Certified public sex educator Linda Dunaway is a self-proclaimed “recovering Californian” and a recent transplant to Northern Nevada. She is a facilitator in a new sexual empowerment group called FemSex and is working toward establishing sex-positive youth programs in the area.
You’re a certified public sex educator. What does that entail? How did you gain that certification?
I have a master’s degree in public health administration. To become a certified public sex educator, I had to do [a] 50-hour program through San Francisco Sex Information which was very intensive. You go over everything. You see a lot of videos, you cover all of the STDs, all of the kinds of sexual practices, and you get to the point where you can listen to people and give them nonjudgmental information. The goal is to allow people to make healthy choices. A lot of the questions I got boiled down to were like, “Am I normal? Are other people doing this?” And sometimes I’d say, “Yes, there are a many people who do this” … and sometimes “Well, there are only a few people do this.” I even got questions about bestiality.
Wow. What do you say to things like that?
Well, I usually say that one isn’t very hygienic. You can get a bad bacterial infection.
So what are you working on now that you’re here?
I’m planning to send a proposal for a local tribe to get an after school program based on what the youth want to cover. I’m looking for more opportunities to work with the sex-positive sort of approach, and encourage discussion on values and choices. There are so few programs out there. The Unitarian Universalists have a program with other churches and they do a program called OWL [Our Whole Lives] and I want to be trained in that. They have a really wonderful program that allows youth to really explore who they are as people, and make their choices as educated people. Right now I’m going to focus on talking about consent and how important consent is to our evolution as human beings, being compassionate with each other, not buying into the media or the little boxes of men and women. I don’t care what it is you do, it could be anything if you’re both talking and you’re both saying yes. … We just need to talk to our partners. I ask people who are having problems, “Have you talked to your partner about this?” and they say, “Uh, no.” But that’s so important.
What’s the biggest difference between doing this work in California and here in Nevada?
In San Francisco, there’s a lot more knowledge of different kinds of behaviors. It’s kind of accepted that you know that there’s an S&M club that your friends go to. Here, I think just getting people comfortable and educated, and just getting people to reflect on their own experiences. There doesn’t seem to be as much knowledge on these behaviors and practices. And there’s a little more sexism, to be honest. I’m living in Fernley, of all places. Need I say more? But there’s work to be done everywhere.
What do you hope to see change?
I wish there were more school programs that were based on holistic, values-based programs, not just abstinence. I think it’s healthy for kids to start internalizing what they believe and learning how to communicate early on and getting honest information so they can make healthy choices. I think it’s a big disservice that parents are giving their children when they aren’t giving them the tools that they need to be happy, sexual adults. Whether just not talking about it, or shame. I just hope to make more education about it available. It’s part of the human experience, that we can talk to each other and be compassionate to each other. It will be a revolution. It will be a quiet revolution, to communicate, to be respectful, and to have great sex because of it. Please. Have more sex!