Sex Educator Profiles: Shanna Katz
What led you to become a sex educator?
One day in my college “Human Sexual Behavior” class, an educator from Planned Parenthood put a condom on her hand, a little past her wrist. She said “if a guy ever tells you a condom won’t fit, do this. And if he has a penis bigger than this? RUN.” The class burst out laughing, but totally had listened to what she had to way. I decided I wanted to be like her when I ‘grew up.’
What kinds of sex education do you offer?
I do everything from sex positive toy parties to writing articles (including here for Good Vibes Magazine), sex coaching (in person and on the phone), but most of it is done via workshops, classes and discussions. Some of my favorite subjects include Vaginal Fisting for One and All, Relationship Mapping/Poly Basics, Sharp is a Sensation Too and Negotiating Disability in a BDSM Context.
How did you start giving sex advice?
I bought all the sexuality books I could find, and read them religiously. After I took my Human Sexual Behavior class at Colorado College, I found myself being the go-to person in my group of friends for info on sex/uality, and advice on buying vibrators, condoms, lubes and other sex toys.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
I received training in high school to be a Peer Heath Advocate. In undergrad, I took a lot of classes (my degree is in Sociology with an emphasis on sex and gender), as well as completed training to be on the sexual assault prevention and response team on campus. For graduate school, I went to Widener University in Chester, PA, and got my Masters of Human Sexuality Education. I continue learning by attending sexuality and kink workshops and classes whenever I can, and hope to pursue my doctorate eventually.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
I love that I can help people accept themselves. So often we feel there is something odd, or wrong with who we are, or don’t realize that it’s ok to identify the way that we feel. I love it when people I’m talking with have that “ah-ha!” moment, and really begin to accept themselves and their desires.
What is your most common question?
Hmmm. Depends on the context. Because of my long term work in the sex toy industry, I often get asked what my favorite toy is (the Hitachi Magic Wand), or what toys I would suggest. I also get asked how to have better sex. My answer to that: http://essin-em.com/sexual-manifesto/
What is the most difficult or hard-to-answer question you’ve ever received?
Often times, I hear from people (youth AND adults) who want to come out as queer/kink/non-monogamous, and have people in their life (friends/family/partners) that are either ignorant or outright biogted towards their identity. They’re afraid of being disowned, broken up with, or hurt (physically or emotionally) when they come out, and want to know what they should do. There is NO perfect answer, or even slightly close answer, and it breaks my heart to hear their stories and not be able to help them.
What is your favorite sex toy or product and why?
Personally, I love the Hitachi…but then again, I like weapons grade sex toys. For my clients/audience, I’d say lube is the best sex toy. Why? Everyone can use it, regardless of sex, gender, orientation or partner status (you can use lube by yourself too!) and it makes bad sex better, and good sex great. A good lube (like Maximus or Eros Bodyglide) can optimize your sexual experiences.
How do you think your book/film/website is different from others out there?
I am 100% me, all the time. I have an incredible varied background, from a graduate degree in Human Sexuality Education to having worked in queer porn, a background in sex toys and feminist porn to four years of marketing in various communities. I identify as a queer kinky disabled femme dyke, but my readers and clients come from a huge variety of backgrounds, ages, orientations, ability levels, etc because I have such a fresh, unique and REAL voice.
Where do you teach?
I’ve taught in 6 states now (plus DC), at dungeons, sex toy stores, art galleries, colleges and more. I love traveling, because I get to meet so many people, and experience different communities. Favorite places have been Femina Potens in San Francisco, and the Sanctuary dungeon in Denver. Most unusual…hmmm. Possibly doing a sex toy booth at a queer fair day at Princeton, who didn’t want any of the sex education given to center around the concept of pleasure.
What was the most interesting thing you learned in your exploration of sex?
Sex is an infinite spectrum, and you can never even know but a small percent of what is out there to learn.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
It’s such a great, sex positive community that has a wonderful mission to educate the public.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Read all you can. Books, blogs, theses, magazines, etc. You can never read too much about sex – really. And don’t stop once you’ve “made it” – there is always more to learn.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
Never give up who you are/sell yourself out, even if it’ll make you (more) money.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That there is one “right” way to have it.
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
I’m really enjoying reading submissions for my anthology Sexual Ability (About dis/ability and sexuality). I’m still accepting submissions; if interested, check out my call for submissions on ShannaKatz.com.
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
YOU control your sex life, your sexuality, your pleasure. You can choose whether you want to have sex, how often (with yourself or others), how to experiment, whether you want to climax, etc. Don’t ever let anyone else try to control your pleasure. That is, and should always be, yours. Sure, you can have pleasure assistants and what not, but unless you’re in a kink scene that involves control, no one will ever make you come – YOU own that.
What projects are you working on now?
My anthology Sexual Ability on sex and dis/ability (see above regarding submissions). I also just got hired on at Fascinations as their Resident Sex Educator, which I’m really excited about. The next few months will entail continuing to expand their online content and really build a sex positive community. Additionally, I’m getting the opportunity to teach some great classes and workshops at amazing places in 2010, including Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix and hopefully, Rhode Island!