But the Talk Provides Frank and Open Health Facts
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There’s little mystery behind a lecture called Fornication 101. But, there is plenty of debate about it at Central Connecticut State University.
A sex educator named Megan Andelloux is giving the lecture, which she tells The Hartford Courant is a “study of how people experience the erotic and express themselves as sexual beings with an emphasis on jollies, attitude awareness, sexual skill building and health.”
Andelloux has talked at dozens of schools, including Yale, Wesleyan and the Universities of Connecticut and said she’s never gotten negative comments about her work before, but she’s been receiving e-mails calling her “disgusting” and that she was contributing to immorality, the Courantreports.
Professors at CCSU are also putting their opinions on a university listerv.
Mark McLaughlin, a spokesman for the university, told the Courant he thinks the negative reaction is based on misconceptions that taxpayer money is being used to pay for the lecture. TheRuthe Boyea Women’s Center on campus and is sponsoring the event, which is paid for with private donations.
The spokesman also thinks people are confusing the lecture with an academic course and that it’s about sex rather than sexuality.
“We feel, despite the provocative title, her presentation really does focus on health, sexual consent, and providing a frank and open, factual presentation designed to appeal to college students,” McLaughlin told the Courant.
POSTED: 5:04 pm EST February 7, 2011
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — A new controversial sex seminar that could be coming to Central Connecticut State University in New Britain is raising eyebrows. It’s an explicit seminar that’s also offered at a number of other schools in the state.
This one-hour presentation put on by a Rhode Island based sexologist was initially slated to come to campus last week.
Fornication 101 is a seminar that promised to help participants “experience the erotic attitude awareness and sexual skill building.”
“It doesn’t seem to be a bad thing,” said student Ethan Pelletier. “We’re all adults here.”
Many different topics were to be discussed in a steamy sexology seminar slated to come to campus at CCSU before being canceled last week.
Certified sexologist Megan Andelloux, also known as Ms. Sexuality Speaker, tours universities talking about adult sex education.
One concerned woman in Meriden emailed Eyewitness News saying she was appalled her tax dollars would support such an offensive program, but school officials said the program was privately funded.
According to a university official, funds for the $600 presentation would come from private donations given to the Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center in support of its educational mission.
Taxpayer dollars are not used.
Despite the provocative title, the presentation clearly focuses on health, sexual consent and on providing a frank, open, positive and factual presentation designed to appeal to college-age students.
Officials said the seminar hasn’t been re-scheduled, but according to the sex educator’s website, she’ll be on campus in March.
For Immediate Release
Sexuality educators set the record straight: “Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections” despite what non-experts report.
Contact: Megan Andelloux
Contact: Aida Manduley
In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.
On February 3rd and 4th , certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.
Citizens Against Trafficking, the face behind the fear-mongering, spammed numerous local institutions from a University of Rhode Island account with its latest malicious missive that targeted specific individuals as well as Brown University. The author of the letter, Margaret Brooks, an Economics Professor at Bridgewater State, suggested that colleges and universities that host sexuality speakers, including those who are professionally accredited, are partly to blame for the four new cases of HIV which have been diagnosed amongst RI college students this year.
Ms. Andelloux states: “My heart goes out to those students who have recently tested positive for HIV. However, there is no evidence of any link between campus presentations on sexual issues and the spike in HIV cases. Rather, I would suggest that this demonstrates a need for more high-quality sex education to college students.“ It is unclear why people at URI or Citizens Against Trafficking, a coalition to combat all forms of human trafficking, is attempting to stop adults from accessing sexual information from qualified, trained educators. What is certain however, is that this Professor of Economics miscalculated her suggestion that a correlation exists between increased HIV rates in Rhode Island and the type of sex education these speakers provided at Brown University: one that emphasized accurate information, risk-reduction, pleasure, and health.
Barrier methods have been shown by the CDC to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Research has shown that when individuals have access to medically-accurate information, are aware of sexual risk reduction methods, and have access to learn about sexual health, the number of infections and transmission of STIs decreases, pain during sex decreases, and condom use increases. The CAT circulated bulletin is blatantly misleading about many issues, and often omits information that is crucial to understanding the full picture of sex education at Brown and in Rhode Island.
Shanna Katz M.Ed, one of the educators listed in the bulletin states, “In today’s world, many people are sexually active without having ever learned about sex itself. Educating adults about how to better communicate with their partner and how to protect themselves physically and emotionally is vital to the health and wellness of our culture. Without this information and skill sets, we are back in the 1950s, with people feeling guilt around sex, and feeling as though their desires are wrong.”
Reid Mihalko states, “In an age where the majority of college-age adults have only experienced federally funded abstinence-only sex education, continue to get their visual cues about sex from mainstream porn, and feel unsafe talking to their parents and school administrators about accurate sexual health information, I am committed to teaching men and women of all ages comprehensive, pragmatic safer sex practices and how to think for themselves when it comes to making the best sex and intimacy choices for them.”
When individuals who do not hold any background in sexuality education speak out in opposition because of their fear or prejudice, society becomes rooted in outdated beliefs and pseudo-science that do injustice to people everywhere. Furthermore, when those individuals personally and publicly attack those devoted to providing sex education with false and misinformed accusations, it not only hurts those who are defamed, but also the community at large.
We ask for an immediate retraction of the vilifying and inaccurate statements made by Ms. Margaret Brooks and Citizens Against Trafficking in their latest newsletter. We also ask that esteemed local universities such as URI and Bridgewater State continue to hold their employees to ethical standards of normal scientific inquiry and require that their faculty hold some modicum of expertise in a field of education before raising the public level of panic over it.
Megan Andelloux is available to answer any questions the press, Margaret Brooks, University of Rhode Island or Citizens Against Trafficking holds. Aida Manduley, the Chair of Brown University’s Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council and Brown University’s is available to discuss the upcoming Sex Week and sexuality workshops held at Brown University.
Reposted from Fearless Press
Sat, Oct 16, 2010
by Megan Andelloux
Hopping into a cab to catch a train into New York, I noticed a post on the cab driver’s dashboard that stated “Remember, God is in Control”. I braced myself for it…and yes, it came. “Do you love Jesus?”
Ugh. This was not the cab in which I wanted to be.
My driver spoke to me about God’s love and the blessings he had received in the past week. He told me about how tough life is, but that God has a plan for us all.
Most likely due to the silence he was receiving on my end, resulting from my complete lack of interest in the conversation, he changed topics. He posed the question: “Do you have a job?” I replied, “Yes, I own my own business.” He seemed excited and asked me what I did for work. And, I said it folks, I told the religious cab driver that I worked as a sexuality educator.
There was silence. Clearly he was not expecting this answer. It’s understandable, most people don’t, and every day I make a conscious decision to disclose my line of work. Why shouldn’t I? I’ have pride in what I do, and I’m happy to show people the variety of career choices available to them.
He nodded his head and asked if I had heard about that “boy who killed himself” after photos of him were released of him kissing another man. I informed him that I had, and then the conversation took a swooping downward turn.
He stated, “Now, it’s unfortunate that he died, and those kids should be arrested for what they did, but it wasn’t the publishing the pictures that caused him to die. It was pride. He should’ve just repented to God, asked for his forgiveness, and made an oath that he would never….. to read more, visit Fearless Press HERE
Many women do. Other women could care less. And some haven’t thought about “wanting it” for years. We’re talking of course about sexual desire. Craving sex. Wanting to be touched. The desire we get to feel intimate.
The libido is such a primal urge, that any threat or perceived threat to our sex-drive cries out for a cure. As most people with access to a TV are now aware, the superstar of sexual pharmaceutical world is Viagra. The little blue pill, manufactured by Pfizer and now over a decade old, works by increasing blood supply to the sexual organs. To date, millions of men have rediscovered their libido thanks to this and similar drugs.
In the post-Viagra age, women’s sexual functioning has………..To read more, continue on to Fearless Press
Oh Megan attended the Stop Porn Conference in Boston, Ma this past May (2010). Here her thoughts on the anti-porn conference her experiences being a sex positive individual attending and the next steps and rhetoric being used to create a “war on pornography.
Other guests included on this show are Diva, Deirdre and Aida, all of whom also attended the conference.
Rhode Island Monthly April 2010
BY TRACEY MINKIN
Megan Andelloux sits in row three of the Pawtucket City Council Chambers, awaiting a verdict. Beautifully poised in a navy blue, tailored vintage dress, her red hair lovely and tidy, her hands in her lap, her pumps set squarely on the floor, she looks like a young real estate professional requesting a zoning variance.
In my mind, she transforms into the heroine of her own comic book series. Her pumps become stacked spike-heeled boots, her demure fifties dress evaporates into a corset blazing with the colors of the American flag. Her red hair let loose and wild, she leaps from her chair, a rolled up copy of the Bill of Rights in one hand, a vibrator in the other.
This is about sex, she admonishes the cowering panel. You know it is! My center will open! People will come! Men and women will have, finally, a safe place to talk about orgasms and erectile dysfunction, safe lubricants and spanking. And it will be in downtown Pawtucket!
But tonight is not the night for super heroine triumphs. Tonight is just another night for battling the grinding bureaucratic machine that Andelloux, thirty-three, encountered last fall when she attempted to open her nonprofit Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health in Pawtucket’s Grant Building. It turns out that educational organizations may not do business in this building, and so the city’s zoning office shut her down. Her appeal of that decision, tonight, will be denied. This is not about sex, the panel will assert. This is about zoning.
She will not transform into an erotic, pen-and-ink protagonist. She’ll nod, knowingly, at the denial she suspected was coming her way. She’ll sit through the rest of the evening’s decisions, then powwow with her lawyer Michael Horan in the cold, clattery hallway outside the Chambers. They’ll plan her next attack, not with sex toys, but with paperwork. She’ll tell local press that she’ll continue to assert her right to do business in Pawtucket. She’ll assure friends that she’s not ready to give up. Not by a long shot. It’s not comic book behavior, but it’s a fight all right.
“Two things,” Andelloux says, tucked into the circa-1960s black vinyl sectional sofa in her CSPH offices, the 500-square-foot Ground Zero of her battle. The center is for counseling and classes, as well as distribution of literature ranging from safe sex to pleasure-related practices between (she constantly emphasizes) consenting adults. No sex takes place here and nothing is for sale. It’s Planned Parenthood with a little Lady Gaga thrown in; shame gets checked at the threshold while candor and humor make any question reasonable, any aspect of sex fair game. Andelloux says she loves the space because it’s an interior storefront. Patrons of any of the Grant Building’s tenants, from Flying Shuttles Studio and Blackstone Chess Academy to graphic design studios and Kafe Lila, enter through a central outer doorway to find individual businesses lining an interior gallery. From Andelloux’s point of view, this brightly lit, friendly vestibule provides privacy for anyone who might feel uncomfortable entering an organization dealing with sex, from the street. “Plus,” she says, “the building has its own cat. How homey is that?”
Andelloux embraces homey. She’s painted the center’s walls a cheery yellow and robin’s egg blue, colors more at home in a farmhouse kitchen than an office, and hung ephemera that reveal her collector’s mentality as well as her saucy take on sex. A vintage magazine ad for Lysol douches on one wall plays ironically against an oversized, pillow-like vulva puppet she uses for teaching, on a shelf below. On a nearby coffee table, four chunky pieces of stainless steel sit on a mirrored pedestal cake plate. They resemble oversize punctuation marks (they’re G-spot and prostate toys). She settles in to talk about the center with the warmth of a girlfriend dishing last night’s “Project Runway” over coffee.
She considers those “two things” — the two mistakes that brought her into the spotlight of the city of Pawtucket and onto the wrong side of narrowly interpreted zoning. She purses her lips, sighs. “I shouldn’t have testified about sex workers’ rights,” she says. “That got a lot of people angry. And I probably shouldn’t have put the word ‘pleasure’ in the title of the Center.”
She may be right. After signing a lease for her fledgling nonprofit in May, Andelloux, a proponent of sex workers’ rights, decided to testify at a June State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on eliminating Rhode Island’s statewide law allowing indoor prostitution. “I was terrified to testify,” she says. “But I felt some advocates were confusing trafficking with sex work, so I went.” Andelloux signed up to speak, lost her nerve and scratched off her name. “Then this woman stood up and said, ‘We need to stop sex…no…we need to stop sex trafficking.’ I thought this is a complete fear of sexuality. So I put my name back on. I thought, even if my voice shakes, I can go up.”
So up she went, but was dumbfounded when Donna M. Hughes, a professor of women’s studies at the University of Rhode Island well known for her activism on sex trafficking issues (and a proponent of eliminating indoor prostitution), took her to task afterward in a series of public forums. First, on June 24, Hughes described (but did not name) Andelloux in a Providence Journal editorial as a “tattooed woman calling herself a ‘sexologist and sex educator.’” Hughes also wrote that Andelloux was “a reporter for a prostitutes’ magazine called $pread,” adding, “I couldn’t make this stuff up!”
The next day, Andelloux penned her own letter to the Journal. “Let me introduce myself,” she wrote. “I’m the nationally certified sex-educator and derogatorily labeled ‘tattooed lady’ mentioned by Donna Hughes in her June 24 opinion piece.
“Putting quotation marks around my profession was insulting,” Andelloux continued, “and yes, I am a contributor to the sex-workers magazine $pread. Is it so shocking that sex workers can read?”
The heroine, suddenly, had a nemesis. “As an alum of URI (’97),” Andelloux wrote, “I would have expected faculty to develop a reputation for science and truth. Instead, it seems that Ms. Hughes would rather resort to right-wing scare tactics. Perhaps if ‘the Professor’ really cared about women, she wouldn’t attack us for the way that we look.”
Things got nastier. In a September 23 issue of Citizens Against Trafficking, an online newsletter published by Hughes and Melanie Shapiro, a student at Roger Williams University School of Law, an unsigned article titled “Sex Radicals’ Vision for Rhode Island” said:
“But the advocates for prostitution are still active in Rhode Island. In fact, a new center to campaign for sexual rights is trying to open in Pawtucket. The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health calls itself the ‘Dormitory for Armatory.’ The proprietor, Megan Andelloux, is a member of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which is a subsidiary of COYOTE, the group that originally sued for decriminalization of prostitution in the 1970s. It too advocates for the decriminalization of prostitution. To date, the city of Pawtucket has prevented the center from opening, saying it violates their zoning ordinances.
“The sex radicals are entitled to free speech, but citizens of Rhode Island are entitled to resist their advocacy of prostitution and violence. The proprietor of the proposed center is a prostitute (she calls herself a ‘foot fetish model’) and a dominatrix. She is also on the ‘faculty’ of the Kink Academy in Boston, which holds ‘classes’ to demonstrate sexual sadism, masochism and torture. The classes often include live models. (The images are too obscene to include here.) One of the students at the Academy claims she became a ‘sex slave’ to one of the instructors and was ordered to prepare to be a prostitute. Andelloux claims to be a speaker on college campuses where she demonstrates whipping and has the students try on sex gear.”
Is this a fair portrait of Andelloux, or someone else’s comic book rendering?
Andelloux went to Mitchell College, a two-year institution in New London, Connecticut, for kids needing a creative approach. She quickly realized that “sucking at math” was not part of a career in marine biology. Meanwhile, she happened to take a quiz on facts about sex, reading that 80 percent of Americans failed it. She got one question wrong. A human sexuality course she took fit her passions. She changed majors and planned a dinner out with her parents to give them the news.
“Right before my mother put the hamburger in her mouth,” Andelloux recalls, “I said, ‘I’m going to be a sex educator.’ ” She cracks up at the memory. “My mother said, ‘Megan, girls can’t do that.’ My father shook his head. But I told them that’s what I decided I was going to do.”
Andelloux got herself into URI from Mitchell, graduating in 1997 with a major in Human Development and Family Studies and a minor in Human Sexuality. She moved to northern New Jersey and worked for Planned Parenthood as a sex educator. Developing a reputation as a “spitfire,” in her words, Andelloux got herself in occasional trouble for a little too much candor. “I had a mouth on me,” she says. Once, after finishing a Planned Parenthood presentation at a high school, Andelloux was approached by a student. “She told me she’d been having sex with her partner with no birth control. She was freaked out. We had this long conversation and then I told her I’d send her some condoms. I told her I’d address the package as [though] for a school project.” But when the girl’s moth-er opened the package, freaked out herself, and called Planned Parenthood, Andelloux was in trouble. “Oh yeah. I got in trouble. I kept my job, but I was in trouble.”
Andelloux continued to butt heads with Planned Parenthood, so she leapt at the chance in 2001 to work at Miko, a well-known sex-toy shop in Providence, where she ran educational workshops full-time and worked the sales floor. When Miko closed in 2008, Andelloux reached her crossroads. “People kept telling me I should open a new store,” she says, “but I knew I didn’t have business sense. I know how to teach, how to make people feel comfortable, and I know how to talk about difficult concepts. [But] I knew my name, at this point, was too risque even for liberal organizations, so I started doing my own workshops.” One day last spring, as Andelloux was hanging posters for The Vagina Monologues, a passerby recognized her from Miko, and told her about a great place in Pawtucket that was looking for tenants.
On September 14, twelve days before the scheduled grand opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, Donna Hughes sent an email from her Blackberry to the nine members of Pawtucket’s City Council:
A center for “sexual rights” and “sexual pleasure” is opening in Pawtucket.
Twenty-six hours later, Andelloux got a call from the Pawtucket Police Department. Her opening needed permits, Major Bruce Moreau told her, and there were concerns based on activities advertised on her website (including burlesque dancing and a raffle of sex toys) that required special permitting. He shared the contents of Hughes’ email with her. Andelloux picked up her husband, Derek, a family medicine resident at Brown, and the couple walked up the squat, broad steps of Pawtucket City Hall into a confusing gauntlet of special event permits that led, ultimately, to having to describe the Center’s primary purpose to secure overall zoning approval — something Andelloux had never been informed by her landlords that she needed to obtain. She rushed through meetings in hallways and offices; she called city councilors to explain her mission.
Mostly, though, Andelloux worried that the words “sexual” and “pleasure,” pitched by an adversary directly to a council representing a famously Catholic city, might ignite further opposition beyond the inertia her paperwork seemed to be generating. She settled on stating the Center’s primary purpose as “education.” What she didn’t realize is that within the minutiae of the Pawtucket zoning codes lies the fact that a special use permit obtained by the developers of the Grant Building does not support educational facilities like schools. Andelloux never said she ran a school.
But it was that sole word, education, that prompted zoning official Ronald Travers to rule against the Center, and gave the Zoning Board reason to uphold his verdict.
Andelloux was caught in a knot of nomenclature, as binding as a corset, but nowhere near as fun. She prepared a new motion with Horan, this one to request a special use permit for her space, much like a yoga studio in downtown Pawtucket had obtained. They returned to the council chambers in late January, filing their motion and hastening to point out that she will engage in education, but on a scale that is consistent with the overall mixed use espoused by the city’s downtown plan. No one argued. No one challenged. Only one member asked one thing:
“So, you won’t be selling any sexual paraphernalia?”
No. No. Andelloux said, shaking her head.
Meanwhile, she rejected ongoing counsel from well-wishers to leave Pawtucket for more liberal and accepting (not to mention properly zoned) locations. She paid rent on her unoccupied space. She paid heat. She paid legal fees. She turned away paying clients. And waited for one more fight. The next step was going to be court.
Then, finally, it’s decision time again. Andelloux perches in her chair, her bright pink dress shifting under her nervously clenched hands. Her husband pats her knee from time to time. The zoning board rolls through decision announcements like a boss spins a Rolodex; it’s easy to lose track. Then Andelloux’s name pops through the bureaucratic fog. And, in a series of comments as mild and conciliatory as her previous hearing had been spiky and adversarial, the men who control her zoning destiny say yes.
Yes, they say, to Megan Andelloux, and several lean forward to their microphones to say, for the record, that they regret that things got off to a bad start. They mouth words of support, absolving their municipality of anything other than administrative vigor. They regret the tangle. They grant her permit. It’s almost, if you imagine an erotic comic book, like a bit of sex play. Yes? Yes? No, No… Yes!
It was just that easy?
Megan Andelloux nods and smiles.
She looks unthreatening enough, perched on the edge of a table in a large classroom at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut. Andelloux is indeed speaking on a college campus and receiving $500 for the two hours she’ll spend with 100 young men and women packing this room on a chilly fall evening. She has, indeed, allowed her feet to be looked at, photographed, and massaged by paying clients as a foot fetish model — although this never has involved genital exposure or contact, much less touching above her knee, she says. Yes, she has been paid to create educational videos for “Kink Academy,” a website that celebrates every aspect of consensual sex. And right now, yes, she’s tugging a strap-on harness up over her clothing to demonstrate for her audience what she describes as one of her favorite lube tricks.
“This one is great,” she says as she yanks the harness, complete with large synthetic phallus, into place around her hips. She grabs a plunger-bottle of lubricant; it looks like a hand soap dispenser that sits near a powder room sink. She tucks it into the harness — where a gun would sit in a holster.
“Okay!” she calls out, her rigging complete. Her voice reminds me of a home ec teacher’s — both perky and bossy. If it weren’t for the subject matter, she could just as easily be demonstrating how to sew a wrap-around skirt.
“So when you’re having sex with a strap-on, and your partner is getting really hot, here’s an amazing finish,” she says, and gives the bottle a couple of swift plunges that release spurts of viscous liquid. The audience knows exactly what this simulates and loves it. The kids cheer. Andelloux opens her eyes wide, nodding at their response. “See? See? Isn’t that cool?”
In these two hours, Andelloux’s workshop will range from this kind of taboo-busting demonstration to ardent discussion of safe ingredients in lubricants and sex toys (“If that dildo has a smell, it’s made overseas with dangerous synthetics. Don’t buy it.”) She’ll take dozens of questions penned on index cards, some of them endearingly naïve. She’ll give advice that is bumper-sticker outrageous, but gets to serious healthy practice. “Don’t put anything smaller than six inches up your butt,” she orders, reminding her audience that the anatomy of this part of the body is not equipped to expel items. “Once something gets lost up there,” she continues, “the only way you’re gonna get it out is at the emergency room.” As the kids hoot, she eyes them. “And trust me, you don’t want to be that patient.” Her mix of medical terminology and slang, sometimes folksy, sometimes colorfully current, makes her advice easy to embrace. It’s a remarkable marriage of tone and content. If Rachael Ray and the Marquis de Sade had a lovechild, it’d be Megan Andelloux.
After she finishes up by — yes — taking volunteers for a fully clothed spanking demonstration that raises the roof, students surround her and linger for nearly an hour, asking questions and inspecting the few vibrators and lubricants for sale. The fun and safety of sex takes her on the road like this nearly weekly, speaking to groups large and small, running sex toy parties for private clients, doing events at sex toy shops, attending and presenting at conferences. She creates “Tearin’ It Off,” a weekly podcast with WBRU at Brown University, and writes numerous columns for online sexual and feminist health and advocacy sites. She will appear, unpaid, in an annual production of The Vagina Monologues in Providence. For a sexologist, this cobbled-together assortment of education and entertainment keeps rent money coming in, and for Andelloux it is also, she admits, a bit of a calling.
“My parents were 1950s WASPs,” she says, describing her traditional upbringing in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. “I was totally raised in that environment.” The youngest of three kids (but fourteen and eighteen years younger than her sister and brother, respectively), Andelloux watered her activist seed with an issue embraced by many girls: animal rights. She became a vegetarian at fifteen.
A year later, Andelloux developed a quirky obsession. “I had a thing for memorizing sex facts,” she says, “you know, statistics. When people masturbate, average breast sizes…I would spout these off to my friends during supper.” Still passionate about animals (and specifically about orcas), Andelloux planned to study marine biology at the University of Rhode Island. Then she was date-raped. “I had a series of sexual assaults take place in the summer before my senior year, including the very first date I ever went on,” she says. “I was seventeen. I’d gotten good grades up to that point. After that summer, my grades plummeted, I had nightmares, I reverted to wearing baggy clothes, and I hung out with the ‘bad girls.’ My grades were nowhere good enough to get into URI.”
By Amy Littlefield
Thursday, December 3, 2009
A sexologist in Rhode Island is trying to open an adult-ed center focused in part on the female pleasure principle. Her battle has been complicated by the recent passage of a ban on indoor prostitution, which she opposed.
PAWTUCKET, R. I. (WOMENSENEWS)–Megan Andelloux’s clash with authorities in this heavily Catholic city of about 73,000 began two months ago.
After 12 years of teaching sex education at colleges, nonprofits, churches, schools and the Providence sex store Miko Exoticwear, Andelloux, a certified sexologist who frequently speaks at Brown University, wanted to create a “safe space for adults to be able to come in and access information about sexuality.”
Andelloux’s classes cover everything from female orgasms to fellatio and expound on an intimate connection between health and pleasure.
A few days before the planned Sept. 26 opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in downtown Pawtucket, a policeman called to say she couldn’t hold her event. He cited her lack of zoning approval and objected to plans for a sex toy raffle.
A zoning official then informed Andelloux that she couldn’t teach classes either because the area was zoned for residential and commercial use. Since Andelloux’s battle began, a chess center and a weaving workshop have also come under scrutiny by the city.
Andelloux moved the opening event to a club in Providence, while she geared up to fight for the right to provide education and other resources in the building.
“This is really a straightforward zoning issue,” said Ronald Travers, Pawtucket’s zoning director. Travers said the owners of a downtown karate studio faced a similar battle a few years ago and were eventually granted permission to open.
Andelloux appealed Travers’s decision, appearing before the zoning appeals board with 20 of her supporters on Nov. 30. The board will vote Dec. 7 on whether she can operate her center.
Andelloux’s efforts to open the center coincided with the run-up to the state legislature’s decision to ban indoor prostitution.
Before the ban was signed into law by Gov. Don Carcieri in early November, Rhode Island was the only state–besides parts of Nevada–where indoor prostitution was legal.
Andelloux voiced opposition to an indoor prostitution ban at a state legislative hearing in June, saying it would hurt victims of sexual trafficking by criminalizing their behavior, making it harder for them to get jobs and traumatizing them through interactions with police.
Her stance may have been what led local professor and renowned anti-trafficking activist Donna M. Hughes to denounce Andelloux on the radio, calling her a “prostitute” and a “sex radical.” Hughes admitted on the same radio program that she wrote an email tipping off city officials about Andelloux’s plans to open the center. Andelloux was told she could not hold her opening event days after the email was sent.
Harvey E. Goulet, Jr., director of administration for the city, said he and some other city officials take special exception to Andelloux’s plans. “I would prefer that it not be in Pawtucket. That’s my opinion and that’s the mayor’s opinion . . . I think some of these things would be better off in an office somewhere than a storefront,” he told Women’s eNews.
If the zoning appeals board votes against her, Andelloux will have 20 days to appeal her case in Rhode Island Superior Court.
“They’re trying to discredit me because I’m talking about pleasure,” said Andelloux. “I was very deliberate in putting the (word) pleasure in there and I think it’s very important that we talk about (health and pleasure) together, because they’re connected.”
“The title freaked everybody out,” said City Councilor-At-Large Albert J. Vitali, Jr., who supports Andelloux. “The ‘sexual pleasure’ end of the title flipped a few people on their heads. They didn’t know what she was talking about. They assumed it was a strip club or something.”
“It would be neat to have a Dr. Ruth in the city of Pawtucket,” said Vitali, who added that he would want his 20-year-old daughter to be able to access such resources if she needed them.
Andelloux cited a recent Indiana University study that showed women who feel positively about female genitalia not only find it easier to experience orgasm, but are more likely to seek gynecological exams and engage in other health-promoting behaviors.
Her opponents, however, are uneasy about the self-pleasuring aids–dildos, vibrators, and lubricants–that she keeps as learning tools.
Andelloux said a city official recently asked her if she would be “inserting” the teaching devices or using them on students during class.
“People don’t often frame sex education in terms of sexual pleasure,” said Lynn Comella, assistant professor of women’s studies at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “I really think that you end up with some confused people who don’t understand what that might really be about.”
Comella sees the center as a continuation of over three decades of “feminist work around creating cultural spaces where the issue of women’s sexual pleasure and empowerment could be taken seriously.”
Sex educators, activists and local supporters have rallied behind Andelloux by sending petitions to the City Council and speaking out about the connection between her work and the larger struggle for open discussion about female sexuality.
“If what she did was called the Center for Health and Education, no one would have blinked,” said Brian Flaherty, director of development for the Boston-based nonprofit sex education group Partners in Sex Education. He added that some people become upset over the issue of women taking control of their sexuality.
If the zoning board approves Andelloux’s right to operate, she will also need the City Council’s blessing.
The all-male, nine-member council is about evenly split over whether to issue a license to Andelloux’s center.
“It’s not a sex shop, it’s a place to go to talk about problems,” said City Councilor James F. Chadwick, Jr., who supports Andelloux. Chadwick said “untruths” were circulating about Andelloux’s intentions to open a sex shop instead of a teaching center that offers classes on female sexual pleasure, safety and achieving sexual satisfaction.
As Andelloux waits for the council’s decision, books with titles such as “Women’s Orgasm” and “America’s War on Sex” pack two bookshelves in the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health. A stand near the entrance has pamphlets called “Correct Use of the Male Condom” and “Love.”
A few couches circle a coffee table and colorful dildos and other teaching aids litter the shelves. In the corner is a glass cabinet covered with a heavy blue curtain. If you pull back the curtain, you find a display of sex toys.
Andelloux has covered the case to tamp down on the public controversy, which has focused on the toys themselves. One day, she hopes to remove it. But for now the curtain is drawn and the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health stays closed.
Amy Littlefield is a freelance reporter who lives in Providence, R.I.
December 23, 2009
Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Global Health Affairs Hubert H. Humphrey Building Room 639H 200 Independence Avenue SW Washington, DC 20201
Comments on Office of Global Health Affairs; Regulation on the Organizational Integrity of Entities Implementing Leadership Act Programs and Activities, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, 74 Fed. Reg. 61,096 November 23, 2009
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
The undersigned organizations and individuals submit these comments on the proposed regulation implementing the “anti-prostitution policy requirement,” 22 U.S.C. § 7631(f), contained in the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003 (“Leadership Act”).
HIV prevention goals – as well as the human rights of individuals – are undermined by the Leadership Act’s “pledge requirement,” which requires recipients of funding to have a “policy opposing prostitution and sex trafficking.” We oppose the requirement because it compromises much-needed health and social services and the right to those services, as well as free speech. The law is bad – and the proposed regulations do not make a bad situation any better. Moreover, the proposed regulations are unworkable for foreign NGOs.
The Bush Administration originally found that the pledge requirement was unconstitutional as applied to US NGOs and, accordingly, prevented agencies from enforcing it against US NGOs. They reversed course in 2005 and a broad coalition of groups sued the US government on First Amendment grounds to stop enforcement. The draft regulation makes no mention of this litigation even though a federal court has twice found the pledge and its implementation unconstitutional. Instead, the draft proposes an extremely burdensome scheme for US groups to exercise their free speech rights. Moreover, the proposed regulation continues to be so vague that affected NGOs do notknow how to operate under it. The draft regulation is therefore deeply disappointing.
In order to cure the ongoing constitutional violation, HHS should refrain again from enforcing the policy requirement against U.S.-based non-governmental organizations, as it did from May 2003 through May 2005, and as it has been substantially ordered to do by the District Court.
The proposed regulations do not clarify what it means to “oppose prostitution” and leave it unknown whether the following activities are allowable:
1. A recipient uses private funds to support a “safe house” where meetings, counseling, and health services are provided for sex workers. The program supports efforts to negotiate with the police to assure that the sex workers will not be subjected to illegal harassment and exploitation. By ensuring a safe environment, health workers are able to engage and consistently reach vulnerable groups in need of services.
2. A recipient provides private funds to a group of sex workers that has come together as a collective to help them obtain access to such rights as wearing shoes outside a brothel and a proper burial. That group of sex workers either has no policy on prostitution or, on its own accord, takes a public position promoting or advocating the legalization of prostitution.
3. A recipient supports with private funds a range of health care providers, including some private entities that operate their own clinics. Such health care providers might advocate for the legalization of prostitution, conduct research, publish papers, or speak publicly on the topic of legalization of prostitution.
4. A recipient uses private grants to conducts trials on microbicides. These trials require the enrollment of individuals at very high risk of contracting HIV, such as sex workers, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of new products in preventing HIV transmission. Such trials must be carefully constructed to ensure that such women are not exploited as human subjects. Previous trials involving sex worker populations have been unsuccessful due to protests by sex worker groups (among others) over the perceived ethics of such trials. The recipient wants to work with this community in order to build bridges and help sex workers and their allies understand the potential of microbicides and prevention research. It also wants to contract with members of the community to conduct research and engage in outreach with their peers. The coalitions, NGOs and unions representing sex workers all take different positions on the issue of prostitution and its legalization.
5. Countries have experimented with a range of legal and health approaches with regard to prostitution. It is the responsibility of public health professionals to objectively examine these various approaches and to present evidence on their outcomes. A recipient uses private funds to engage in public health research and discourse related to the pros and cons of various legal regimes and health approaches to stemming the transmission of HIV/AIDS among this high risk group.
6. A recipient supports a privately funded study to examine the reproductive health needs of HIV positive women, including commercial sex workers. The study occurs in several countries, including some where commercial sex work is legal. The research findings indicate possible benefits arising from the decriminalization and/or legalization of sex work in stemming the transmission of HIV/AIDS and the organization publishes such findings.
7. A recipient provides privately funded technical HIV/AIDS support to a U.S. academic institution, in which faculty members take a wide range of positions on the legal status of prostitution and how it affects public health outcomes. The recipient would like to continue providing technical support.
There are additional concerns about the requirements to maintain separate organizations, because they are unworkable in most practical situations. Additionally, the regulations do not provide a process for approval of affiliate organization proposals and given the penalties for being out of compliance, this lack of clarity may make it more likely that organizations simply cannot provide the needed services.
In addition, the regulation calls for funding recipients to maintain “objective integrity and independence from any affiliated organization” that engages in undefined “restricted” activities. A recipient must be “to the extent practicable in the circumstances, legally, physically and financially separate from the affiliated organization.” Rather than listing clear standards, there are five non-exclusive factors, none of which is given any particular weight. The agency reserves the right to determine, “on a case-by-case basis and based on the totality of the facts, whether sufficient legal, physical and financial separation exists” and reserves the right to take other, as yet undisclosed, factors into account.
The harsh separation requirement is unnecessary, and has been rejected by HHS in other arenas. In regulations for the faith-based initiative, HHS required that federally funded activities are conducted either at a different time or in a different place than any privately funded, religious activities such as worship and proselytization. HHS has recognized that this level of separation is sufficient to ensure that the government neither funds nor endorses a grantee’s message. Therefore, such separation would be sufficient to ensure that HHS does not endorse any privately funded speech related to prostitution by recipients.
The unconstitutional limitation on free speech lead us to believe that the pledge should not be enforced against US-based NGOs. We also maintain that the proposed regulations are unworkable and stand in the way of providing essential services to human being, both because they fail to answer basic questions about what is required and they propose a budensome affiliation scheme.
Thank you for consideration of our comments. Sex Work Awareness, New York
Alan Clear, Harm Reduction Coalition, New York Sienna Baskin, New York Jeanne Bergman, New York, NY Jake Wolfhart, Capitan, NM
Jill Brenneman, Durham, NC Christopher Brown, Springfield, MO Ginger Ruth-Virago, San Francisco, CA Marie Camacho, Dallas, TX Juline Koken, Ph.D., New York Chris O’Sullivan, El Cerrito, CA Dee Dennis, Connecticut Melissa Hope Ditmore, Ph.D, New York, NY Lillian Cohen-Moore, Everett, WA Eric Wunderman, New York, NY Shelly Resnick, Portland, OR Karem Dion, Wahiawa, HI Melissa Gira Grant, Brooklyn, NY Christina Jones, Wichita, KS Analía Lavin, Montevideo, Uruguay Carol Leigh, California Sean Mannion, Brooklyn, NY Kevin Silvey, Seminole, FL Audacia Ray, Brooklyn, NY
Alicia Relles, San Francisco, CA Ilse Rumes, Brooklyn, NY Laura-Marie Taylor, Sacramento, CA Mae Quilty, Boston, MA
Julia Gelbort, Chicago, IL Kenneth Knoppik, Boca Raton, FL Amanda Brooks, Las Vegas, NV David Phillips, Berwyn Heights, MD Joan E Loza Mobry, Madison, WI Elizabeth Wood, Kew Gardens, NY Christiane Henker, Bad Laer, Germany Elisabeth Kelly, Washington, DC Linda Gottschalk, Green Bay, WI Rev Bookburn, Collingswood, NJ Slava Osowska, San Francisco, CA Candy Leblanc, Sacramento, CA Ron. Price, Pasadena, TX Catherine Simon, Northampton, MA Chelsea Ricker, Brooklyn, NY Dana Eckhoff, San Francisco, CA Lily Rocco, New York, NY Kim Carter, Van Wert, OH Darryl Warner, Rockaway Beach, NY
Elizabeth Barrette, Charleston, IL Stacey Swimme, San Francisco, CA Jenifer Mitchell, Tucson, AZ Kelli Wells, Rocklin, CA
Ginger Geronimo, Birmingham, AL Thierry Schaffauser, London, NY Lynn Maurine, Land o Lakes, FL Bill Piper, Washington, DC
Bob O’Connor, South China, ME James M Nordlund, Fargo, ND Anthony Bowles, Silver Spring, MD SWOP East, Raleigh, NC
AV Flox, Los Angeles, CA Bryan D. Freehling, Lahaska, PA Kee Hinckley, Winchester, MA John Bitters, Portland, OR Rebecca Dundon, Lexington, KY Evelyn Wolke, Manassas, VA Adjoa Tetteh, New York, NY Samantha Maloney, Bridgewater, NJ Jesse Evans, Berkeley, CA Cha-Cha Connor, Worcester, MA Elizabeth Nanas, Canton, MI
Lisa Skibenes, Yorktown Hts, NY Katharine Fisher, Berkeley, CA Anne Jonas, New York, NY Rachel Aimee, Brooklyn, NY Zanne Frandsen, Copenhagen, NE Kimberly Cornwell, Sacramento, CA Rachel Grinstein, Brooklyn, NY Julie Iversen, Copenhagen, CA Aoife Swane, Ludwigshafen/Rhein, DE Jenny Heilbronn, Offenbach, DE Barbara Carrellas, New York, NY Mark Woodward, Alexandria, TN
Lisa B Schwartz, Yardley, PA Juliana Williamson-Page, Monterey, CA Tara Hurley, Pawtucket, RI Katrin Redfern, Brooklyn, NY Kelly Boyker, Seattle, WA Carol Leigh, San Francisco, CA Veronica Monet, Nevada City, CA Ingrida Platais, Brooklyn, NY Diviana Ingravallo, L.A., CA Benny Jack Jerne, Vejen, DE David Henry Sterry, Montclair, NJ
Catherine Stephens, New York Shawna Colubriale, Las Vegas, NV Paul Arons, Friday Harbor, WA Padma Govindan, Brooklyn, NY Vanessa Forro, Cleveland, OH Claus Petersen, Århus, Denmark Meitar Moscovitz, San Francisco, CA Petra Timmermans, Amsterdam, CA Berta Avila, San Leandro, CA Shannon Williams, Oakland, CA Michelle Aldrich, San Francisco, CA Heather Bowlan, Long Beach, CA Barb Brents, Las Vegas, NV Edward Rippy, Concord, CA Caroline Coppola, Phoenix, AZ Soodle Billy, Co.Dublin, Ireland Jerry Isom, Lake Oswego, OR Flannery Rogers, Brooklyn, NY Bruce Evans, Portland, OR Laura Place, Takoma Park, MD Ashley Fairburn, Fresno, CA Mike Toohey, York, SC Robin Head, Las Vegas, NV
Jessie Abraham, Darwin, WY Erin Gannon, San Francisco, CA Juliana Piccillo, Tucson, AZ Kristen DeLuca, Pittsfield, MA Gregoire Bolduc, Flint, MI Janice Rocke, Carmel, CA Sue Metzenrath, ACT, CA Billie Jackson, M.A., Westminster, CO Jason Bowman, Sacramento, CA Danna Freedman-Shara, North Kingstown, RI Megan Andelloux, Pawtucket, RI Ledena Mattox, Portland, OR Monica Shores, Washington, DC Jason Flores, Merced, CA Tamara O’Doherty, Burnaby, WA Shawn Tamaribuchi, San Francisco, CA Peter Werner, Sausalito, CA William Colwell, Sturbridge, MA Sarah Grinstein, San Francisco, CA Renee Lamont, Washington, DC E. McInate, Oakland, CA Diego Basdeo, Richmond, VA Antonia Levy, Leipzig, NY
Jomeka Barnett, Murfreesboro, TN Melissa Broudo, Brooklyn, NY Dan Powers, Denver, CO Edward Miller, Johns Creek, GA Ceceilia Morrow, Astoria, NY Jenny Barto, Lakewood, OH Allena Gabosch, Seattle, WA Haven Wheelock, Portland, OR Loretta Bengivenga, Pen Argyl, PA Jennifer Wilen, Brooklyn, NY
Liz Coplen, Tucson, AZ Eric Mortensen, Brooklyn, NY Fred Cook, Hollywood, CA Jake Christian, Los Angeles, CA Annie Sprinkle, San Francisco, CA Deborah Valentine, Murrieta, CA Dara Cohen, Minneapolis, MN Kirsten Aspengren, Eugene, OR Michelle Holshue, Ambler, PA Urooj Arshad, Washington, DC Shanna Katz, Phoenix, AZ David Beasley, Brooklyn, NY Kay West, Tucson, AZ
Mark Reinert, Boston, MA
Juline Koken, Brooklyn, NY
Ellen Marshall, Louisville, Colorado
Maryse Mitchell Brody, New York
Mabel Bianco, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Julie Bates, Australia
Ted Cheng, Taiwan
Kate DeMaere, Australia
Jo Doezema, Ph.D., Visiting Fellow IDS University of Sussex
Kara Gillies, Program Development and Education Coordinator at Maggie’s: The Toronto Sex Workers Action Project
Dr. Michael Goodyear, Halifax, Canada Anneke Hut, Amersfoort, Netherlands Ingrid Peeters, Torremolinos, Spain Norrie May Welby, Australia
Global Network of Sex Work Projects, United Kingdom Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network Glyde Health, Australia Scarlet Alliance, Australia
Sex Workers Interest Organization, Denmark Syndicat du TRAvail Sexuel (STRASS), France
I’ve been following the Rhode Island debates about whether to criminalize indoor sexwork lately. Actually, a lot of why I’m following it is because the effervescent Megan Andelloux has been on the receiving end of a lot of hassle over the opening of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, an educational organization somewhat akin to our local Center for Sex and Culture.
A lot of her difficulties in opening the CSPH stem from Donna Hughes, the University of Rhode Island professor, who takes exception to Megan’s speaking out against criminalizing sexwork on the grounds that it makes the lives of sexworkers worse. Prof. Hughes, by the way, likes to use scare quotes when talking about people who identify as sex educators, presumably as a way to denigrate a perfectly valid career choice. Given that Megan is highly-trained and is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapists, I don’t see why Hughes feels the need to put her down, but then, I’m also certified by AASECT and I’m a sex educator, so maybe I’m a bit touchy. Nah. In any case, it has started to look like Hughes got angry with Megan for speaking against her and has stirred up trouble for her.
Anyway, one of the things that I see over and over in the controversy over sexwork is that the anti-sexwork folks focus a lot on the trafficking and lack of choice that many women face around it. And I 100% get that. Being forced or tricked into having sex for money is an awful situation and there is no justification for it. I would love to live in a world where nobody ever had that happen to them.
And at the same time, I invite you to step back for a moment and think about all of the other people who are forced into labor that they don’t control. The migrant laborers who harvest our food, for example. Or the housekeepers who are brought to the US in order to work for below-living wages and without the resources to escape. Or the people who work in factories around the world who get paid a pittance in order to keep costs down so people in wealthy countries can have lots of disposable stuff. Or the women in the sweatshops who make clothing for minimal pay. These are also terrible things that are happening right now in this country and in other countries around the world.Take a look at the United Nations Office on Drugs and CrimeGlobal Report on Trafficking in Persons for an in-depth analysis of how trafficking takes place on a world-wide scale.
But when we look at non-sexwork trafficking situations (although we rarely do since the issue is often ignored by the general population), I’ve never heard anyone say “people who are trafficked to work in sweatshops should be locked up.” Nor have I ever heard anyone say that all garment manufacturing is evil and should be abolished. Instead, people focus on the unfair wages, the lack of agency, and the structures that make it possible for people to be treated as slaves, separately from the nature of the work that they’re doing. After all, there are some fortunate people who create garments or cook food or work in factories who love (or at least, like) what they do, who choose to do it out of a genuine desire to do the work, and who are paid well (or at least, sufficiently) for their labor. And there are people who engage in those kinds of labor because they need the money. The fact that they would quit if they suddenly won the lottery doesn’t make their decision to do the work less valid. Any reasonable person understands that and recognizes the difference between being forced into labor and choosing to do it for whatever reason.
Similarly, I’ve never heard anyone talk about sweatshop workers “selling their bodies.” After all, can you truly be said to sell your body if you still have it when you go home? Sexworkers don’t sell their bodies anymore than garment-makers, housekeepers or, for that matter, lawyers. To call it “selling their bodies” is a scare tactic designed to foment a moral panic but it’s ultimately disrespectful of the people under discussion.
What we need is an approach that addresses the real problems of people being forced to have sex for money through violence, drugs use, economic circumstances, etc. without criminalizing them. And we need an approach that makes room for the people who are making informed choices about what they want to do with their bodies. If we start with the premise that some people who work as housekeepers, garment makers, or sexworkers are choosing to do so, for whatever reason, then we can begin to look for ways to deal with the fact that other people are forced or tricked into those kinds of labor.
Similarly, if we start with the understanding that some people hire housekeepers, garment makers or sexworkers out of a desire to meet a valid and justifiable need, that they pay people fairly for their time and skill, and that they treat them with respect, then we can look at the changes that we could make to increase the frequency of those situations. And if you believe that no sexworkers ever have clients treat them that way, you probably need to learn more about sexwork by listening to the stories of the people who do it. Myfirstprofessionalsex.com is a good place to start.
Yes, I get that these more fortunate situations are not as common as I’d like. But they do happen and I think that the best way to move forward is to ask ourselves what we could do to make them more likely. Denying that they happen only makes it easier to come up with overly-broad laws that criminalize people who aren’t doing anything wrong.
Of course, if you believe that the act of selling sexual services for money is inherently wrong, you’re probably not convinced by any of this. If you consider sexual labor to be different from any other kind of labor, perhaps you can take a look at why that is. But that’s a topic for another post.
Swapping your most private fantasies
By Tanya Enberg
They can be scary, dark, bizarre, creepy, ridiculous and even downright outrageous.
They are our sexual fantasies, and what happens when we let our minds freely wander could cause even the most liberal, experimental and open-minded folk to blush.
Recently at a cottage getaway, a group of us were playing a board game called Lovers and Liars when one couple revealed they never fantasize about anyone other than each other.
Truly, I was shocked.
“What? Seriously? Yeah, right … there’s no way!” I protested.
The man I am dating also balked.
“So when you’re watching two chicks going at it in porn, you’re telling me you’re not fantasizing about it?” he asked.
“No, I am not thinking about them,” the guy stated flatly.
That he’s not considering what it would be like to be the sandwich meat pressed between the smoking hot faux lesbian porn stars is a tough pill to swallow.
But, after chomping on the topic for some time, we put it to rest.
According to a Sexual Well-being Global Survey conducted by Durex, less than six out of 10 Canadians are comfortable telling their lover what they enjoy in bed.
Most willing to spill the beans are Mexicans at 80%, followed by the Greeks at 76%, and at the bottom of the list for being the most bashful is the British at 49%.
Meanwhile, a study out of the University of Montreal released last year found that women are more likely than men to visualize current or past partners as well as celebrities for their erotic material. Men, however, veer toward imaginary people.
“For some people, discussing their fantasies with their partner is very, very scary,” says Megan Andelloux, a sexual educator with the U.S.-based Miko Learning and Resource Centre.
“They worry about, ‘Oh, what will they think of me?’ ” she explains.
There may be good reason for that.
Andelloux says a common fantasy for a woman involves being sexually overpowered against her will.
At first you might find this information disturbing because why would anyone in their right mind want to imagine a stranger carrying out such a deplorable act?
Fact is, it’s just fantasy, explains Andelloux.
“That’s the prime example of her fantasizing about something that she would never really want to happen,” she offers.
“Fantasy is great because it allows us to explore things you might not necessarily ever do in life. That’s actually what most fantasies are about … for instance, many people fantasize about having sex with people of the same gender, but they don’t identify as gay or bisexual.”
However this can be especially problematic for men, she notes.
“For men, to step out of the male role in society can end a relationship … (his partner may) think he’s gay — and he’s not. A sexual fantasy does not determine who you like and who you love.”
Still, despite the risks, Andelloux says fantasy swapping can boost the sexual intensity in a relationship.
So why do some shy away from it?
“Fantasy is a very healthy behaviour, but some people will still freak out and repress it,” she admits.
“It can be really hard, especially for women, to take that step and admit that they’re sexual because society’s message is that you’re either a bad girl or a good girl. Sometimes people don’t like what they see, or they’ve been told by society that they’re doing something wrong or bad.”
Dr. Alina Wydra, a psychologist practising in Vancouver, says revealing fantasies can be beneficial.
“It’s very delicate,” she stresses.
“But when you’ve established a trusting relationship, you can use fantasies to enhance your sexual relationship.”
However, Wydra says in some cases the magnetic pull of the make-believe can go too far.
One example is patients who are grappling with Internet porn addiction and find themselves unable to connect with a real-life partner.
Issues can also arise when erotic thoughts hit too close to home.
“If you’re fantasizing about a famous Hollywood movie star, that’s one thing, but if you’re thinking about the next-door neighbour and are about to go over there for dinner, that can be a problem.”
OPENING THE FANTASY DRAWER