Hi there, Portland. My name is Kaylee and I’d like to help you have better sex.
Before we jump into making that happen over the coming months, you might be wondering who I am and why I’m qualified help you accomplish that goal. Totally fair. Let’s discuss.
I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Which, in spite of being a decidedly un-sexy place, is the starting point in my sex educator origin story. That’s because, sex-ed in Ohio, as is the case in many other parts of this country, is often questionable at best.
A health teacher at my public middle school told our class that condoms wouldn’t protect against HIV, pushing a marble through a mesh sports jersey to illustrate how the virus could allegedly wiggle its way through microscopic pores in latex (not true). At the all-girls Catholic high school I later attended, the clitoris had been blacked out of the anatomy diagrams in every biology textbook with a magic marker. When I asked why, I was matter-of-factly told that it just “wasn’t relevant.” The list goes on.
Unfortunately, experiences like these are woefully common. When it comes to sex, far too many of us are thrown into the pool without ever having been taught how to tread water, let alone swim. Young people — and the adults that they grow up to be — deserve better.
Around age 16, as I watched friends and peers stumble into awkward, occasionally risky sexual encounters (with few or no adults around to whom they felt comfortable turning for guidance), I decided to do what I could to fill the gap. I did my own research and started talking to friends about sexual health, contraception, safety, and — perhaps most importantly — pleasure, an aspect of sex that it seemed no one except the porn industry was willing to be upfront about. Eight years, scores of presentations and discussions with high school and college students, countless one-on-one chats, and hundreds of questions answered later, I haven’t stopped. And I don’t intend to anytime soon.
If there’s one thing that all of these conversations have taught me, it’s that sex is complicated (and, in my opinion, endlessly fascinating). Sex means a lot of different things to different people, and because it often feels so deeply personal, holding space for different sets of values, experiences, preferences, and identities can be difficult when they conflict with your own. But, as is true for most fundamental aspects of the human experience, the commonalities outweigh the divergences. We all have to eat, everybody poops, and most of us will, at some point in our lives, decide to have sex. We might as well do it well.
All of my work begins with a belief that we all have a right to feel safe and to be heard and respected by our partner(s), no matter what the nature of our relationship may be outside the bedroom (or kitchen, or car backseat, or open field). We also have a responsibility to do whatever we can to ensure that those same rights are a reality for the people we have sex with. Sex should feel good, physically and emotionally, in whatever way we define for ourselves. And to achieve that, we all have to be willing to learn, listen, and communicate.
With this column, I hope to create a space where all of those things can happen. No matter your age, gender, sexuality, or experiences, by sharing stories, asking questions, making room for nuance, and backing it all up with medically-accurate information and community resources, I believe that better sex and healthier relationships are possible in this charming seaside city we call home.