Sara Connell has worked in the sex education field since she was in college. In fact, she was one of CU Boulder’s first copyright strikes for the logo of her podcast, Sex Buffs, since she didn’t have the rights to the buffalo that was fornicating with another in the podcast art. It’s not surprising that she would create Queer Sex Ed, a very successful podcast and business focused on sexual health, education, and redefining the parameters of what sex ed can be.
“Queer Sex Ed is a business focused on changing the conversation around sexual health and sex ed in general, and some of that is to include LGBT-specific materials in sex ed. But it’s also a larger project than that, because when I’m saying ‘queer,’ it doesn’t just mean including queer people, but it means questioning how we think of sex ed as a whole,” Connell said.
Just in case the podcast title wasn’t clear enough, I’m queer AF and excited to meet you #LGBTQtwitter ❤️💛💚💙💜🦄💜💙💚💛❤️ #queer #femme #trans #podcaster #girlongirlpower #femme4femme pic.twitter.com/vPO7YQlFPC
— Queer Sex Ed (@QSEpodcast) September 3, 2018
The work she does with her company includes the podcast of the same name, written articles, workshops, and public speaking engagements at conferences.
So, how did this business come about? After college, Connell worked at Out Boulder County. She still knew that something was there in regards to her sexual health work and podcasting, but she couldn’t imagine not working at the nonprofit. Still, the idea kept persisting, so she started looking around at domain names. She found that queersexed.org was available and knew she could do something with it, so she bought it. She ended up sitting on it for about a year.
In 2016, Connell met one of her partners, Jay Botsford, another trans person hailing from Wisconsin, at that year’s Creating Change conference. Both are sex educators, and after they dated for a while, Connell brought up her idea. Botsford came to visit Connell in April, and they recorded the first episode.
“One of the goals of the show was to create sort of like a curriculum, something that people could listen through and get things from, even if they go back to old episodes… We wanted it to be the type of thing where if you’re going on vacation, you can go download 10 episodes and just listen to it while you’re traveling.”
A benefit of this curriculum being in podcast form is that it’s fairly accessible. Anyone can download episodes without having to face obstacles like permission from parents or access to more mainstream resources. If you have a smartphone or a computer, you can find a way to listen to the show with relative ease.
Connell and Botsford both wanted to be able to have these conversations because they didn’t feel represented by a lot of the folks who do this work. Sex ed work is still predominantly geared towards cisgender and heterosexual folks, and many of the people in that space are skinny, traditionally attractive, white people. Connell wanted to add more diversity to this conversation. She also wanted to change the ideas being brought up.
Last night the Ace&Aro Group at CU Boulder brought us to the campus for our first ever LIVE EPISODE! It was so much fun ❤️🧡💛💚💙💜 #podcast #sex #queer #LGBTQ #transgender #WontBeErased pic.twitter.com/DIGQYHCGdf
— Queer Sex Ed (@QSEpodcast) November 30, 2018
Sex ed is usually geared towards middle and high school students, and then the conversation tends to stop there. Connell doesn’t find that to be useful or productive for what people need to know to have healthy sexual relationships.
“I think one important part of it is that sex ed starts when you’re born and then ends when you die. Like, we think of sex ed as very middle- and high school-focused, and when we talk about sex ed as a policy and a program and a part of life, I think we just think of these eight years in school as the only time these conversations happen, and then it’s over. I think to have really successful sex ed, you have to start when kids are young.”
Connell doesn’t necessarily mean having detailed conversations about sex or intimate relationships with young kids. Instead, it’s about teaching and encouraging them to assert and negotiate healthy boundaries and build a solid groundwork of good communication skills from the start of their lives, so they don’t have to do so much unlearning as teens and adults.
Another aspect of Connell’s approach to sex ed deals with adults. “It’s also lifelong, in the sense that adults are always learning as well. Even if you’ve had the same partner for years, your desires might change; your interests might change; what you want to do might change, and your relationship might change. So I think adults are always engaging in sex ed, and I think it’s important to keep learning, keep growing, and keep asking if your desires and needs are being met.”
By encouraging healthy communication skills at a young age and encouraging continued growth and questioning as adults, Connell hopes to help people have healthier and happier sexual relationships.
As the show and business continue to grow, Connell has big plans for the future.
“I would like to see this become more of a community, like a space where people can find and meet each other instead of just getting information from us. I think that’s kind of the next step, whether that’s more of an online presence, a community space, an online community space, some kind of workshop, or online seminars. I think that would all be worth looking into.”
As far as long-term projects go, Connell wants to pursue creating an actual Queer Sex Ed conference, likely somewhere in the Midwest, since it’s close to where Botsford lives and would make it easy for a lot of people to to travel from surrounding areas.
She’d also like to start working on some more event-based activities like dungeons and sex parties.
“I think it would be really cool to have places that are trans-run that are holding trans people at the center to make sure those spaces are as safe as possible for trans folks and for people of color, since those are both communities that struggle to find spaces in mainstream dungeons.”
Providing alternate spaces for these folks to feel safe and welcome is something Connell hopes to use her platform to do in the future.
In addition to centering trans identities in these spaces, Connell also wants to expand the shows she does into the media landscape which still lacks many prominent trans voices. Ultimately, she’d like to have a network of shows hosted through Queer Sex Ed with a variety of hosts, giving Connell the chance to do more behind-the-scenes production work. The Queer Sex Ed podcast itself just hit 50,000 downloads on 40 episodes, so Connell is hopeful about the continued growth and future opportunities.
The future of Queer Sex Ed, and Connell herself, are looking bright. To find the show and other projects under the Queer Sex Ed umbrella, head to queersexed.org. To support the project financially, check out its Patreon. Connell can be found on Twitter @QSEpodcast.
Did you know the Queer Sex Ed Podcast is now on @Spotify? It’s never been easier to catch up on the show, share with someone new, or jump in for the first time: https://t.co/XbIRlOovwn
.#podcast #queer #transgender #LGBT #sex #education #sexuality #trans #LGBTQ #newpodcast pic.twitter.com/ZcE2gRfVWx
— Queer Sex Ed (@QSEpodcast) July 12, 2018