"Sex" is not a dirty word, but it sometimes feels that way. We can't fully understand or appreciate what we're unwilling to discuss, and that's why we're so excited to bring on Lisa Hochberger as our Guest Sex Editor for August. Lisa works in New York as a holistic sexologist, and she's here to help us open up about a topic that can often seem taboo. Below, she answers a few of our introductory questions, sharing some common misconceptions about her career and valuable insight about how to approach the subject of sex around kids.
First things first: what exactly is a sexologist?
Sexology is the scientific study of human sexual behavior. Sexologists study human sexuality using a holistic approach. We do this by examining not just the human body, but [also] by studying interpersonal, political, psychological, linguistic and medical perspectives.
How did you decide that this was the specific area that you were going to pursue?
I was raised in a loving and supportive family. I felt comfortable telling my parents anything (for the most part). Despite their acceptance of the person I was, I felt shy about my sexuality. I had questions about sex, but I felt too ashamed to ask.
One night while my parents were out, I came downstairs and caught my babysitter watching Real Sex on HBO. When I realized what type of show it was, I immediately wanted to watch it. From that day on, I would go into my room every Thursday and put the volume on low so I could watch it. It was through this show that I realized just how normal it was to be sexually curious. I started to imagine what it would be like to grow up in a family that shamed someone for their sexual curiosities. I knew then that I had to find a way to reach those people and help them!
What are common misconceptions that you encounter when you tell people about your career?
That’s an easy one! The three most common misconceptions are:
1. That I am a pervert who is obsessed with sex.
2. That I am some sort of sex god.
3. That human sexuality is a silly field to research and that [sexologists] are self-proclaimed “sexperts” because of all of their “experience.”
Why is our sexuality a vital part of our identity and sexual health imperative to our relationships?
Sexuality is an innate human experience that uses all of our senses and is a vital part of the person we become. It goes far beyond sexual feelings or the act of sexual intercourse. It includes all of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors we have about our gender identity and expression, being in love, sexual orientation, and being attractive.
It also incorporates our thoughts about being in a relationship that is comprised of intimate sexual and sensual activity. We cannot look to others to decide our own feelings about sexuality...Rather, it is something we must explore on our own. When a person is confident in their sexuality, it gives them power to voice what they want in a relationship.
How can we begin to break down barriers that women face with societal expectations regarding sexual behavior and sexuality?
We can start breaking down the barriers that women face regarding sexuality if we stop trying to sensor ourselves around children. Children learn what is right and wrong from the people around them. When we label sex as something that is inappropriate to talk about, we create shame around their perfectly normal questions.
One of the most significant parts of adolescence occurs when youth begin to explore and understand their sexuality. If children feel that sex is something that they cannot ask questions about, they will turn to cyberspace as a source. This is problematic because the Internet is a space that perpetuates negative messages about sexuality. It is common to see women being objectified via social media, popular culture magazines and in pornography. As role models, we must create a safe space for our children to openly discuss the most natural aspect of their identity, sexuality.
Do you have any personal mottos or mantras?
I love the motto, “Sex is NOT a dirty word.” I [also] often say, “Have sex with all of your senses."
p.s. Another Guest Editor who encouraged us to push boundaries.