how did you get started...?

Periodically – that is to say at least weekly – people ask me, “How did you start doing what you do?”

Either they too want to talk about sex in front of crowds of people or they just can’t imagine what preparation might be required for such a profession.

The job interview answer is that I started as a peer health educator when I was an undergraduate, going into residence halls and talking about condoms and birth control. I was studying cognitive psychology, which I loved, and I planned to become a clinical neuropsychologist – you know, helping people recover from traumatic brain injury and strokes and things. But, intellectually fulfilling as that was, it didn’t make me like who I am as a person the way the peer education did. And so I stuck with it and I’ve been doing it ever since.

The REAL answer is that I became a sex educator in the same way that dogs have been trained to track kakapos.

Kakapos, for those who don’t know, are (in the words of Douglas Adams, authorial hero) “the world’s largest, fattest, least able to fly parrot.” They live in New Zealand and there are currently a bit more than 100 of them.

20 years ago they were so rare (around 40) that in order to teach dogs to track them, apparently it was more realistic just to teach the dogs NOT to track any other kinds of birds! A tedious and frustrating process for dog, undoubtedly, but given the terrible shortage of kakapos, really the only viable option.

Similarly, I became a sex educator because it’s the only thing the universe hasn’t taught me not to do.

Everything else I try, I bump my head against things I suck at (math), things I hate doing (self-promotion), things I’m unwilling to do (sell stuff), people I’m uninterested in working with (Republicans), people who are uninterested in working with me (also Republicans)… the only thing in the world I’m good at is teaching people about sex. The farther I stray from that, the more I go wrong.

That’s not quite true. I also make a damn fine latte. So I’ve got that to fall back on if the teaching-people-about-sex thing falls apart.