Thursday, April 18, 2013

CL debuts sex columnist

Posted By on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

When I tell people that I am a clinical sexologist, they usually pause for a moment, as if expecting the punch line to a joke. Then they eye me with a puzzled expression and ask, "Is that a real thing?"

Yes, sexology is a very real field of study, and it is about more than sex, just as sex is about more than intercourse. Sexology is multidisciplinary, encompassing biology, physiology, psychology and sociology. It explores the diversity of human relationships and sexual development. We study sexual attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and their connection to religion, politics and the criminal justice system. Some sexologists are college professors, some focus on studying sexual pathologies or dysfunctions, and some do research in laboratories.

But that all sounds rather boring to most folks. They prefer to imagine me sitting on a leather sofa surrounded by porn and giant dildos. That's only partly accurate. I do have a leather sofa, but only a few educational videos and toys lying around. What I am surrounded by in my office are lots and lots of books.

I am a sex nerd.

I wasn't always this interested in sex. I studied psychology and religion at a small private Christian college and then served as a missionary for several years. I even traveled around the world as the band manager for an evangelical rock opera. It was on tour in Singapore that I happened upon a book that talked about female orgasms in a way that made me literally sit up and say, "I want one of those!"

A few years later, I became a client of a local sex therapist. I was so impressed and impacted by my sessions with her that I offered to volunteer in her office a few hours a week. That gig led to a part-time position, which eventually led to me going back to school to get my masters so that I could do sexual education and coaching full-time.

Unfortunately, not many schools offer a masters in sexology. The one I chose was in San Francisco and exuded a relaxed, hippie vibe. Most of my course work was done at home, watching grainy VHS tapes of '70s era folks engaged in all manner of sexual scenarios. I saw more than my share of bell-bottoms and knee-high socks. During the brief time I stayed in San Francisco, our class consisted of drum circles, meditation and visits from porn stars. One night, our assignment was to go out into the city and do something we had never done before. Being a small-town Wisconsin girl who went to bible college and then lived as a missionary, big city night life was a real eye-opener for me. Unlike my classmates, pretty much everything was new to me. I was the only person in my class who identified as monogamous and heterosexual.

While I appreciate the uniqueness of my masters program, my true education came from working alongside a seasoned marriage counselor and sex therapist. She encouraged me to begin coaching my own clients, and I also had the opportunity to develop curriculum and teach our women's group. I also facilitated a support group for people struggling with their STD diagnosis and I helped to coordinate a monthly meeting for area sexual health professionals.

I love what I do because I love sex. I think sex can be powerful, healing and sacred. Sex is a form of communication. Sex is both the most basic and instinctual of human behaviors, yet it can be burdened with intense emotions - shame, joy, grief. And sometimes it's not. Sometimes sex is just sex. To me, it's all fascinating. I always have sex on the brain.

A sexologist studies what people do sexually and how they feel about it. I guess you could call me a "sexpert," but I have a lot more questions than I have answers. I always enjoyed school and I used to say that I wish I could be a perpetual student. Now I am.

Personally and professionally, I am on a never-ending quest to understand human sexual behavior. As a newly single woman, my studies have moved out of the classroom and the office and into the real world of dating. Navigating this new terrain is equal parts fascinating, exhilarating and exasperating. I learn best by experience, and boy, am I getting an education! From workplace flirtations to CIAA, from Black Bike Week to getting hit on at the car wash, it is all new to me.

The Sexologist will be an exploration of sex in Charlotte. How are people meeting and mating? Where are the sexy new venues? What are the books, movies and apps everyone is raving about? Is that new sex toy worth its hefty $200 price tag? What does it mean if a partner doesn't orgasm during sex? How do you have important conversations about boundaries or contraception? Do open relationships really work?
I welcome reader feedback. We can learn a lot about sex from the Internet, books, film and research studies, but nothing beats learning from lived experience.

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