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Bad Education

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Updated February 16, 2007

Question: Bad Education

Last week I went to a workshop at a local women’s sex shop, given by a woman who worked at the store and called herself a g-spot advocate/sex educator. It was a total disappointment. For starters, it wasn’t cheap (it cost $35) and I was pretty nervous about going, but I was determined to do it because I don’t think I’ve ever had an orgasm. She spent most of the time answering questions from the same three people who I thought were drunk, and telling us which toys to buy, and about her great sex life. I left feeling totally ripped off. Is there a way to tell if these workshops are any good in advance?

Answer:

You’re definitely not alone in your disappointment, and the first thing I would suggest is speaking to the store where you attended the workshop. Any store that claims to be about education, or women’s empowerment, or any such thing should be more than willing to hear your complaint and offer some sort of refund. It’s probably not reasonable to expect a full refund if you stayed for the whole workshop, but I would hope they’d offer something to address your dissatisfaction.

The big warning sign in your store for me was “g-spot advocate” title. I’m not really sure what that means, but I’m imaging someone whose job it is to fight in court on behalf of the g-spot during difficult litigation (you know, lacking consciousness, it can be difficult for the poor g-spot to advocate on its own behalf).

Joking aside, it’s possible that the person who led this workshop has no qualifications or training, either in sexual health or in how to lead a group effectively. Sex educator isn’t a protected title (like doctor or psychologist) and anyone can call themselves one.

I think it’s much better to think of workshops like these as a form of sex entertainment. Entertainment might become educational, or a learning experience of sorts, but primarily entertainment is designed to engage you in some way and keep you coming back for more. Sex workshops at for profit business function the same way. The store hopes you’ll buy something, the workshop leader is making money off your ticket (often quite a bit of money given that some of them have no training to speak of).

I’ve attended dozens of these kinds of workshops over the years and in my experience more than half of them are given by people who like to hear themselves talk and enjoy the self-appointed title of expert. They usually aren’t so keen on learning how to be an educator, and often they don’t know how to teach because they don’t know how to listen. On the other hand, many of these presenters were (unintentionally) hilarious, and even with the real slick salespeople who are clearly just trying to push their new book on you, sometimes you can learn a thing or two.

Here are a few ideas on avoiding disappointment in the future:

  • Find out if the facilitator is qualified. Are they certified with any sexual health organizations, like AASECT? Have they worked or been trained by organizations familiar to you, like Planned Parenthood?
  • When in doubt, ask to speak to the facilitator in advance. Any teacher who isn’t just in it for the money should be willing to take a few minutes to answer your questions. Don’t expect a private workshop on the phone, but even a brief conversation can help give you a sense of what’s in store.
  • Find out in advance about refund policies. Sex shops often see these workshops as secondary to their business, just a way to bring people in who will hopefully shop. Make your sex shop accountable by asking about refund policies.
  • Keep in mind the difference between sex education and sex entertainment. If the person leading the workshop hasn’t been trained as a teacher, or received training in human sexuality, the best you’re getting is an inspirational or motivational talk. These can be great too (as long as Anthony Robbins stays out of the sexual health game) but you won’t necessarily get the same information or support that you would from a qualified sexuality educator or therapist.
  • Use word of mouth to your advantage. People who give these workshops rely on folks showing up. If you had a bad experience, and feel like you didn’t get satisfaction from the sex shop tell your friends.

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