I'm considering a career in sex education. Where do I start?

Q:

I'm considering a career in sex education. Where do I start?

A:

"You’re a sex educator? That’s so cool! How can I do that?" I hear some variation of this question about once a week. And I get it. Sex Educator does sound like a cool job title. Getting to talk or write about sex - and get paid for it - is pretty great. And getting to help people with their sex lives is incredibly fulfilling.

Making a living as a sex educator is another matter. It doesn’t pay my bills on its own, and most of my sex educator friends have day jobs too. Not to mention the fact that I no longer have office mates for camaraderie and support, I don’t have a 401k anymore, and I have to take care of my own health insurance. That’s because aside from a limited number of positions through schools, sex toy shops, or organizations like Planned Parenthood, being a sex educator means being freelance.

If that’s not daunting enough, there’s also no clear path to becoming a sex educator. Many of the most respected names in the field are self taught, or have cobbled together their training from a number of different sources.

There’s good news too, though. As these trail-blazing sex educators gain more and more of a following, some of them have developed training programs to help the next generation of sex educators get their start.

A household name in sex ed, Tristan Taormino, has developed the Sex Educator Boot Camp, which she often hosts in conjunction with national conferences. I participated in this program a couple years ago and found the information incredibly valuable. What’s nice is the focus on the business side of things, which can be easy to overlook in the face of sexier topics.

Reid Mihalko, another big name in sex ed, has created Sex Geek Summer Camp as an immersive experience to help folks launch their careers as sex educators. Reid’s enthusiasm is contagious and the camp builds community among attendees, which proves incredibly valuable when you go out on your own and need those connections to help you get gigs and clients.

If you’d rather go the academic route, Widner University has one of the only programs in the country and they also host the Careers in Sexuality conference to help you figure out how to apply your newfound degree.

Some Planned Parenthood chapters also offer training for professionals in the form of a three-day seminar. And if you can get a job at your local sex-positive sex toy store, there is often on-the-job training available. Many national names got their start slinging toys in a retail gig.

Another great resource is AASECT, the professional organization for sex educators, counselors and therapists. They have rigorous requirements to become certified - including undergoing the Sexual Attitude Reassessment. They also host their own annual conference.

Volunteering can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Clinics, crisis lines, women’s resource centers, queer resource centers; depending on your area of interest there’s probably a way to get some experience, do good work, and test whether this is a good fit for you. You might even offer yourself as an intern to people who are already doing work that excites you. While asking to "pick someone’s brain" might not get the response you want, try offering to make handouts for classes, field phone calls or emails, or do other necessary and time-consuming tasks in return.

As important as it is to know your passions and interests, it’s just as important to know your strengths. Some people shine on the page, and others in person. Some people are at their best when one-on-one and others know how to hold an audience in the palm of their hand. It’s easy to look at what seemingly successful people in the field are doing and try to imitate their path, but if it doesn’t align with your own strong points, you won’t get far.

There are as many paths to becoming a sex educator as there are people in the field. I strongly suggest you spend some time thinking about why you want to do this work and where your passions lie. If this is something you truly want to pursue, it is a field that offers endless customization to your skills and interests.

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Written by Stella Harris
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Stella Harris is an erotica writer, BDSM educator, and sex & intimacy coach. She teaches for a variety of sex-positive organizations in Portland, Oregon in addition to leading and organizing her own public classes and offering private instruction. Publication highlights include several anthologies by Cleis Press and a series of tantalizing and informative articles on kinkly.com. Through her writing and teaching she explores the complex world of love and lust and strives to help people explore their kinks safely and free of shame.

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