I have been racking my brain coming up with only four blog posts this month – Adult Sex Education Month. It’s also Pride Month, by the way, and I’m painfully aware I’ve yet to post anything to commemorate. As I’ve looked at my four, with their necessary click-bait titles, I just can’t post the third this week. I feel like a sell-out, and I’m overcome with a sense that I’ve brought a spork to a gun battle. It’s not enough.
Granted, most of why I write is to disseminate this information year-round – this is a relationship & sex education blog, after all, but it still feels like I’m screaming into the wind sometimes. A great majority of my blog subscribers today are people who already know this stuff. Most of my retweets are colleagues and friends in the sex blogosphere. A few minutes ago, a friend posted an article on sex education piece I’d already shared on at least 4 of my social media accounts. If my closest friends aren’t seeing my posts, is anyone? Am I making a difference? Other metrics used to determine readership are laughable.
The more I think about it, the more I realize: we – Americans – don’t value sex education.
My mother has always told me, if you want to know what someone values, look at their checkbook. We don’t use checkbooks anymore, but Mom had a point. We value a college education. We’ll go into debt for that, and employers will pay graduates more. We value home ownership. It’s the American Dream™. We value sports. Even at public universities, coaches are paid more than scientists. When we don’t value a profession, product, or service, it shows.
Take the arts, for example. We value watching movies, but movie piracy is still a problem. We won’t even pay full price for a book anymore. Many writers give their work away for free.
I know hundreds, if not thousands, of people hustling to make an honest dollar with what they have to offer. Maybe the market is flooded with freelance writers, bloggers, authors, artists, and web developers. Yet every single one has a family member who expects something for free, even though they know how hard we hustle to make ends meet.
Bloggers routinely receive e-mails asking them to stop selling things or having advertising on their sites. They’re offered unpaid writing gigs regularly. It’s assumed that people who are self-employed are independently wealthy or willing to work a second full-time job. I work a second full-time job. I’m a homeschooling parent. Guess how much that pays! I sure know how to pick ’em, eh?
So it is with sex education. Just about everyone I know who is in this field also sells sex toys, works at a sex toy shop as an employee, sells advertising, coaches or counsels clients in private practice, or charges money to speak. There are even a few activists and educators who are also sex workers – Dominants, exotic dancers, cam performers, indie porn producers, and the like. It seems like there is more money in selling sex than teaching people about it.
I started as a sex educator by giving away advice – for free – to my friends. Granted, that didn’t take whole lot of time, and I never thought to charge for all the work I did reading and researching. Never mind, I got paid to read and research when I worked in a research laboratory. I started doing sex toy parties. That world was primarily about the sale. Sex education was a part of that, but when you looked at Facebook group chatter, these were salespeople that happened to sell sex toys. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and I still do sex toy parties, but I’m not a salesperson. My heart was never in winning a trip to paradise or designer handbags. That’s not why I do it.
I’ll say it again: there’s nothing wrong with finding a way to monetize your work.
I guess I’m wondering why we have to do it this way. Why is there no money in sex education unless we’re selling sex or sex accessories?
It’s not just about freelance educators and sex writers that struggle to make ends meet, either. The attitude towards sex education is downright hostile in some spaces. It’s a political minefield. I’m very careful when I reveal what I do for a living, so as not to make someone uncomfortable. It’s as though we’d rather sex shame and misinformation lead the way than provide people the tools, communication, and knowledge to make the best decisions for them.
Don’t get me wrong. I just wonder why someone has to be bullied, attacked, and murdered because of their gender or sexual orientation, just because the offenders haven’t studied sociology or the science behind sexual attraction. Why do so many states require certain information to be inaccurate – either in school or when someone receives certain reproductive services? Why do we think encouraging sexually active people to use condoms is bad? Why do we think having sex is bad? Why do we think having an STI is the end of the world? I wonder why I see so many women in my coaching office who are not only unsure of what they want sexually, but who are seeking permission to want – and to explore their options so that they know what to want.
The science is solid, but I think there are certain people who will lose control of something if the general populace discovers it. They won’t just lose control, but money, too. Maybe we’ll start paying actual sex educators to speak in classrooms. Maybe we’ll stop using the word virginity. Maybe people will exercise appropriate consent boundaries, and will make more informed decisions. Maybe we’ll have fewer unwanted pregnancies, and fewer people having to make decisions about those pregnancies. Maybe, just maybe, some of the shame will be lifted.
What’s that worth to you?