Conscious Conversations: A Series On Sexual Wellness
Updated: Jan 23
Welcome to the first post in a series about finding sexual wellness after a traumatic experience. Many who have experienced trauma, whether it be sexual or otherwise, find it difficult to be and feel sexually well.
We will be interviewing professionals working in sex education, cannabis, and other therapeutic industries to learn more about how everyone can achieve sexual wellness.
Our first conversation is with Reba Corinne Thomas.
Sex Toys to Sex Education
Reba Thomas is a sex educator, pleasure positive advocate, podcast host (dropping February 2021), and CEO and founder of Sexpert Consultance LLC. She started her journey in sex education selling sex toys as a side hustle while also working in the nonprofit sector. The company she sold these toys for strongly believed in getting proper on the job education which is how Thomas ended up getting her certificate in sexual health promotion from Indiana University at Bloomington.
While selling the toys, Thomas would give people tips about oral sex and answer questions potential buyers had. One of her customers told Thomas that she gave great advice and suggested she create a class on oral sex. After a bit of hesitation, Thomas listed a class on EventBrite and it sold out instantly. She remembers putting “up another date and it sold out. And I put up another date and it sold out...I was like wait a minute what is happening here?!” A few years later, she left the nonprofit job and has been a sex educator ever since.
As we find out through these interviews, people’s definitions of sexual wellness and trauma aren’t all the same. We want to include each person’s definitions in case you, like us, decide to add something to your own. Here are Thomas’s.
Sexual Wellness: Sexual wellness is "a state of being and owning and living in and feeling empowered by yourself and your sexuality.”
Sexual Trauma: “Oftentimes we think about sexual trauma as ‘okay we had an episode of violence or assault that we experienced’...But sexual trauma also looks like ‘every time I have sex it hurts.’ Or ‘every time I try to orgasm, I don’t. I feel shame.’ Sexual trauma is violence, or aggression, or coercion. But it also is consistent pain or feeling shame and guilt about your body. ”
Thomas is a self-described pleasure positive sex educator. We asked her what pleasure positivity means for her. Pleasure positivity means “focusing on and prioritizing pleasure when you talk about sexual wellness.”
Many people when they hear that Thomas is a sex educator, think she’s going to teach them how to put a condom on or how to avoid STIs and STDs. But what she actually does is teach people how to get pleasure and achieve orgasms. She says, “it’s so important to understand that the way we typically receive sex education if we receive it at all, is from a very sex-negative, pleasure negative lens.”
It isn’t a coincidence that a country with varying degrees of (most often inadequate) sex education has high rates of sexual trauma and unwellness. Thomas explains that “we’re not taught about agency over our bodies or consent. We’re taught what the penis and the vagina are and how they function.” This pleasure negative education and societal idea that we shouldn’t talk about sex or sexual pleasure “set up this perfect, and by perfect I mean absolutely abhorrent culture, rape culture.”
Cookies, Ho-Hoos, Ya-Yas, and Cucumbers
Thomas has a five-year-old daughter who she has been raising to understand how her body actually works. At two Thomas taught her the difference between her vulva and vagina. Now that she’s older, she is learning about her clitoris. While some may balk at a person learning these things so young, Thomas knows the alternative is much scarier.
“What would you rather her say? My cookie, my ho-hoo, my ya-ya? Because when she comes around here and says ‘Johnny from down the street touched my cookie or took my cookie and it made me sad,’ you’re gonna be like oh baby get over it.”
Without accurate knowledge of our bodies, we cannot understand our traumas, our pleasure, or find our sexual wellness.
But what happens when parents are just learning these terms and ideas for themselves? Thomas has many clients who are coming to her as adults because they didn’t learn about their bodies or how to get pleasure when they were younger. Luckily for them, Thomas can teach them how to have pleasurable sex and how to speak to their children about sex in an appropriate and well-rounded way.
“I’m not telling our kids to have sex with each other. But we should be talking about masturbation and what those feelings are. Kids should know this so that when they’re grownups and it’s time for them to go find orgasms for themselves they’re not on Google trying to use a cucumber and some syrup to figure out what goes on down there.”
Sexual Wellness and Cannabis
Sexual traumas, whether they be assault, cohesion, or the sex-negative messages we internalize through our education, impact our ability to find sexual wellness. While Thomas said that any unresolved trauma a person experiences can impact their sexual wellness, “the greater a person’s unresolved sexual trauma, the higher level of sexual unwellness and sexual dysfunction I see.”
So how can cannabis fit into this pleasure positive, sexual wellness space? For Thomas, it’s more a question of how can it not?
“The two things that deter us from having a positive sexual experience are pain and anxiety. Both of which cannabis helps to treat. So why wouldn’t we be using it?..
To recognize the medicinal qualities of this plant and not use it for sexual wellness seems irresponsible to me.”