In the year of our overlords, 2020, I started spending more time on Instagram. And because I was actively working toward the launch of Guerrilla Sex Ed, I became more intentional about following more sexuality educators.
Which is where I came across Anne Hodder-Shipp and her business baby, Everyone Deserves Sex Ed (EDSE), an organization providing sex educator certification, sexual attitude reassessments (SARs), mentorship, and more. As someone who was still trying to figure out how deep I wanted to get into this sex ed thing, and who was having trouble finding degree programs or certification programs close to home, I was intrigued.
So, here’s Anne on her sex ed journey. This conversation has been condensed for space and clarity.
Tell me about your journey to becoming a sexuality educator.
I was always interested in sexuality, especially from a sociology and a social psychology type of place. So [in college], my goal was to do sexuality journalism. And everyone was like, That’s not really a thing. So, I took the one human sexuality course the college offered. And then I took all the sociology courses I could, including the two that were focused on gender.
After college, I moved to Los Angeles and, within a year, I got a job as a copy editor for a magazine that covered the adult industry. Then, they bumped me to a reporter. And to me, I thought that was the closest I could probably get to sex journalism.
[After three years, I left the magazine and] started putting out feelers to my sex toy company colleagues and friends to let them know I was a free agent and that if they needed help with press release writing, with sex toy descriptions, with packaging stuff, to let me know. And I got so much response that I accidentally started my first company, Hodder Media. And it ended up being the first PR agency that was specifically sex-positive.
During that time, I was also brought on by LA Weekly to run a sex blog, and people started to come to me, to ask me questions online.
I had accrued a shitload of knowledge. I knew so much stuff. I knew how to put it into layman’s terms. I knew how to make it kind of entertaining, in a way that felt accessible to people. And I could answer their questions. But over time, people started calling me a sex blogger and a sex educator, and while that was totally true, in my mind, it felt a little deceitful because I didn’t really have training in that. And I knew there was more to being a sex educator than just knowing stuff.
And so, around 2014, I started to look into programs. I started getting as many trainings and certifications as I could access and the first one was San Francisco Sex Information, which is a small program that offers a very intensive training, in person, in San Francisco, that ultimately trains you to work at a volunteer call center. And it was lifesaving work.
I then went to a Planned Parenthood training that was focused on teenagers, and as part of that training, you basically get thrown into the school system in LA County. It was like being thrown into the woods with the lions.
And then I started looking for the voids to fill. Where were some underserved markets where folks were maybe institutionalized or desexualized or institutionally desexualized? And what if I could try and convince people to introduce or incorporate sexuality education into healing and service programming? I started to get into rehab and treatment centers. And again, that was great training for me, because it was a different kind of wolf to be thrown in front of. And I still do that to this day.
But now, my side project, Everyone Deserves Sex Ed (EDSE), is becoming my main focus. I realized there was a dearth of training programs that were similar to the first one I took, which was very no-bullshit, and which taught you how to have conversations. [With EDSE,] I’m going to give you support on how to answer stuff you don’t know. I’m going to help you navigate stuff when it comes up for you. I’m going to give you some real tangible tools that were inspired by my time with San Francisco Sex Information. So the focus is, yes, offering sex ed to everybody, but also really supporting people who want to get into sex ed and don’t know where to start or who want professional development but can’t find other places. Because, in my opinion, the more sex educators who do this work ethically and accurately and effectively, the better.
And there isn’t one way to go about it. You don’t have to get certifications to be a good educator. But we get to decide, like, what do I feel like I’m lacking? What do I feel I struggle with the most and is there something or someone who can support me through that so I can just continue improving? Part of the deal of being a sex educator is agreeing to never be done.
It sounds amazing to be able to create the thing you sort of wish you had when you were starting out. But, in the midst of all this awesome, what do you find to be the toughest aspect of creating this thing from the ground up?
I mean there’s a lot. Some of it, for me, is just uncharted territory. And in some ways, it feels uncharted territory in general. So it’s been hard to know who I can go to for help and whose help I can really feel trusting of. Because I am so used to having to deal with things on my own since I was so young, it’s not necessarily in my learned behavior to constantly be asking for help from people. I’m so used to having to figure it out by myself and that’s never a useful strategy because it’s myopic. It’s my own perspective. And so, just finding who feels good to collaborate with, who could be really helpful for me, who can be my mentor as I’m mentoring all these people. These people are telling me they look up to me, and it’s such an honor. But then I’m also like, well, who the fuck am I?
Also, how can I make this stuff work in a way that is sustainable and doesn’t negate my desire for people to have access, but which also balances my need to pay my rent. So, that’s a constant balance.
Speaking of needing a support system, you mention trying to pinpoint who could be a mentor to you. So who would you consider some of your personal mentors or your sex ed superheroes?
Bianca Laureano is someone I have sort of indirectly looked up to. I didn’t know her very well, but I knew her through the internet and just really admired what she was doing and at one point I was just like, what if I just emailed her about doing a SAR. Like, what would happen?
And the way that she works with people and how accessible she is and how open she is to answering questions and offering support is absolutely something I connect with and relate to. And I really respect her and her work. Everything she does is through a racial justice, disability justice, reproductive justice, social justice lens.
Emily Morse from Sex with Emily has been a friend of mine for a long time. Back when I was a sex blogger, she would have me on the podcast to talk about cock rings and all this stuff and we just built a friendship. I don’t know if I would call her a mentor, only because I feel like she’s more of a friend than a mentor, but I admire her. She’s found a way to pave through the sex-negative, restrictive, heteronormative, white male-type attitude with sex in the mainstream media and found a way to kind of, like, wiggle her way through it and it wasn’t always a forward process and I know that’s she’s… it wasn’t always success after success. She had to work really fucking hard.
Elle Chase is probably… I would consider her one of my best friends. She’s the one who told me about San Francisco Sex Information. And she’s just a constant source of support.
Esther Perel is someone I admire very much for her approach with couples and people. I really love being able to listen to her on the podcast she does because you can actually hear her in real time working with folks.
And, I mean, David Ley. I don’t know him personally, but I just really respect the way he is able to have conversations about things like sex addiction with very firm, clear boundaries and also is able to explain and describe things to folks who are maybe activated by the concept of sex addiction not being a formal diagnosis or even as an actual thing to be experiencing.