Last November, I had the pleasure of speaking at Playground Conference in Toronto. The conference itself was fabulous, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about what happened as I was getting ready to fly home.
When I was at the airport, the Canadian customs official was asking the usual questions and got to “what do you do?” Of course, I said, “I’m a sex educator.”
He loses his governmental employee composure, gets quiet + curious, and says, “No, fuck. What does that look like?”
I say, “Well, I teach adults how to have better communication and more pleasure in their relationships. All of my work is about making spaces for meaningful conversations about sex to happen because most of us don’t get enough of that in our lives.”
We chat briefly about the lack of holistic sex ed in schools and the need for more relationships education for grown-ups.
Then he asks for my card and shakes my hand. It was definitely not my usual customs interaction.
In my work, I talk a lot about being a “Beacon of Permission.” Essentially, a Beacon of Permission is someone with whom others feel safe talking about sex. It’s someone who acts as a beacon to shine light on the shame shadows that traditionally surround conversations about sex.
Most sex geeks I know talk about being “that friend” to whom their friends can turn with sex questions. By being Beacons of Permission, just by being themselves, they let others know that they are safe to ask about and discuss sexual issues.
I asked a few of the awesome sex geeks I know to talk about what being a Beacon of Permission has looked like for them. Here’s what they shared.
“Once, someone came to me with a question that couldn’t be asked without first disclosingabout a very specific fetish that they had never told anyone about. I gave them the space to say what they needed to at their own pace, and made sure they knew I wasn’t going to judge what they had to say.
We ended up having a really great conversation about kink and fetishes, and it really helped them to know they weren’t alone. By the end of our chat, I could feel the weight lifted off their shoulders, and could see a world of possibilities opening up for them.”
– Andrea Renae, Sex educator and Coach. www.andrearenae.net
“The ‘Beacon of Permission’ story I’d like to tell is about a conversation I had with my parents last year.
My parents know that I’m an (aspiring!) sex therapist, and one day last year Mum and I were drinking tea and chatting about differing levels of desire in relationships. Dad was sitting there too, reading the paper, and so I took the opportunity to ask what their sexual relationship was like when they first met.
This opened up to a fascinating conversation about a lifetime of sex, how their relationship changed through landmarks like having kids and immigrating, and what their sex is like now.
And as we were having this conversation, Mum looked at me and asked, ‘Are you really okay to be talking about this?’ Absolutely! I was so curious, and happy, and relieved! My parents had sex! And we could talk about it! Since then, I’ve been more open with them, and I think they’ve felt more open talking to me about sex too…I’ve given them permission.”
– Cordelia Huxtable, Sex Educator and Yoga Teacher
“I tried, but I can’t pick one specific time I’ve been a Beacon of Permission. Even though it is simply being open and available for people to feel comfortable sharing and anyone can learn to do it, it has always come naturally to me—it has always been at the core of who I am. I just didn’t have the words to describe it until I met Kate.
I am always open to new ideas, and learning about the perspectives and lives of other through hearing about their experiences. I am open and honest about my own life and experiences, and I am confident this has quite a bit to do with why people are compelled to share with me.
Friends, acquaintances, and even folks I just met tell me things. They tell me hopes, dreams, secrets, fetishes, fantasies, and things they have never told anyone in their lives. Despite my initial surprise in some cases, I have always been sure to take the new information and return love and acceptance. Never passing judgment or condemning what they have disclosed; this is an integral part of being a Beacon.
People trust me with their secrets, so I do my damnedest to respect the information they give me. In turn, I have learned a great deal about the world and the people around me—Being a Beacon of Permission has greatly enriched my life and allowed me to help a few people along the way.”
– Tori Lynne, Sex Educator