When the Professional Is Personal: Calling Out the Whitewashing of the Sexuality Field [Updated 12/3/14]

NOTE: First time reader? Skip the text between the two horizontal lines below. Already read it? Most recent updates are summarized at the top but you can also see their expanded form within the text. Barring any huge developments, there will be no more updates to this post.

12/3/14: Further updates, in summary form: Reid [a contributor] wrote publicly about this (video is still forthcoming). His partner, Allison Moon (of Girl Sex 101 and Tales of the Pack) has written a post as well. Carl Frankel has once again revised his statements. Sadly, the process has still not been transparent. For the curious, here are the various iterations of it (and note the comment section): version 1, version 2, version 3, and the currently live page. Finally, for a variety of reasons, neither I nor WOCSHN as a collective are engaging with advising or collaborating on the Secrets of the Sex Masters revisions process any further.

12/2/14: Key updates in a new section have been added. Click here.

On first glance, 95% of people can’t tell I’m Latina, or that I’m bilingual—born and raised in Puerto Rico until I turned 18 and came to the continental U.S. for my undergraduate degree. My face adds exactly zero racial diversity points to pictures because I’m pale as heck, and due to my  knack for languages, I don’t have an identifiably non-Anglo accent. However, I identify as a person of color (POC), and more importantly, a woman of color (WOC) due to my ethnic and cultural background, as well as my political leanings and activism around these identities. That means a lot of things, particularly because even in POC spaces, colorism and anti-blackness still exist, and being Latina in the continental U.S. is very different than being one in PR.

So when I saw a recently-published book that highlighted 16 “sex masters” and noticed everyone was White (with no one bringing it up publicly), I figured I needed to do something as both a WOC and sexuality professional. (I didn’t focus on other oppressions because I hadn’t read the book and didn’t know more about the personal IDs of the contributors around axes like gender ID, ability level, etc. but maintain that inclusivity along these axes is also critical).


If you know me, you know I’m an activist, but also pretty damn diplomatic, so regardless of whatever I was feeling, my first step was to publicly ask the author and some of the contributors (including some I consider friends as well as professional colleagues) what the deal was. This set off a chain of events that continues to be in motion right now, and I want to share with you. [If you’re looking for the official, collective WOCSHN response which I worked on with some fierce ladies, peep it here instead.]

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For Gloria Anzaldúa (in the vein of “Your Body Figured”)

You were always a precocious little girl.

Bleeding before your time, red where only other colors should be.
Secret rags that you washed and hung on a low cactus, chest bound tight as if you were trying to shove everything back inside of yourself.

Did you ever feel special encased in those girdles?
Did you feel snug and protected, cradled like a little doll inside a chrysalis?
Or did you feel trapped, squeezed inside a too-small cocoon that was made by someone else—your mother-moth?

Stunted growth at twelve only affected your body; everything else kept expanding, including the pain. It made you dissociate—thoughts carried off somewhere else while your nerves screamed, energy coursing to your brain, telling you to do something. Years later, fibroids and fevers, body pulsating and rocking and drowning all at the same time. Everything floating out of you, concrete reality left behind, in a twist of fate, the tighter the pain and the girdles and the world coiled around you.

You were always a spiritual person.

Your name—a chant, a praise raised as a glory to whom?
In life, to your heritage: mestiza, a borderlands calling for a new consciousness.
Maybe now that you’re somewhere else you’d say the earth, warmed with dripping blood that haunted you for so long, blood that shamed parts of your body into hiding.

Your name made you a bearer of good news, a daughter of Eve and angels, unholy union that brought us all closer to peace through gospel-song. You would not be socialized into silence; you would rebel and write and claw at the privilege, the ground, and the barbed-wire fences meant to separate us. You focused on the gaps and the connections that you could create there, fashioned out of your own flesh, the bones in your back, a stairway to heaven constructed out of ribs. Your back, broken and rebuilt as a bridge for others to cross. Your innards scooped out to deal with the pain and the lumps, leaving a hole where you could finally live, where others could rest from the world. Dark and cavernous, you dove inside to write from the core. Yet there was still pain, its epicenters on your skin, drawn all over your body like tiny targets.

You were as groundbreaking as an earthquake.

They called you traitor, a cultural betrayer, for rocking the boat and exposing the rot, the soft underbelly—so pale from being hidden from the light. You knew what you were doing.

You knew you were born a queer.

Conceptualizations of Sex

The sex itself? It’s sweatier and it’s sweeter, all at once. When it’s tender, it’s not tender like a Hallmark card, but like a cookie fresh out of the oven: steaming, moist, delectable and melt-in-your-mouth. When it’s forceful, it’s not so because one partner is being assaulted or dominated, but because the energy and strong unity of a shared desire feels so urgent and deeply wanted that both partners leap upon it like someone who has been on a hunger strike for a week might approach an all-you-can-eat buffet. Her expectations and the experience of her sexual initiation seem less like a country-western serenade and more an 80’s power ballad.

And another quotation, because it’s what I want out of my sex-life (and so far, what I have):

This sex doesn’t just feel okay, nor is it good simply because it is painless. This sex feels freaking magnificent. Sure, sometimes it’s magnificent like riding a rollercoaster or having a near-death experience, and at other times it’s magnificent like soaking your feet after a long day, but it’s always so much more than just okay.

Via Scarleteen: An Immodest Proposal (which, is in turn: Reprinted from Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape, edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, Seal Press, 2008)