Every Wednesday, The CSPH highlights a Sexuality Professional you should keep your eye on. Their backgrounds are very diverse in order to bring attention to the wide variety of amazing people working in the field. This week we bring you Kate McCombs!
1. What do you do in the field of sexuality?
I’m a sex educator, and I do a number of things under that umbrella. I teach workshops, most often to young adults, and I’m a guest lecturer at several universities. I’m also the managing editor of MySexProfessor.com and the founder of Sex Geekdom, a community for sex educators, researchers, and other folks who consider themselves “sex geeks.”
2. Where are you based out of?
Currently, I’m based in Melbourne, Australia although I’m originally from the States. I’m planning on relocating to New York this July.
3. What is your focus? What do you do?
My focus is on sex-positive approaches to sexual health promotion. In all the teaching, research, and writing that I do, I aim to bring pleasure and health together.
4. What are your particular goals and passions in the field?
I’m deeply passionate about building community around sex-positivity and sexual health promotion. I got my official start in sex ed through Berkeley’s sexual health peer education program, and I fell in love with having a community of educators who shared my passion for a more sexually healthy world.
Wherever I go in life, I want to catalyze and facilitate meaningful conversation about sex, health, and pleasure. I recently wrote a blog post about being what I call a “beacon of permission” in sexuality. Creating safe spaces wherein people can talk frankly about sex is at the core of what I want to create in the world.
5. Why did you choose to work in this field?
It feels more like this field chose me. I’ve been doing sex education for as long as I can remember, only I didn’t know it was an actual job until I started my undergrad. I can remember being nine years old and answering friends’ questions about puberty, and as I got older I answered their questions about safer sex, masturbation, and orgasm.
6. Where did you go for school/training?
I did my undergraduate degree in Anthropology at UC Berkeley and I have a Masters in Public Health from the University of Melbourne. I’m also a graduate of San Francisco Sex Information’s sex educator training, and I have a certificate in adult education from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. When I worked for Good Vibrations as an Off-Site Sex Educator, I had the pleasure of receiving the marvelous training that Charlie Glickman gives to new employees.
Most of what I know about teaching and public speaking I learned from my mom. Before she retired, she trained teachers all over the US how to teach English language learners. Growing up, I often sat in the back of her workshops and unintentionally learned a lot about how to facilitate and teach. I’m deeply grateful that I have a mom who’s also my mentor.
7. Do you have any literature out (websites, articles)?
Most of my writing is on MySexProfessor.com and the blog at SexGeekdom.com. In the last year, I co-wrote a paper on sexual health and disability for the World Health Organization, which should be published on their site in the next few months.
8. What would you recommend to future professionals attempting to get into the field?
I love talking to aspiring sex educators. It reminds me why I do this work and it’s always fun to hear people’s stories about how they got interested in the field.
First and foremost, I encourage people to seek out mentors and communities of sex-positive professionals. There are lots of avenues for aspiring sex educators, and it’s good to get a broad range of perspectives before committing to a specific path.
I also encourage people to explore their own “stuff” related to sex and sexuality. No one is neutral to sex, and it’s useful to be clear on what motivates you to do this work. That emotional clarity can make you a stronger, more empathetic sex educator and can serve to reignite your passion if burnout starts to set in (something I hear from many seasoned sex educators).
I wrote a post for the Sex Geekdom blog called “Six Tips for Becoming a Sex Educator” that elaborates on these points.
9. What is the most challenging aspect for you working in this career?
I think the most difficult thing about doing this work is the widespread cultural resistance to providing comprehensive sexuality education to young people. Even if we’re not teaching youth, we deal with the damage of absent or harmful sex education everyday.
10. One must read-what would you recommend? Why?
It’s not a sex book per se, but I use what I learned in Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg every day. It offers practical tools for becoming more empathetic, which I think is crucial for any sexuality professional.
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