[This is a post about my experience with Sex Educator training… Unlike my other very story-like posts, this might only interest you if you are looking into pursuing educational pursuits revolving around sex, health & well-being, therapy, etc.]
Over 3 years ago, I desperately searched the internet for some form of Sex Educator schooling program. I had dropped out of university three times at this point; I didn’t understand the relevance of the subjects I needed to take, I was infuriated at how much of my time and money was wasted on courses I ended up despising, I hated the ‘professor/student’ dynamic in which my face and ability disappeared into the crowd of other mediocre students. The only solace I found was in my small creative courses, where there were 10-20 of us, everyone spoke, the professor knew and remembered everyones names and my work was pulled out and given the attention I needed to push myself further.
I researched my options and discovered AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counsellors and Therapists), a prestigious credential that would land me into the pool of the best in my field. The certification process is intense and lengthy, and would require me to go back to university for something totally different, and they require 90 hours of Core Knowledge coursework around very specific topics. This was when I found the Institute for Sexuality Education & Enlightenment (ISEE).
And while I didn’t forsee myself going for AASECT certification anytime soon, I clung to the idea of ISEE. I would walk away a Certified Sex Educator – a title I had been scouring the internet for to give myself some sort of credentials.
After three years of typical life things happening, I finally was able to go down to do the in-person coursework in Northampton, MA, in April and July of this year (3 weeks total).
I left Toronto in a flurry; my sister, my partner and my downstairs porn biz partner (aka, basement son) were all variously organizing and cleaning my AirBnB ventures and walking my dog. The planning for the thousands-of-dollars event I was running was put on hold, my hair was green because I hadn’t had time to re-dye it after misusing some Manic Panic, and I had booked the cheapest mode of transportation: the night bus. I had an 18 hour bus ride ahead of me that started at 11:55 PM.
The bus was not ideal, but it turns out that you can kill a lot of time by trying to sleep. In a haze of half-dreaming & kind-of-eating, I made it to Northampton by 6 PM the next day.
I had not given this experience any forethought whatsoever except for doing the required bookings of beds & transportation, and in my mind, it was this thing to get done because then I am one step closer to having a certification for this odd little career choice I made 5 years ago. It seemed like one more thing to cross off of my never-ending To Do list, and I was mentally prepared to hold onto all of the stress of event-planning and multiple business running to achieve yet another goal.
And then I stepped off the bus and nearly cried. Maybe I did. I can’t remember. It sure felt like I had. The weather was 20 degrees celsius (there would be a blizzard later in the week, but whatever) and everything little friggin’ thing about this stupidly adorable little town made my heart sing. The main street consisted of local, healthy restaurants, coffee shops, crystal stores, used bookshops, antique furniture shops, and small salons. It was as if I had walked onto the set of Gilmore Girls (hysterically, Stars Hollow is anecdotally just outside Hartford, which is not far from Northampton… I just googled it).
I breathed deeply and finished my trek of dragging my belongings half an hour up hill to get to my AirBnB. And when I finally reached my destination, I cried some more. A) Because it was so friggin’ adorable, B) It reminded me of the house in Sabrina the Teenage Witch (one of my favourite shows, to this day) and C) All of a sudden, I had absolutely zero responsibilities. I showered, sat on my bed and thought of all the things I didn’t have to do and realized that this was a surprise enforced vacation. Even if the courses during the next two weeks happened to be dry and tedious, I had the full-fledged excuse to not do a single thing and it felt gloooorious.
I drank a glass of wine and passed out.
For the next two weeks, I would be immersed in sex learning… My schedule looked as such:
Week 1-2 (April 2016)
Day 1-3: Sexual Awareness Reassessment
Day 4: Body Enrichment
Day 5: The Joy of Intimacy
Day 6: Female Sexual Dysfunction
Day 7: Sexual Development: Young Adulthood through Middle Age
Day 8: Silver Sex; Sex Later in Life
Day 9: Sex & Culture
Day 10: Frank Talk About Men
Day 11: Orientation As Living Entity
Day 12: Professional Communication & Ethics
Day 13: Non-Monogamy
Day 14: Pleasure
Week 3 (July 2016):
Day 1: SexAbility
Day 2-3: Presentation Skills
Day 4: BDSM: A Working Introduction
Day 5: Advanced SAR
Day 6: The Deep Yes: The Lost Art of True Receiving
Day 7: Introduction to Tantra
As a sex educator, these types of courses are my bread and butter. There are so few opportunities for us to learn and grow and gain and become better at what we do, and I was so hungry for these topics I don’t think I could’ve been bored even if the World’s Most Monotone person was teaching us. But the moment I entered that small, floral-themed conference room in a corner of the Hotel Northampton, I was swept off my feet.
I had met Rosalyn Dischiavo (Roz, for short) through Betty Dodson in June 2013. She had briefly mentioned the Institute for Sexuality that she founded and that little snippet of information stuck to my brain like a fleck of glitter. A few months after meeting her, I made a phone call to Connecticut to talk about the process of enrolling in her program.
Roz teaches a hefty amount of the courses at the Institute. Her teaching style is personable, holistic and professional. As someone who has dropped out of University 3 or 4 times (…who’s counting, really), I find it extremely important to talk about the word ‘holistic’ for a second, because it kind of sounds like the hokey pokey language we associate with people who are living somewhere up in the clouds.
Holistic is “characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.” And to expand on that: everyday that I left class, I felt as though someone had reached down my throat and into my gut, fiddled around with some pieces that weren’t fitting quite right, shuffled some stuff out, re-arranged the furniture and then when they were fine and happy with the job they had done, extracted their arm from my esophagus and kissed me on my cheek.
For the person who despises metaphors: it is one thing to take a course on the Joy of Intimacy so that you can bring back exercises and activities to your clients, it is another to recognize where you have trouble with intimacy. Where do your walls begin? Are they pliable? What scares you? Who are you? What do you want? One risk-taking activity after another, each person in the room was called on to do what they could to push their comfort levels and take a risk and see what happened. And you know what happened? You fell into a pile of warm hugs and empathetic eyes. Right now I am trying to recall the specifics of each individuals own life and struggle, and while I know the details of all of their lives (who they live with, what they do, etc.), the trials and tribulations each of us have gone through seem to have merged into a collective, vibrating pillow of… love. (I started crying writing that sentence, recalling the feeling I left the program with, and I so badly wanted to come up with something less common, but alas, this is the word we have.)
It is hard for me to summarize the effects of the program… I know that it was an educational and professional experience, because I paid for it, learned a whole bunch of things and will eventually come out with a certificate and a slew of connections across North America. But damn. None of my higher learning experiences even come close to this one. So here’s an excerpt from my diary instead…
“This program was invaluable. It will be the best thing I have ever done for myself and so deeply life-changing. Thinking about it brings me immediate sadness, joy and gratitude to my eyes. The intensity of all these feelings is insurmountable. I had no clue what I was in for but it wound up being such a transformative experience. These people are my tribe and will forever be a part of my heart.”
It irritates me to no end that our current cultural expectations of educational experiences are so removed from the body. If your head isn’t spinning from reading dense texts from dawn to dusk, if you aren’t breaking your body by consuming gigantic quantities of coffee and not sleeping, if you’re bored out of your skull than you’re doing it right and then once Friday hits you work-work-work and play-play-play so hard that for me, my body and my mind were sapped of any energy to absorb information that might be useful. [Of course, this style does actually work for some people… I am not one of them.]
One of the many things I learnt in my program were the 5 researched methods that actually work to learning something: movement, frank & open discussion, graduated risk, touch and facilitating commitments. My University experiences offered me, at best, 20% of those, on a good day. Within this program, there was barely an hour that passed that we hadn’t actively engaged in almost all of those things.
I am so eternally grateful for this experience Roz created for all of us that attended the ISEE program this year. Roz, you have shaken me and given me so much to work with. Thank you <3.
And here are a bunch of pictures:
If you are at all curious about this program, feel free to get in touch with me to ask me more about my experience!