What Is a “Beacon of Permission”?

Photo credit: Carol Jones

Photo credit: Carol Jones

When you’re hanging out, do you and your friends, peers, sex partners, etc., talk about sex? Not just about who is a good or bad kisser, or what certain people are like in bed. Rather, do you have heartfelt conversations, do you ask personal questions that lead to more healthy, informed choices in your’s and other people’s lives?

Not many people have this opportunity with others. It is more common, instead, to avoid sex conversations altogether. When sex educator, Kate McCombs was asked during a panel discussion, “What can we do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” McCombs response was, “To become a beacon of permission.”

What she means by this is to become a sound board with whom others feel safe to talk about sex and ask questions they might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing.

It is about intentionally creating a safe, non-judgmental, shame-free space to talk about sex in a health-promoting way. As McCombs wrote elsewhere, “It’s someone who acts as a beacon to shine light on the shame shadows that traditionally surround conversations about sex.”

This does not mean to talk about sex in some radical, edging or pop-cultural fashion. Key to Kate McCombs’ concept is that the dialogue must be honest, educational and healing. When people are more informed about themselves and their bodies they are better equipped to take care of themselves and the people they care about. If we approached personal sex conversations with less shame and sensationalism, and more honesty and open-mindedness, we can explore concepts of sexuality in more healthy, positive ways. It makes the world a better place for us all.

This article was originally published here.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

As is glaringly obvious, I love talking about sex.

For me, being a sex educator isn’t just about teaching about sex in a vacuum – it’s also about talking about it with others in order to normalize discussions about sexuality.

Far too often, people feel uneasy talking about sex. And I don’t mean sensationalized, pop-culture sex. There’s a lot of that talk happening. I’m referring to genuine, sincere discussions about sex that lead to healthful, mindful choices and meaningful connection in people’s lives.

Some people might avoid sex conversations altogether, while others might make jokes to mask their discomfort. I’m all for finding the playful, humorous sides of sex, but I recognize that laughter can sometimes be an indicator of embarrassment or shame.

Many of us – not just professional sex educators and therapists – have the unique desire, knowledge, and skills to become what I call “beacons of permission” in the world. By “permission” I mean permission to have honest, educational, and even healing conversations about sex. Many people who describe themselves as “sex positive” or “sex geeky” fall under this category.

Does the following sound familiar? Many of the sex-positive folks I know describe themselves as always being “that friend” to whom others could turn when they had sexual questions. That sort of unofficial peer education is a manifestation of that permission-giving.

When I tell new acquaintances what I do for a living, I often become the sounding board for sex and relationship questions and (occasionally) whispered confessions. Nearly all of the sex educators I know describe having similar experiences.

This is what being a beacon of permission looks like: by communicating that you are a safe person with whom to talk about sex, you create spaces wherein people can explore ideas that have been marinating for days or decades.

Not all conversations about sex are equal. Most people notice that sex occupies a significant percentage of the airwaves. From “sexting” moral panic, to the recent sexual exploits of a B-list reality TV star, the media is full of sex, but it’s very rarely explored in a way that leads to better understanding of sexuality.

I suspect that some people may become so over-saturated with the sex alarmism and titillation that permeates the media that they may find it more difficult to hear messages that are actually educational, useful, or health-promoting.

Not all conversations have to be serious. I think it can be deeply cathartic to laugh about sex (see “Burritos and Ball Jokes”). But I think that bringing greater intention to the conversation – intentions like “shedding light on a taboo topic” or “reducing sex-negativity” – can go a long way in shaping our understanding of what it means to talk about sex.

So when an audience member at a panel I was on asked, “What can we as sex geeks do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” I lit up. I responded by describing this concept of being a beacon of permission and intentionally fostering meaningful dialogue.

I suspect that people are hungry for this kind of meaning, so when a safe-space creating, sex-positive person enters their lives, they’ll usually take the opportunity to engage. Whether you would consider yourself a “sex geek” or not, I encourage you to become a beacon of permission to others.

I argue that in order to reduce sex-negativity, the world needs to start by having more of these safe spaces. I’m grateful that it’s my job to help facilitate them.

Unsure what size

kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

5 Ways to Stay Sex Positive when Dealing with Depression

Photo credit: Martjin de Valk

Photo credit: Martjin de Valk

Sex may be the last thing on your mind when you’re depressed. But sex educator and coach, JoEllen Notte explains that being “sex positive” does not simply mean having lots of orgasms. In this article, she defines sex positivity as acknowledging and remembering part of your identity as sexual. This is important because regardless of gender, age, or state of health, a shameless, healthy sex life is the right of every person.

Yet as one is battling with the physical and emotional states of depression, it’s an enormous challenge to care for oneself and take pleasure in one’s sexuality. Here JoEllen offers five tips for doing all you can to make yourself feel good and stay sex positive when dealing with depression because ultimately this is what it is all about: taking good care of yourself.

After reading her piece, consider participating in JoEllen’s online survey about the impact of depression on sexuality.

Key points to remember are:

  • Sexuality can be a positive force in your life in which you grow and develop your passions. It is about respecting you for you.
  • When you aren’t feeling sexual, explore the sensual. Sexual and sensual are not necessarily the same thing.  Sensuality is about navigating your sense around what feels good. It can be as simple as taking a scented bath.
  • Be reflective about what motivates you to make certain choices in your sex life.
  • Sex positivity is not about the quantity of sex you are having. It’s about being aware of what you need that is right for you.
  • Advocate for yourself and talk to your doctor if you feel your depression and/or medication is affecting you sex life.

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

I’ve been having a hard time writing these last couple of weeks. New insurance led to a switch in which particular generic form of my antidepressant I received and lo and behold, the different one isn’t quite getting the job done. I’ve been a bit weepy (ok, more than a bit, pretty much anything involving dads gets me choked up… just happened while I was typing that), a bit brain-foggy, having a hard time focusing or getting stuff done (sorry if I owe you an email!), taking occasional sobbing breaks and getting hit with intermittent waves of free-floating guilt and paranoia. It sounds really bad but it’s kind of like when you live on a street with a lot of potholes, people who never drive down it think it’s the worst thing ever but you’ve learned to navigate, right? Anyway, while my doctor and insurance company duke it out (that’s right, they are currently arguing over why it’s worthwhile to treat me with the correct medication) I’m taking my vitamins, exercising and trying to focus outward (speaking of, congrats to the giveaway winners!). To that end I have come up with this handy little list.

Sometimes depression can suck the sexy right out of you which can be even more depressing. Let’s talk about some ways to fight that, shall we?

1. Remember, sex positivity isn’t about having all the orgasms.

I suspect some of you read the title of this and thought “Seriously? I’m depressed and you want me to worry about sex? Why don’t I just cure cancer while I’m at it?!” But remember, staying sex positive doesn’t mean going and having all the sex with all the screaming orgasms. Take that pressure away first off. In this case, I’m not even asking you to stay sex positive in the broader whole-world, big picture sense. I’m talking about you for you. I’m just asking that you remember your identity as a sexual being. Some depressed people don’t want to have sex. Sometimes medications render depressed people incapable of orgasm (we’ll come back to that in a minute) this does not mean sex is something that exists separately from you and only for others. Sometimes one of the hardest parts of depression is the chasm that seems to exist between you and the rest of the “not depressed” world (as you perceive it) don’t add to that by saying “sex positivity? eff that noise! I’m depressed!” just work with me here. 🙂

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting