureGlide. I love that it has a limited number of easy to pronounce ingredients (including aloe!)
My FAVORITE sex toy is the Magic Wand. There have been many imitators over the years but nothing can match its ability to deliver orgasms on a regular basis. Its long handle makes it easy to use for larger bodies or those with limited mobility & its electrical cord means it will never run out of juice.
Where do you teach? If you travel, what is it like? Where was your favorite place to teach? Most unusual panel or experience?
I primarily teach in the San Francisco Bay Area but traveling is fun! I recently spent several months in Denmark and I hope to return there to teach later this year.
My favorite classes are the ones where well educated adults realize that there is so much more left to learn.
My favorite panel was for partners of people with multiple sclerosis. We talked a lot about how to get their needs met, not feel guilty about having needs & be creative when mobility issues come into play.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
Good Vibrations is more than a store, its a community. I’ve worked with them in dozens of different ways throughout the years and the one thing that has remained constant is their dedication to education and quality products. Often their stores are the place where sex educators first find their passion, mentors or fine tune their subject area.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Always look at sexuality as an empirical science. Request sources for data, compare research methodologies and look for bias in anything that is stated as fact.
Cultural bias, political agendas & simple lack of evidence based information can have a huge impact on the quality of information that you get, even in courses given at prestigious universities. Question everything and use your judgment to filter out what is science & what is myth.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
Never assume that someone else’s definitions are the same as yours. Always ask for clarifying information.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That orgasms are necessary for good sex. Seriously, if you’re having 45 minutes of great sex and 2 minutes of orgasm do those last 2 minutes really define your experience? If I had to choose between 45 minutes of intense foreplay or 2 minutes of intense orgasms, I’d choose the 45 minutes every time!
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
The BDSM & Therapy project. We created guidelines for working with kinky clients that acknowledges that kinky is a part of the normal sexuality spectrum and should be treated as a multicultural issue rather than as a disease.
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
Never stop learning about your own body!
What projects are you working on now?
A guidebook for mental health practitioners on kinky issues. I’m also putting together a blog that will discuss sexuality topics, including taboo subjects, from an intellectual perspective.
Where can people find out more about you?
www.heatherpowers.com is my primary website.
I have a sexuality blog launching in April at intellisexy.org. Bookmark it now 😉