This is a new page/column we’re going to have here at WWM, and I thought I’d let our new writer introduce himself and say a bit. So here it is.
How did I get here?
copyright Todd Veros, 2015
“Are you gonna learn how to, like, have sex with people?”
I heard this question about ten thousand times after I got accepted into an accredited Master’s degree program in clinical human sexuality. And for the record, I already knew how to have sex – no thanks to my abstinence-only education in high school.
Actually, that abstinence-only “education” has a lot to do with why I applied for the program in the first place. People need and deserve to know the facts about sex and sexuality, and a lot of us don’t get them. I didn’t want other people to have the same awkwardness that I had of needing to ask their first sex partner if the pee-hole was, in fact, different from the baby-hole.
So if every class wasn’t an orgy, what was I studying? The first couple classes were devoted to pushing the boundaries of what people were comfortable seeing and talking about, since not everyone has a missionary-position-only fetish. It’s called a Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR), and it involves being exposed (hee!) in some way to a sexual practice that you don’t learn about in Catholic school. It was hard to imagine that some people would pay a shitload of money to work on a degree in human sexuality if they didn’t already know that some people like to be spanked – but they were there on the first day, and most of them stayed until the last.
We watched uncomfortable videos, we listened to guest speakers, we read articles. We had classroom discussions, we made blog posts, we wrote twelve-page papers. We had to think about it, on both intellectual and emotional levels, and examine where our own ideas and prejudices came from. We learned why people do the weird stuff, what kinds of stigma they’re subjected to, and how prevalent kinks and fetishes are (pro tip: you’re far from the only one, my friend). Most importantly, we were reminded that everyone deserves respect, even if we don’t understand what gets them off.
Then there were classes in sexual anatomy (“pee comes out here; babies come out here”), sexual minorities, ways to teach people about this stuff ourselves, how to do sex therapy (which is also done with your pants on), and more. I had two year-long internships, an intensely personalized SAR at the end, and did I mention a shitload of student debt?
Yet when I tell people now that I have a Master’s degree in human sexuality, most of them say, “So did you have sex in all your classes?”
And that brings me back to why I studied this in the first place: because we live in a culture where most people can’t imagine sex as a topic for serious study. We’re taught from the beginning that sex is something you giggle about but don’t talk about. Pundits and Facebook trolls debate whether or not Caitlyn Jenner is a hero for bringing trans issues into the public discourse, while trans women are being murdered in record numbers. BDSM was unheard of for most Americans until a 48-year-old Twilight fangirl portrayed it inaccurately, and the Oprah demographic wound up in the emergency room imitating 50 Shades of Grey. Those two book series are targeted at women and young girls and have sold a hundred million copies each with stories about severely abusive relationships, because the readers have been taught to believe that equals romance. Teenagers in the U.S. have several times more sexually transmitted infection, unintended parenthood, and abortions than most European countries because most Americans still blush at the mention of “sex ed.”
I wanted to change all of that.
And also find out where the pee comes from.
Todd Veros holds Master’s degrees in human sexuality and social work.