I am in a field where life is always hard. Now, this is true for most people; people in the service industry are on their feet all day and deal with rude people, teachers deal with puffed up parents and out of control students, etc.
However, a few thoughts about the field of sexuality and sex education:
There are no other fields I can think of where educators/consultants are hired, told that they won’t have any of their travel expenses (food, flight, accommodations) covered, and that the educator/consultant may or may not actually make money, depending on how many people (if any) show. This is the norm for the sex education industry. Certainly, if you’re lucky enough to get to speak at colleges, many will at the least guarantee a speaker’s fee, but even still, few cover travel, or if they do, reimburse you for sometimes very large expenses MONTHS after your speaking engagement. I have paid literally thousands of dollars over the past four years to travel to places to speak. Sometimes, I break even, but most times, I’m in the red. I’ve had classes canceled because no one registered, and sat in rooms waiting for 1 person so I could at least do my presentation. I’ve sat in other rooms, filled with 50-60 people, and made enough to cover my motel, or maybe food and taxi, but definitely never airfare. I cannot see most motivational speakers, political consultants, or IT tech specialists doing that or putting up with it, but it is the norm in this field.
Secondly, this is a field where people are constantly trying to undermine you. For example, the drama with Margaret Brooks (who has NO sexuality background what so ever) calling out Megan Andelloux, May May, and other, saying horrible and slanderous things about them…not because they were bad at what they did, or did anything wrong, but SOLELY because they believe in sex education. While I was not name, I found myself targeted in many of her tirades because I spoke at Brown University during Sex Week 2010. Even my class on sexuality and disability was consider an aberration. People hate on sex educators not because of their amount of education, or professionalism, or skills (or lack there of); no no, we are constantly coming under attack just because we have a passion for educating others on the important issue of sexuality.
How about the concept of “finding someone out?” Many sex educators, bloggers, etc use pen names/work names. Sometimes, it’s their first name and middle name, leaving out the last name. Other times, it’s a completely new name. Why? For protection. Sometimes from people who like what we have to say a little too much, and other times from the anti-sex positivity people. It’s scary. I choose to work under my real name, as I got my Master’s in Human Sexuality Education under it, and I am proud of this. In doing so, I am opening myself up to stalkers, to never being able to work a traditional job without people knowing who I “really” am, etc. My partner has been scared about this numerous times.
Most recently, I was trying to switch my twitter name to ShannaKatz. Why? Because I would be easier to find (it’s currently under my old pen name/roller derby name). I want it to be more professional. I want to be more accessible as “me.” I posted about doing this, and before I could claim @ShannaKatz, someone else did. And created a fake, impersonating/rude and inflammatory profile. I don’t see that happen to Prof1234 who tries to switch to MrJones, or sewerrat89 who wants to be JaneSmith. Because I work in the field of sexuality, I am opening myself up to this. (Note: I would HIGHLY suggest that anyone in the field of sexuality; writers/educators/bloggers/etc, who is on twitter under a pen name, register for your “real name” account as well, and just park it, so that you never have to deal with this. Despite literally HUNDREDS of people marking it as spam, and me reporting it to twitter as impersonation, it’s still up).
It is 2010, and we are still terrified of being open and accepting about sexuality. We still say hateful things, we use the term whore in a derogatory manner, we call out porn stars as bad people while we secretly watch porn at home. We ask sex educators when they’re going to get a “REAL” job, or on the other end of things, assume that because we’re educators in the field of sexuality, that we’re open to be sexual with anyone, or at the very least, we want to share our own sexual experiences whenever we’re asked.
I wouldn’t change my career. I spent four months last summer making twice of what I make now, working in an international company’s corporate office. I was bored out of my mind (having done all the work in record time, as I’m used to being my own self, my own marketer/PR, my own personal assistant, my own travel agent, etc, I somehow got all of the work done in half the time allotted to me). I love what I do; I love educating people, and continuing to learn things myself. I love travel. I love seeing people’s faces light up when they finally “get” something, and seeing people cry with joy when they have their identities validated. I love helping people. And this all makes it worth it.
Despite this, however, I feel like I’m on the front lines of a battle. I have to fight not only to have my voice heard, but also to keep myself from being dragged through the mud…not because of anything I did, or even who I am, but only because I believe in people’s right to be educated on sexuality. I’m constantly defending myself, pulling myself over hurdles, dragging myself out of holes, dodging bullets, tip toeing carefully for fear of setting off a mine.
At least it is never boring.