The internet is both a blessing and a curse. Many times I’ve felt thankful that I didn’t get internet access until I was 16 years old. Even then, it was just email, AOL chatrooms and websites that sometimes took upwards of 10 minutes to load.
The Rise of Online Sex and Relationship Support
When I wanted information about sex I turned to my Encyclopedia Britannica and my friends at school. Eventually, when it was time to think about contraception, I turned to a friend’s mother and the corner pharmacist.
These days, access to information is easier than ever, but the internet doesn’t have the same editorial standards as the Encyclopedia Britannica. So how do you know if the information you’re finding is accurate? The answer is simple, but not always easy: you have to vet your sources.
Chances are, you do more research when picking out a nail salon or a plumber than when you’re considering something new to try with a partner. My theory is that it’s a combination of having been starved of good information for so long that we’re eager for anything we can get our hands on and the fact that many people are less likely to ask their friends for sex position suggestions than they are to ask what someone thought of the new restaurant that just opened.
Things Are Beginning to Change
Luckily things are starting to change. Technology is allowing some amazing new platforms to offer everything from education to therapy to coaching and support. For example, when I explored my free trial of OMG Yes, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of touch techniques they covered. Having women explain in videos what they enjoy was a refreshing change from having experts simply tell you what to try ... and I’m one of those experts! Nothing replaces someone actually telling you how they like to be touched. By seeing a range of desires and preferences you see evidence that every body is different, and that there’s no way around asking what each new partner likes. That's so valuable!
I do wish that OMG Yes had a more inclusive view of what it means to be a woman and showed more gender and body variation. Fingers crossed they’ll add that in the future.
A newer platform, O.School, brings sex education streaming right to your laptop or device. As a sex educator, I know that a lot of people can be intimidated by the idea of walking into their local sex store for a class. With O.School, you can watch the live streams with total anonymity. I did one stream for them. It was a fun experience to teach from the comfort of my living room. While there seem to be some bugs being worked out behind the scenes, I think the platform is a valuable resource and I’m eager to see how it grows!
Another new platform I have the pleasure of working for isJuicebox, an app and website that makes sex coaching easy and accessible. While I love seeing clients face-to-face in my office, or in hour-long Skype sessions, some people prefer the anonymity we’ve already discussed. Not only that, but these online platforms are often more affordable than working one-on-one with a coach.
Brianna Rader, founder & CEO of Juicebox says, “Interacting with positive role models and practicing new skills is important for growth. A coach can create a relaxed environment and help shift thinking around shame or insecurities. Coaches provide tangible skills and a space to practice talking about your needs and desires, so you can feel more confident and interact more successfully with a date or a partner.”
And Confidence Is Important
The confidence she mentions is so important. It’s a theme that runs through my coaching work regardless of platform. You might be surprised how getting a few answers about sex or dating can really transform your outlook and how you interact with other people.
If you’re looking for support around mental heath issues as well as sex or sexuality, online therapy might be for you. Talkspace offers therapy through online chat with the same option for privacy and anonymity as these other platforms.
Angie Gunn is the sexuality expert at Talkspace. She says, “I treat individuals and couples seeking sex therapy and assistance with relationships and pleasure in general. I find that Talkspace is a great outlet for these topics because many individuals struggle with finding confidential and safe places to explore all the parts of themselves. Many therapists lack training in sexuality topics and have discomfort going into depth in much-needed ways. At Talkspace I train and consult with other therapists to support ongoing education and learning, as well as competency in treating complex sexuality concerns.”
All of these platforms have extensive documentation about how they were created, who works for them, and what their mission is. This makes it much easier for you to do your research and determine what kind of support is the best fit for you.
Whatever way you choose to educate yourself and seek support, whether from one of these platforms or another source altogether, don’t hesitate to be a discerning consumer. If information about sex, gender, bodies, or relationships ever feels negative or shaming, that’s a sign you should doubt the source or at least do further research.
Sex should be fun, pleasurable, and meet your personal standards for safety. These days we have more access to information that will help us achieve those goals than ever, we just need to know where to look for it.
Stella Harris is a certified intimacy educator, coach, and mediator, who uses a variety of tools to guide and empower her clients and she teaches everything from pleasure anatomy, to communication skills, to kink and BDSM. Stella has appeared at conferences across the US and Canada, and regularly provides workshops and guest lectures to colleges and universities. Stella’s writing has appeared widely, including a weekly sex advice column in her local paper. Highlights of her media appearances include speaking as an expert on Banana Slug sex and appearing on the evening news discussing the importance of sex education in schools.
Stella is the author of two books, "Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships" and and "The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes." Learn more at www.stellaharris.net or follow @stellaharriserotica on Instagram.