How Do You Handle It When Your Friends And Family Don’t Support Your Sex Ed Career?

by Reid on June 28, 2017

Young couple with problem on reception for family psychologistIt can be confusing and frustrating when your family and friends don’t get what you do, and feel ashamed of the Sex Ed you do. How can you support yourself emotionally?

With Reid Mihalko from and Cathy Vartuli from

Cathy: How do you handle it when your family and friends don’t support the work you do around sex education? When they think it might be shameful or really just not okay? 

Reid: And they make that face. 

Cathy: Yeah. 

Reid: I’m Reid Mihalko from, creator of Sex Geek Summer Camp. This is Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo and when the Sex Geek Summer Camp’s on, the t-shirt’s on, now we’re talking business advice. 

Cathy: Yeah, and we might be experimenting if a little button up here is up there. It might be indicating, there, it might be indicating where they can buy Sex Geek Summer Camp shirts. 

Reid: Oh, wow. 

Cathy: Check it out, if it’s there. Dealing with that, it’s hard because it’s pretty vulnerable. I wish I had a balloon that said. 

Reid: Yeah, exactly. 

Cathy: It’s really vulnerable doing this kind of work anyway. We’re often out there at the cutting edge and we’re going against what society says of don’t talk about it, you should just figure it out by yourself. Or if you love them enough that it will all work out fine. It’s pretty vulnerable and having support for working in that area is important and it’s hard when people are telling you that you’re going in the wrong direction, you’re shaming the family, you’re hurting yourself, something bad’s going to happen to you because you’re talking about this. What do you recommend people do when that happens? 

Reid: Success is the best revenge. Make more money than your family and tell them to suck it. By suck it, I mean a medical grade silicone dildo. Yeah, I mean, it’s hard. I was lucky. I had a mom and dad that really supported me and they just wanted me to be happy, that did not mean they didn’t understand what I was doing, but they seemed to kind of, as long as I was happy they were happy. Other people have lots of different experiences around family and friends and support. What has worked the best for me and your mileage may vary, is to try to really engage and practice with your friends and family, asking them, well so tell me more about that.

Like thank you so much for your opinions, I can tell that you care, so tell me more. Again, like with verbally abusive family members and friends, like this won’t work and you really just need to draw a line and be like you know what, I need to create a boundary here. You’re not allowed to talk to me like that. That’s feeling abusive so I’m going to opt out. If you want to actually have a calm conversation about this, I’m available. You get to figure that out. I’m not saying take abuse.

I have found that by asking people to share what’s going on for them and their thoughts, I can start to figure out what their concerns are, whether it’s concerns about me and my wellbeing or concerns about their reputation or something. That skill set, being able to ask people to share more and listen to what they’re saying for what their concerns are, that skill set is gold. You might as well practice on your family and make them good for something. 

Cathy: Yeah, because it will help you with clients, it will help you with all kinds of concerns. If you’re talking the sex you’ve had, things where you spoke at Albuquerque I think it was where people were like, oh this is horrible. You were at a university sharing. 

Reid: When I teach at colleges, like I get attacked, not physically but verbally and I’m always like, so tell me more about that and they’re always shocked that I want to listen. You don’t always have time to listen, it’s not always your job to listen, but when you can, especially with Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Ben, it might be helpful and you might start to impress them or at least leaving them feeling hurt. Don’t do it as a tactic to try to change their minds, but you can leave them feeling a little bit respective and that over time might create greater process faster than anything else. Again, your mileage may vary. 

Cathy: They might feel less discounted. I know when I first started doing these videos with you, one of my relatives who I really care about came up and she’s like, in our family there’s the belief, and I think it’s very common in our culture, if you talk about sex you’re inviting to be attacked. Like people won’t be able to handle themselves and they’re just going to lose it and if you talk about sex, they’re just going to attack you. She was really concerned. She was like, “You’re talking about this stuff, it’s not safe.” By listening to her, I was able to listen to her, I did get some good perspective on things, on the myth that was running in our family because I had it to and having it explained by a third party in the family, I was like oh. 

Reid: Some of those concerns are going to be concerns that are happening for other people in the world so you can start to treat your family members as actual human beings, probably not potential clients. Send them to somebody else for support and advice rather than you trying to coach your family into some sort of healthy dynamic. 

Cathy: I think also, realize that it’s probably not common for, we use the term sometimes, muggle, meaning people that are not sex educators, non-sex geeks. They may not be able to support you. They may not understand what you’re doing and they may love, you may be able to explain enough so that they might feel less threatened by what you’re doing. But getting those needs sourced by people who are your peers, like people you meet at Sex Geek Summer Camp, or other conventions like Woodhull and Catalyst, start connecting with people and finding out hey, I need some more support, can we get on Skype once a week for 20 minutes and just vent for 20, you know. 

Reid: Peer support, super useful, especially when your family doesn’t understand what you do. 

Cathy: Yeah. 

Reid: Leave your comments. How do you get support? How have you dealt with your family members or your friends? 

Cathy: Yeah, we’d love your feedback. 

Reid: Who didn’t or couldn’t understand why you’re a sex educator. 

Cathy: Yeah.

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