Secrets We Didn’t Intend to Share about Sex Masters: Racism in the Sexuality Field

An open letter to sex educators and the sex positive community who are white like me

Sheri Winston is an amazing sex educator. She demystified the g-spot for me. She made my partner feel safe and even laugh when he showed up for his first sexuality class. She sat with me as I iced my pussy, patient as ever while we talked about contraception and the three different kinds of sperm!

I love her classes. They played a pivotal role for me in transitioning from educating myself to educating others. I still remember years ago how she lit up when she shared the analogy of playing the piano like having sex.  It goes something like this… It would be absurd to expect yourself to just be able to play the piano with no lessons or experience right? Imagine if we never took piano lessons because we thought there was something wrong with us for not already knowing how to play. That’s how most of us approach sex. What if we took the time to learn together with no shame and compassionate curiosity?

That’s also how most of us approach race.  Anyone else out there think we are already supposed to know how to not be racist? Does anyone think white people should know how to suddenly see privileges that society has been training us not to see? Think we should know how to handle when people call us out?  What if we took the time to learn together with no shame and compassionate curiosity?


Sheri Winston is also one of the contributors to Secrets of the Sex Masters, co-written & edited by her partner Carl Frankel.

Let’s put it this way, we (as white sex educators) just got the opportunity to play a more beautiful song on the piano when the Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) reached out.  And we may not instantly know how to play it yet. In fact it has a time signature we haven’t seen and there’s no written music, this one we are learning by ear.

Maybe you heard about this new opportunity. All sixteen contributors to the book, “Secrets of Sex Masters” are white. To which the WOCSHN responded with this brilliant statement packed with resources worth reading: You Didn’t Send For Us So We Came For You: The Infestation of White Supremacy In The U.S. Sexuality Field. This situation raises questions, hopefully not just questions like “how do we fix this one mistake?” but questions like “why are our closest friends and colleagues not racially diverse?” “What makes us position ourselves as authorities?”

I’ve been watching a lot of people that I love navigate this. (I waited a few days to post this because I was having conversations with them and I don’t want us to just post AT each other and not have real relationships.)

When Sheri taught me how to use a cervical cap I felt so empowered I wanted everyone to know how to do this. When I learned about how whiteness was impacting my emotions and beliefs I wanted to share this with everyone. I want us all to have the tools and loving people around us to hold us accountable when we make mistakes, just like they hold our hand when a condom breaks, or when our relationships fall apart.

In my experience sex positive communitites love transformational big energy (aka mind-blowing-identity-expanding orgasms).  We know about grounding, setting intention, breathing, building energy, connecting even when things feel uncomfortable, not getting attached to an end goal, being curious about sensations, and accepting our emotions so we can be more present with each other. These are the same skills that we can use to transform emotions that come up around race.

Here’s an emotional “climax” cycle.  It’s not a cycle for orgasm, but it’s a cycle for transformation and similar to orgasm it has the capacity to generate more trust, love, and passion in ourselves and in our relationships.  It’s the emotional cycle of detoxing our internalized superiority.

Pause… Anyone thinking, I don’t have time to deal with this? When do we ever have time to recreate our identity?  Yes, ok so that’s a sign that we are at the beginning of the cycle.

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book called “On Death and Dying.” It outlined the emotional stages of grief a person moves thru when someone dies. So let’s imagine that the identity that “whiteness” gave us is dying.  Which means there’s something better coming, trust me on this one for a minute. Here’s the anatomy of the cycle.  (I’ve created examples for each stage.  I cannot say this is how Carl or Sheri are thinking but it gives an example of what the stage might look like.)

1. Shock & denial (i.e. What do you mean we published this amazing book and all you can focus on is the fact that we forgot to include contributors of color?)

2. Guilt (i.e. I can’t believe we reached out to so many sex educators and we totally didn’t see that we were only choosing white contributors!  I feel bad, what if I am blind in other areas of my life too?)

3. Anger (i.e. I already apologized and proposed a way to remedy the problem, I’m so furious they are still angry. Now what?)

4. Bargaining (i.e. Well maybe we weren’t diverse racially but at least we were diverse with men and women, kink and vanilla, able bodied and disabled…)

5. Depression (i.e. It breaks my heart that race is still dividing us, I wanted this to be an empowering resource for everyone.  How do I hold this sadness?)

6. Acceptance & hope (i.e. Ok, I moved thru my emotions and I take full responsibility for my oversight.  I forgive myself for not having this awareness earlier and I’m ready to listen to others.  I realize this book did not cause a division but revealed one that was already present and I’m grateful for the opportunity to address and heal it.)

Having these emotions is a normal response when our whiteness gets pointed out AND we have to move thru them to our humanity on the other side. So if you’re wondering if there’s a way to just jump to step 6, I haven’t found it yet. But I can say that with practice we can move thru these stages with more awareness and in a shorter period of time. When we know we are still in the first 5 stages it’s usually not the best time to respond, it tends to come across as internalized superiority. They are not always in this order and sometimes we visit them a few times, like 1, 2, 3, 2, 4, 2, 5… let’s get really good at loving each other while we practice.  By 2040 (when my children will be in their 20s) there will be no racial majority in America.  We as white people will need to become more and more accountable as the new minority.  Side effects include: deeper heartgasms, sexier communication, and perhaps playing a new instrument that isn’t western like the piano.

Zahava Griss