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Hosted by: Defy the Box
Episode Notes: Megan Andelloux, also known as Oh Megan!works as a board certified sexologist and sexuality educator. She is the founder and director of The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, a non-profit sexuality organization attempting to open in Rhode Island.
Click HERE to listen to the podcast
The CSPH was set to open in last fall, however the city of Pawtucket has censored sexual education from taking place. She, along with other sex positive citizens, the ACLU and her lawyer are currently fighting the towns decision.
Outside of defending sexual liberties, she travels throughout the country providing workshops on sex pleasure, health and advocacy issues for college/universities. She also works closely with medical schools, training future health care providers how to conduct friendly pelvic exams and be sex positive. More information about Oh Megan can be found on her website. You can also read her column: Undercover Investigations located at Carnal Nation here.
1. I kept hearing people ask the same questions about sexuality but it always seemed like there was shame behind the questions. I couldn’t understand how a culture could create an entire population to be ignorant and feel bad about the same things. I wanted to change that.
2. It was a way for me to challenge the gender roles I was taught. “Good girls” were not supposed to talk openly about this subject.
3. I had a knack for memorizing sexual statistics. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s a gift.
How did you start giving sex advice?
When I was 16, I had a conversation with my high school girlfriends about masturbation and orgasms. I remember being shocked that they said they hadn’t ever fondled themselves. That was the first time I remember talking openly about sexuality.
Where did you get your education in sexuality?
I received my Bachelor of Science degree from URI. From there I went on to intern at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States and then worked for 10 years at Planned Parenthood affiliates as a sexuality educator. Attending conferences, reading medical journals and sexuality studies is all part of the course too.
What do you love about giving sex advice?
I love being able to model that it’s ok to talk about sexuality openly. That is by far the thing I love most about the work I do. That’s it’s ok to talk about this subject, even if makes you a little uncomfortable.
What is your most common question?
“Is it normal…..” People want to find out if what they are experiencing is something that happens to other people a lot. There is comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.
What is your favorite sex toy and why?
Fingers! 10 free sex toys that are always accessible and clandestine yet remain exhibitionistic at the same time. How could you not love this perfect gift?
Where do you teach? If you travel, what is it like? Where was your favorite place to teach? Most unusual panel or experience?
I teach all over the country; at colleges, high schools, churches, conferences and medical organizations.
The thing I’ve learned most about traveling is that it doesn’t matter where you go, people still have the same questions about sexuality. Be it liberal San Francisco or in the deep woods of Maine, people just don’t know how/why there body works.
My favorite place to teach is at college campuses, the students have such amazing energy and they are there because they want to be. Mix thought provoking questions with enthusiasm and the desire to learn and you have one heck of a good time!
I think the most unusual experience that I have had is how to quickly adapt into the environment I am teaching for. In the morning I could be conducting a workshop in a very clinical setting with medical providers and later that afternoon I could be hearing the newest sexual slang terms fly out of a youth’s mouth. The different atmospheres in which I am employed by is challenging because it is always something new.
What was the most interesting thing you learned in your exploration of sex?
Sexuality is a journey, not a destination. When I was starting out I was much more clinical about it, very fact based, less emotion. As I’ve grown into the field, and myself, I realize that sexuality has so many different components to it and while that can be terrifying it can be quite exhilarating too.
How has what you’ve done or found at Good Vibrations helped you?
Good Vibrations offers adults a safe place to learn about sexuality. Through the books they carry, the materials for sell or the staff they hire to put people at ease, Good Vibrations works hard every single day to help people feel good.
What would be your number one piece of advice for someone interested in a career of sex education?
Get a mentor. Find someone in the field with whom you can shadow and work with. It’s a small field and once you know one person, you will quickly meet more and more people who believe in the work we are doing.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned or best advice you’ve received?
Know what your “trigger” points are and don’t provide workshops on topics you haven’t wrapped your brain around yet.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about sex?
That sex is something to be fearful of. Be it your sexual desires, your fantasies or behaviors, people tend to be very afraid of “what it all means”.
Which is your favorite project that you’ve worked on?
Learning how to advocate for Sex Workers Rights through Speak Up!
What is your best piece of sex advice for women?
Masturbate. For the love of God, masturbate. It gets you in touch with your body, your feelings, and your desires. It helps you have orgasms, better health in general and it’s a great stress relief. As George Carlin once said, “God wouldn’t want our hands to fall where they do if s(he) didn’t want us to touch ourselves.”
What projects are you working on now?
I’m fighting to open an adult sex education center in RI (The CSPH), speaking at colleges and creating a sexuality curriculum for medical students at Boston University’s Medical School.
I recently met an incredible feminist, Megan Andelloux, on campus at Brandeis University when she did a workshop on sexual pleasure and awareness as part of our annual Vagina Week, leading up to the Vagina Monologues.
As an FMLA member, this was a great feminist event – 1 – Megan is insanely empowering! 2 – we were able to pull in a lot of student’s that wouldn’t necessarily come to a FMLA meeting/event because her workshops are about improving one’s sexual awareness and skills .
Campus clubs were able to collaborate on bringing Megan to campus because she is both health and pleasure focused and fantastically entertaining.
Megan is about to launch an exciting new project, The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, with a *Grand Opening* this month in Rhode Island.
To give you a chance to get to know her better and an opportunity to come to the Grand Opening where there will be lots of food, fun, give-aways and famous sex-positive feminist activists, here is an exerpt of my interview with Megan:
E: So Megan, what do you do?
M: I work as a sexuality educator in many different formats. The majority of my time is spent providing workshops at colleges and universities on topics relating to sexual pleasure and health (the focus being more on the pleasure and intertwining health in). [...] I work within the medical community, teaching medical students and providers how to be sex positive doctor’s, educating them on common concerns/questions and topics the public holds (but that they aren’t taught in med school) and finally, how to provide safe, non-threatening, empowering pelvic exams. And I do that with the use of my body (vagina, brain and mouth). [...and] I work within the media as a public policy analyst regarding sexual rights challenges to our freedoms.
E: What does being a feminist mean to you?
M: A feminist is something I would most identify myself as. My passion, my life work’s, all of my reading materials and a day to day way of life for me. To me, being a feminist is all about giving people options. The option to do this or that, go into one field vs. another, to become a sex worker, to be monogamous to one person only, choose one type of birth control over another, etc. Being a feminist means challenging others and yourself. When you feel uncomfortable, ask yourself why? When someone says something you don’t agree with or don’t understand, ask them why? It’s only through the option of challenging others, which is a right we have fought for and won, that we grow and change the world for the better. We can’t just accept what we have, we have to want to build upon it.
That’s what being a feminist and a sex educator is to me. Options. Challenging. When people go to my workshops, yes I want them to have fun and learn, but I also want them to ask questions with the information I provide! I want to push people! Because really, those questions are going to spark a change in the future. New research, new standards of roles one can possess, totally new concepts can occur when you don’t accept what is laid before you.
E: How did you get involved in the world of sexuality?
M: There are three answers I give to this question. The fun and easy answer is I had a knack for memorizing sex facts, don’t ask me why. I had a knack for memorizing sexual issues and it was a social issue, a perfect fit for me. At first I wanted to be a sex therapist, but I quickly found out that I wanted to help people BEFORE they ended up with sexual issues, so I went into education.
Secondly, being a Sexuality Educator was a way for me to rebel against the way a girl was supposed to behave. My parents subscribed to strict gender role behaviors and “good girls don’t talk about sex”. When I decided this was going to be my career path, I choose to tell my parents in a restaurant so they couldn’t freak out on me. The first thing that was said was Oh! Megan! Girls can’t do that! Typical. but that’s also why I choose to name my company Oh Megan! because my mother was always saying that to me for talking about sexually related topics. Oh Megan! That’s inappropriate.
Thirdly, I think I became involved in the world of sexuality because after I was raped, no one would talk to me about it. I didn’t have a space where I could fully disclose because people were uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle the conversation. It seemed strange to me, and I was angry that our culture talks so much about sex, but we don’t provide answers when people have questions and concerns. I think becoming a sex educator was a way for me to work out some of my issues, get answers to my questions and to provide a space so others wouldn’t feel alone or ashamed for what they were thinking or had experienced.
E: The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health sounds incredible. Can you talk about the relationship between the sex-positive world and the medical world?
M: My work’s mission is to join these two world together so I had to create The Center!
Too often the medical world turns it’s back on the pleasure-focused side of sex and the pleasure-focused world is totally bored by the medical world. But they need each other to survive! The Center will be a respectable entity for medical providers to work with and is already developing ties with Boston University, Brown University, Mass General Hospital and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical Schools.
Working with professionals in the medical field, and most importantly, with medical students, we can create change within the medical school curriculum. Some medical students are starting to chime in that they want more sexuality information. (The majority of med students have 12 hours of sex education composed of birth control, pregnancy, STD’s and sometimes, pregnancy terminations.) I am working closely with Boston University Medical School and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to develop sexuality curriculum with fundamental structural changes.
Outside of the medical world, it’s important to remember that most people want to understand their body; what’s taking place within them. Traditionally, that information has been withheld from the public, but the feminist and pro-sex communities have some of the best documentations and discussions on sex and sexual health data.
The Center’s focus will be education and advocacy work. The CSPH will be the perfect blend of health, pleasure and advocacy. There will be written & visual resources, medical journals pertaining to sexual issues available, toys (with education on what we would/wouldn’t recommend), kink-friendly resources, sexual health and rights speakers, medical and pro-sex positive resources available for loan right from the start, and in the spring, offer a certification series for sex education classes with C.E. credits.
E: Are there any opportunities to get involved with the center either as an individual or as a campus organization?
M: Yes! The best way to get involved would be to attend the grand opening on Sept 26th in Pawtucket, RI. The grand opening will be a fund raising event and feature some of the best and brightest individuals in the field! Sex educators, sex therapists, sex worker advocates, authors, and sexual right advocates will be speaking and you can schmooze with them after they speak. (Scheduled speakers include Carol Queen, Bill Taverner, Betty Dodson, Gina Ogden, oh yeah, and me!) Tables with community and national resources will be throughout the location so people can learn more about resources they might not have known about.
You can also attend classes and workshops which will start in the fall and in the spring, apply to be an intern! As a campus organization, if you can’t come to us, we can come to you and talk about sexual advocacy issues, starting a nonprofit, getting into the field, etc.
E: How can I get you to come to my campus?!
M: Fill out the contact form here
By AMY LITTLEFIELD | February 13, 2008
Megan Andelloux, 31, sits on a folding chair at the front of her classroom. In front of her sit 10 terrified people, smiling awkwardly. They play with toy spiders and other “fidget toys” that she has left on their chairs, as she crosses her legs, arranges her styled red hair, and tells them not to stare.
“If you just stare,” she says, “I’ll get nervous, and when I get nervous I get hives.”
Her class today is two middle-aged couples, five women of various ages, and a middle-aged man.
They have come here today, to the back room at Miko Exoticwear on Wickenden Street in Providence, because they have questions that they can’t ask anywhere else. They have come here to learn about sex.
“Laughing is good,” she tells them, and her students laugh uncomfortably. And then the lesson begins.
It is not a traditional lesson, and Megan, in her denim skirt and low-cut shirt, with her pierced nose and the crow tattoo on her left bicep, is not a traditional teacher.
Today’s class is called “oh, Oh, OH,” and it focuses on female sexual desire, pleasure, and orgasms. For two hours, Andelloux will show videotapes of people experiencing orgasm and of women fondly examining each other’s genitalia.
She will quote dozens of statistics and answer questions shouted out by her students. They warm to her witty, familiar teaching style shortly after she tells them that she is a certified sexologist — “That means I get to talk about sex all day, and I love it.” Andelloux notes she is a gynecological teaching assistant, providing hands-on modeling and feedback to medical students performing their first gynecological exams, and that about once a month she goes to parties where men pay to admire her feet.
Her partner, Derek Andelloux, explains clinically that she is the best small-group educator he has ever watched. As a third-year medical student at Boston University, he says, he’s seen a lot of them.
Know the body beautiful
But Andelloux has not only mastered the art of teaching people. She has become an expert at making people feel at ease with one of the most uncomfortable facets of everyday life. As the director of the Sexuality Learning and Resource Center at Miko Exoticwear, a sex store (disclosure: it’s a Phoenix advertiser) that seeks to educate customers, talking about sex is part of Andelloux’s job description, and she has undergone years of training to learn how to do so.
Andelloux not only talks about penises and vaginas without giggling, she talks about them in a way that makes other people want to talk about them. This is why, minutes into the workshop, her students put down their fidget toys and start talking.
When Andelloux explains that there are changes that take place during menstruation that cause a woman to become more sensitive to sexual pleasure, one of her students shouts out, “Oh!”
“Is that why!” the woman exclaims. Her face lights up and she jumps halfway out of her seat. “Me and my husband,” she explains, smiling, “well, we do it in the shower . . . ”
The class nods, knowingly. Andelloux is teaching them that this kind of talk is good. It is educational.
The tools that Andelloux uses for her brand of education include a confetti assortment of sex toys, a bookshelf full of binders and titles like The Guide to Getting It On, a giant Benchtop toolbox filled with birth control devices, and a vulva puppet made of purple and red satin that she has affectionately dubbed “Veronica.” Veronica’s counterpart, a more realistic model of the female vulva and internal reproductive organs, rests on a shelf in the orange room. Her name is Fanny.
Andelloux and Fanny have been everywhere together. Once, Andelloux brought Fanny to a restaurant with her niece, Becky, where she mortified the 13-year-old by snapping out the uterus and discussing menstruation the way someone else might discuss a recent victory by the Patriots. More recently, she used Fanny to point out to her 69-year-old mother the placement of her cervix and clitoris.
The making of a sexpert
Andelloux’s parents were not always willing to listen to these attempts at education. For a while her father referred to her as a psychologist, and scratched out the line on her business card that listed her real profession.
When Andelloux first decided to go into sex education, she chose to tell her parents over a meal at McDonald’s. Her mother was eating a hamburger. Right before she took a bite, Megan said, “I’m gonna be a sex educator.”
Her mother said, “Girls can’t do that. Girls can’t talk about those things.” Her father said nothing.
“I didn’t know about it,” her mother says. “It was not even a thought in my head. I just didn’t think that there was such a thing. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life heard someone say they were a sexual health educator. But I do now.”
What didn’t surprise Carol Anderson was the fact that her daughter found a job doing something she really believed in. “If she believed in it, she took a stand on it,” Anderson recalls. “It may not have been a stand that everyone went along with. But it usually came out okay.”
Growing up with her parents and her much older brother and sister in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, Andelloux remembers, “No one ever talked to me about sex. My mom didn’t even give me ‘The Talk.’ ”
Four months before Megan’s first period, someone put a box of menstrual products and books outside of her room. No one spoke to her about it.
This silence around sexuality was part of what made her want to talk to others about it when she grew up.
And when she got a little older, Andelloux did talk. She talked a lot. She protested for environmental justice and animal rights. She stood on the steps of the Massachusetts State House in Boston. She plastered her room with pictures of oil spills and baby seals being clubbed to death for their fur. When her high school didn’t have an environmental group, she started one.
“She was into things that were right, but that no one spoke up about, really,” her mother says.
She spoke up for those who couldn’t speak. And she knew, better than most teenagers, what it was like to feel like she didn’t have a voice.
The power of talk
At the age of 17, Megan was raped by a classmate in the woods near her home. She speaks now, in a voice that is even and distant, about how she didn’t feel clean afterwards, about how she showered in very, very hot water, and how she felt like there was something wrong with her skin.
For eight years, Megan did not speak about what had happened. When she was 25, she finally told her roommate. And then she told Derek, one night, when he wondered why she was crying after he had grabbed her neck during oral sex.
She talks about it now, and she has found, in her job, a way of “acting out,” of showing that she is managing it. For Megan, the crow tattoo on her arm symbolizes her ability to deal with the situations that have made her feel powerless.
She always wears shirts that reveal the tattoo when she teaches. It is a kind of communication. It doesn’t matter that her students don’t know exactly what it means. She knows that it means she is working hard, every day, to handle it.
“I think that going into this field was my way of acting out my stuff,” she says. “So I didn’t verbalize that I was assaulted, but I did talk about sex in a very open format. I talked about it so much that I contributed to other people talking about it. Even though I wasn’t talking about my stuff, I was opening a door for others to start talking about their stuff. It is almost like, you assaulted and silenced me and I don’t want that for other people.
“I think that if sexuality had been discussed in my family, I would’ve been more likely to say that I was hurt when I was. But it wasn’t, so that was the hand of cards I drew. I think this was probably the healthiest way I could have dealt with my stuff, you know? Instead of focusing in on me, I wanted to change the format so that things weren’t hidden, for the more that they are hidden and whispered upon, the less likely that problems will be noticed.”
Megan opened the door for others constantly. Tim Ashton, a close friend and ex-boyfriend who met Megan at Mitchell College in New London, Connecticut, says it was her openness that made their relationship special.
He remembers that the two of them would tell each other everything. Megan listened. She made others want to talk. One night she and Tim stole chairs from the TV room in her building so that Megan, who was a resident advisor, could set up a therapist’s office in her dorm room. Everyone used it.
A post-modern love story
In college at the University of Rhode Island, where she attended school after two years at Mitchell College, Andelloux continued to exude what her partner Derek fondly calls “some kind of moxie.”
Derek Andelloux remembers when he first knew that she was something special. One of their college friends threw a bash, and Megan convinced the friend to make it into a drag party. Most of the girls just wore baggy pants, but Megan went all-out. She duct-taped her breasts down flat and wore a flesh-colored bandage over them. She drew on fake nipples and fake chest hair. She wore a Budweiser bandana.
“She looked just like a biker,” her partner recalls. “It was amazing.”
Though they knew each other in college, the pair didn’t start dating until 2002, after Derek came back from the Peace Corps in Senegal. At the time, Megan was working for Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. He was and remains proud of her for educating people about sexual health. He is also supportive of her work as a gynecological teaching assistant, and of her role as a foot fetish model — a job that both Megan and Derek view as a form of education.
Megan says she is educating men that it’s okay to love feet; Derek says she is educating herself about different kinds of people.
Derek Andelloux is an ex-football player, and he is built like one. He is blonde and blue-eyed with high cheekbones, and, like all blondes, Megan says, he smells like candy. He is husky, and Dutch-looking, and enjoys chopping wood. And after a few years of dating, he wanted to propose to Megan.
But Megan refused.
She gave him a hundred different reasons why marriage was antiquated and sexist. She pointed out that her gay friends couldn’t get married. She didn’t want to lose her identity, to be introduced as Derek’s wife, to be seen as a ball and chain instead of a sexual being. But she did want to spend the rest of her life with Derek.
The couple agreed to have a commitment ceremony instead, and after exchanging rings in front of 135 friends and relatives in September 2004, they merged their last names — he went from being Derek Mailloux to Derek Andelloux, and she added the French suffix to the first two syllables of “Anderson.”
Megan’s parents, who have been married for 49 years, saw her refusal to get married as a personal blow. “They took it as a slap in the face to them,” she says. “They thought they had done something wrong.”
Her mother says, “I think she has more ideas that I find are different from my ideas. It’s okay. It’s not harmful. It’s just different. The world is different . . . It’s a different world today.”
All in the family
Though Andelloux does not plan on having children of her own, she loves the sassiness and angst of teenagers. She often picks her niece Becky up in a town outside of Worcester, Massachusetts, and takes her out to dinner or shopping for shoes. Although Becky’s parents, Andelloux’s sister Amy and her husband Michael Zakarian, don’t approve of her attempts to educate their children, Andelloux finds ways to spend time with her niece and her nephew, Tommy.
When Becky, who is now 15, got her first period, Andelloux made sure her first experience with menstruation would be different from her own. She told her niece that menstruation was nothing to be ashamed of.
“I used to be uptight about my period,” Becky Zakarian remembers. “She of course, wasn’t.”
Becky says her aunt wanted to show her that menstruation should be something that is “out in the open.” So Andelloux threw Becky a party. She rented out the auditorium at University of Rhode Island. She looked up 230 different euphemisms for menstruation, and plastered them all over the wall. She made a CD of music about periods. She found Lysol douche ads from the 19th and early 20th century, educational videos shown to sixth-graders in the 1930s, and old-fashioned menstrual products and vibrators.
She decorated. “When I do something, I do it hardcore,” she says. She invited friends. She told Becky to buy a dress.
Becky Zakarian says her aunt has “shaped her a lot.” Becky has gotten into environmental activism, women’s rights, gay rights, and vegetarianism, picking up on the causes her aunt began to speak up about at a young age. But the most important thing that Becky has learned from her aunt, she says, is to be open.
“Her main thing,” she says, “is that it’s okay to talk about things.”
The openness that Megan inspires has also extended to Becky’s brother, Tommy, and to Derek Andelloux, who now regularly strikes up conversations about things like prostate gland stimulation with his friends.
Tommy, who is a first-year at University of New Hampshire, says sometimes he and Megan just sit and talk for hours. He says he feels like he can tell his aunt anything. All sex questions go automatically to her. “She’s funky and spunky,” Tommy says. “I love her.”
He still remembers Megan’s campaigns to “brainwash” him as a small child about the need to protect the animals and save the whales. Tommy bought it. He is now majoring in environmental engineering.
Winning converts and influence
Andelloux has started to spread her openness and activism to the general public and, more recently, to her parents. An article she wrote about the menstruation party she threw for Becky was published in a feminist anthology, We Got Issues. She was surprised when Carol and Fred Anderson showed up to a reading.
“My mom walked out of there so happy,” she says. “My dad just said, ‘You talked really well.’ ”
Her parents have begun to understand that talking and helping people talk is an important part of Andelloux’s job. And even though people sometimes have trouble understanding what she means when she tells them her daughter is a sexual health educator, Carol Anderson knows that conversation can help clear these things up.
“It’s good to have the talk there,” she says.
Two summers ago, Carol and Fred Anderson saw Miko Exoticwear for the first time. Her father, who believes that pornography is sick, carefully avoided the shelves full of adult-themed DVDs. He called the rest of the store “classy.”
Epilogue: Class is dismissed
Megan Andelloux ends her workshop by offering take-home packets full of diagrams and tips. She presses her hands together and says, “Yay! Thank you for coming to female sexual pleasure!” Her students get up and clamor for packets. Many of them ask to take home two. A few women gather around to ask questions. They tell stories.
“I’m on this medication . . .” one woman begins.
Andelloux listens. She directs her to the bookshelf.
“I heard about these things called Smartballs,” says another student. “For exercising your Kegel muscles?”
Andelloux nods. She points to the shelf where Smartballs hang like pieces of colorful candy. The students mill about in the store, looking at the carnival of sex toys, lubricants and lotions, books and brassieres. They smile at each other. They reach out to touch things they have never seen before. They talk.