Sex Summit Interview Series: Heather Corinna

Are you ready for the next installment in the Sex Summit interview series? Heather Corinna is the founder of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for young adult sexuality education and information. It’s one of the first places I look for the best information about sexual health, so I was glad to catch Heather and hear her thoughts about the upcoming Sex Summit!

1) There’s a tension in sexual medicine. It offers more new solutions to difficulties than ever before, while also staying stuck on a limited idea of what sex is. What are some ways you see that play out?

Working primarily with young people, one of the biggest issues I see is how many young people are growing up with the idea that sex is rife with problems, that surgeries or pills can “fix” them all, and that if a sex life isn’t perfect, something is probably medically wrong. All of these takeaways are obviously deeply problematic.

It’s especially tricky for them because, of course, they’re going to overhear older adults talking about how they need vaginal surgeries or medications.  Most young people certainly recognize that they’re not much older people, but many can’t make the distinction between what the prevailing conversations about sexual life are — which are primarily about a generation they’re not part of — and what parts of that are and are not relevant to them.

Of course, there’s also little to no discussion, especially that young people can actually hear, about surgeries and pharmaceuticals are NOT something everyone is somehow destined for just because we aren’t 25 anymore, and how many people who cheerlead the medicalization of sexuality or what it has done for them (or might do) have a range of options, all of which might provide excellent results or wanted changes, and where sometimes the alternatives to a pill or a knife do a better job.

2) Tell us a little about your work in this area. How do you navigate both the positive and the negative sides to sexual medicine? How do they affect what you do?

Well, with what I do, besides debunking some of what I just said above, most of where we work with people around sexual medicine is around preventative sexual healthcare, STIs and STI testing, and contraception.  And for us, all of those are positives, even if access to all or any of those services aren’t available to everyone who needs them, or if practitioners can do a better job, as plenty certainly could stand to do.

That said, plenty do a fantastic job: so many young people don’t get these kinds of care due to fear of judgment, and that’s unfortunate, since when some go, many have very positive interactions and are obviously seeing excellent providers.

3) What’s one thing you think would help create a model of sexual health that you’d like to see in the world?

Understanding and accepting how incredibly diverse people and their sexualities truly are.  So much of what makes a big mess with the treatment of sex in medical health is the notion that there’s this very tiny window of what’s “normal,” and that the only real differences between people when it comes to sexuality are gender and age.

A better understanding of how very vast sexual diversity is, and of ALL the factors that create differences in sexuality, sexual health and our sexual lives — not just age, gender or what genitals we have, but reproductive and sexual history, physical and emotional, economic status, religious and cultural upbringing, current culture and community, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, the works! — would make a huge, positive difference.

4) What are you looking forward to most about the Sex Summit? What’s one thing you’d like to see come out of the event?

I’m excited to see the mix of people involved, and really looking forward to the discussion that can only come from missing up people who may work in the same overall field, but do so with very different populations or through different avenues.

5) Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? How can people find out more about you?

Most of what I do in a day remains manning the ship at Scarleteen.  I don’t have a typical executive directors job, because for me, directing the organization means everything from doing coding and mopping the floor, to doing our direct service work with users and our social media to the more common ED gigs, like managing volunteers, handling PR and fundraising, and holding responsibility for the whole of the org, it’s operations and its direction.

Also, it’s way too easy to overwork in this field, so the big project I’ve really been trying to carve out time for lately is my own life. 🙂

People can find out more about me best here:

Are you coming to the Sex Summit? We’re hosting a one-day conference, full of amazing speakers, fascinating panel discussions, and more! Plus, your ticket gets you a seat at the Quickies, our erotic short film competition on October 26 at the Castro Theater, and the post-Summit cocktail party. Get your ticket before they sell out!

Dr. Charlie Glickman

Charlie Glickman is the Education Program Manager at Good Vibrations. He also writes, blogs, teaches workshops and university courses, presents at conferences, and trains sexuality educators. He’s certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists, and loves geeking out about sex, relationships, sex-positivity, love and shame, communities of erotic affiliation, and sexual practices and techniques of all varieties. Follow him online, on Twitter at @charlieglickman, or on Facebook.

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