Apr 222011

I am often asked how I wound up in this field. To be honest, when I was little, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist (thanks Reading Rainbow), and then an Archaeologist (thanks Indian Jones), and eventually settled on being a psychologist for gifted children. Yep, by the time I was 8 or so, I was sure that was what I wanted to be. In high school, I spent most of my time in the theatre, but wound up being a Peer Health Advocate through Jefferson County.

When I got to college at 16, I had everything all planned out, or so I thought. I was going to double major in Psychology and Theatre, and minor in German, all the better to be said psychologist for gifted kids, while performing in community theatre, and going to graduate school in Germany. That was all find and dandy until I took my first psych class — it involved dissecting human brains…and dissection was a big hard limit for me (I’d made it through HS without ever cutting up anything, and hell if I was about to start then), so I started re-thinking my plan.

When my Acting I class was full, I wound up signing up for Human Sexual Behavior, which was mostly empty. It was the first time I’d heard about the concept of transgender folks, intersex folks, etc. I remember this class pretty clearly, because it started right after I had been sexually assaulted, and it was incredibly influential in helping me work through my feelings around it. I remember talking about kink, and realizing how that *fit* me perfectly, and I remember the Planned Parenthood educator placing a condom over her entire hand, and saying “and if someone comes at you with a penis THIS big? RUN!” and everyone laughing (obviously, this was before I had discovered the concept of fisting). The fact that people could be learning about safer sexuality, and still be enjoying themselves was a new concept to me, and I started questioning the original career path I had chosen.

Then I wound up in a sociology class called The Nature of Sexual Inequality. We talked Title IX, we talked intersexuality, we talked unequal pay, we talked about gay male sexuality vs lesbian female sexuality, etc. It was amazing — I felt completely at home, and I declared my major as sociology that Block. I talked with the theatre department, and realized I was a better fit DOING theatre (both through the dept and the student run Theatre Workshop), rather than majoring in it (there was no minor). I started directing shows that included sexuality as an element (like Beyond Therapy), and I continued to act (I was Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit – talk about gender performance on stage), and costume and tech, and take theatrical classes, but focuses most of my academic side on Sociology with an emphasis on sexuality. I took lots of other sexuality classes too from different departments; Woman and the Body (about body politics), the Biology of Sexuality (the most science-y class I took in all four years), etc. I joined the sexual assault prevention team and hotline, and did presentations about consent, and responded to calls, and put on Take Back the Night.

Once I turned 18 in December of my Sophomore year, I started being the educated-ish perv that everyone came to with questions. I’d been on Scarleteen for years at that point, and now I could drive up to stores in Denver and buy books about sex and sexuality, and sex toys even. I became the go-to girl for women looking to purchase their first vibrator. We’d drive up in hordes to Denver, I’d help them pick out their first toy, and every trip, I made it habit to buy a book. Soon, I had a little mini library of how-to and history of books regarding the spectrum of sexuality. I also was the RA (and friend) with buckets of condoms and lube, and who taught people how to use them, and wound up putting on my first ever sex ed workshop “Sex in the Dark,” where dorm residents could ask anonymous questions and have them answered, my sophomore year and then again my junior year. When I lived in German (the minor with German still happened), I was so impressed at their open look at sexuality, and started researching grad schools centering around sex and sexuality.

Finally, my senior year, I did my thesis (qualitative, 75 pages without transcripts) on sex education in middle school and high school, and how it affect how college aged women viewed their bodies. I applied to both Widener and San Francisco State University, and decided I wanted a graduate degree, and to work for Planned Parenthood doing education. I signed up for the History of Sexuality, but the professor told me I would be bored, and so I ended up in Contested Masculinity instead, enjoying more looks at gender as a facet of sexuality. Widener accepted me, and I was off to PA a few months after graduation.

As I went through grad school, I realized that so much sex education was centered around dysfunction or around youth, and there was little talk about positive sexuality for those over 18. Couple that with the job I got at feminist porn provider HotMoviesForHer, and I started working in adult education more specifically. I was often that black sheep in my program, talking about how there could be ethically made pornography, talking about how maybe anal sex and kink didn’t belong in the sexual dysfunction class, and how it was polite and respectful to ask for people’s pronoun preference. Realizing that these were still issues within the field of sexuality education, I decided that it was my goal to educate lay people (ie, those who didn’t go to grad school for human sexuality) about sexual pleasure, sexual anatomy, gender diversity, sex and disability, safer sex, etc. It might not seem like a big deal to most people, but to those who have never found their G-spot, or who are constantly assumed to be a gender that doesn’t match their identity, or to those whose doctors’ have never mentioned sex in regards to their disabilities, it can mean the world.

And that’s how I ended up where I am. I’m also working on a post for those wanting to become sex educators/sexologists/sex therapist, because I get asked that on a regular basis, so expect that in the near future.


Feb 122011

Want to know what’s up in the life and times of a certain Shanna Katz? Interested in news, upcoming classes, travel, sex/relationship advice, toy reviews, sales and more? Check out this month’s edition of the Katz Meow, Shanna’s monthly sex education newsletter. Click here to see it!

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Oct 052010

I was recently quoted in the online news source The Daily Beast in an article on Google Instant. This isn’t the first place to write about it — Violet Blue has talked about it, Carnal Nation wrote about it, and of course, there is the infamous Google Instant Blacklist.

However, this is a good look at some of the absurdness of what Google Instant chooses to block (such as Latina and lesbian) and what it doesn’t (such as fag and “how to commit genocide”).

Responding to a user query in a help forum post on September 14, a Google employee named “Kelly F” tried to go into the specifics of the word “lesbian.” It was the result of a bug, she said, and the company was working to see if it could be fixed. “These results are available but require you to hit Enter,” she added in clarifying the problem struck only when using Google Instant.

“It’s important to note that removing queries from autocomplete is a hard problem, and not as simple as blacklisting particular terms and phrases,” said a Google spokesperson.

Still, the blacklist is more than a computer glitch for those who found themselves on it.

Shanna Katz, a Phoenix-based sex educator whose results were deemed offensive, finds the whole episode incredibly frustrating and arbitrary. “This means that people looking for me as a sex educator may feel that I’m ‘violent’ or ‘pornographic’ because I don’t show up,” she told me, adding that even her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles were blocked. “It’s completely random.”

Click here to read the rest of the article.


Aug 132010

Hey all –

It’s a few months old, but I finally found a recording of my June Anal 101 class (entitled “What’s Up with the Butt”) that is in pretty good shape. It’s before I got my anal puppet sadly (I’ll try and get a picture of that up shortly), but if you weren’t able to come to the class, or were, and want to learn more about posterior pleasure, rectal revelry, or good old fashioned butt sex, please watch it and enjoy! My hope is that you learn something, or at least get a good laugh or two at my expense.