Dr. Ruthie – Educator [Interview]

Originally posted on BeASexEducator.com

How long have you been teaching?

I began offering sex education in 2000, during an undergraduate college internship at a women’s health clinic. I first began teaching about sexual well-being professionally around 2003 and it has become a bigger part of my life every year since!

When did you start to identify as an educator? Was it the same time, or was it later?

I believe it was in 2005 that I first started thinking of myself as an educator instead of a volunteer or outreach worker. It was at that time that I began teaching about sex and gender as a guest lecturer in University classrooms, and that somehow legitimized things for me. Of course, now I realize that one doesn’t need to teach at a school to be an educator.

Did you do anything in particular to prepare for being a sex educator?

Yes, I got a LOT of training and mentorship! My own university studies did not focus on sex or gender most of the time, unfortunately. So, I attended a lot of professional conferences and other training events, read every good book and journal article I could, became a member of relevant professional associations, and went out of my way to network with experienced educators who could mentor me. And I still do all of those things! Now I contribute to all of those avenues as a professional, too.

How did you get started in sex education?

I was fortunate to have an internship with a local clinic’s pregnancy options counselors (aka an abortion counselor) when I was an undergrad. I learned a great deal during that time, and not just just about the politics and experiences around abortion.

Are there any topics that you consider your specialty?

I do a great deal of work around gender-queer and sex-queer experiences and identities, as well as sex & aging and sex & disability. However, most of my work is of a generalist nature, and is focused on sexual communication, techniques, and pleasure.

Have you seen any changes in the sex positive community education over the years?

It’s possible that I’ve simply become more aware of the community with time and involvement, but I do think we’re a growing movement! With the slow growth in relevant university programs and other training opportunities, we’re also becoming a better educated movement.

Do you have any pet peeves about sex educators?

There is a lot of value in sharing one’s sexual experiences, but that isn’t the same thing as sex education. Quality sex educators do not assume that their experiences are (or should be) representative of others’, nor do they teach from their own experiences. It’s an easy mistake to make, but it’s unfortunately how often I see educators who seem to be unaware that it is a mistake.

What advice would you give aspiring sex/kink educators?

You don’t need a university degree in this area to do good work, but you do need to invest a great deal of your time, energy, and resources into your own training. And that commitment never ends! If you’re not willing to dedicate yourself to ongoing learning, then you’re putting yourself and those who learn from you at risk.

3 thoughts on “Dr. Ruthie – Educator [Interview]

  1. I think it’s possible to use one’s own experiences as a jumping off point and to help prompt discussion in one’s classes, as long as one is up-front about doing so (not doing “by accident” or presenting one’s own life as The Way Things Are but, rather, telling the students something like “For example, my own experience is blah-blah-blah, but not everyone is going to have the same ______________ as I do.”

    • Agreed. I use personal stories ALL the time in my classes and they’re one of my strengths. But it does have to have a point/lesson, it does have to be concise and memorable and it definitely needs to have the ‘clause’ that you mention Syrens, something along the lines of “…your experience will be your own”

    • I agree with you, Syrens, and often give examples from my personal life. However, I think it is important that those not be the only examples given. So, I also go out of my way to give examples, anecdotes, and stories that are not personal to me or even related to me and my experience. For examples, I switch up pronouns randomly and give examples of power structures I don’t participate in and fetishes I don’t have.

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