If you had the chance to attend a retreat in the woods to learn about sex education in addition to making s’mores by a campfire, would you do it?
Back in August, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a sex camp. Ideas of what could be in store popped into my mind: Would there be sex encouraged in the wilderness? Would there be adult versions of the camp staples I’d grown up with? Who else would be there?
In the end, sex camp included only some of those things, but what I learned most was just how much I could grow as a sex educator by expanding my comfort zone enough to go at all.
So, let me explain.
Most people think sex educators all just sit at home or only teach in schools. Big misconception.
We have to create our own curricula and materials, manage our own social media, and even do our own negotiations and outreach to brands. And the stigmatization of sex education as a valid, legitimate field reaches deep into many of our psyches.
A lot of this is also solitary work. So many of us are our own editors, content managers, outreach coordinators, graphic designers, editorial assistants, producers, and more. For all the glamour you might see on social media, the reality is that being a sex educator can be lonely, requiring longer hours of solo work to get everything done.
On top of that, there’s the stigmatization.
Many people see sexuality as a “high-risk” field, often because of puritanical ideas of what sex is. Stigmatizing sexuality in this way has very real consequences.
Sex workers, current and former, have spoken up about the increased levels of violence they receive just for existing. And they experience further negative effects as a result of laws such as the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017.
Even civilian (non-sex working) sexuality professionals are restricted in how we can conduct our businesses.
Banks and payment processors can deny us service because of the presumed “risk” connected to our jobs. Social media marketing and business support — like purchasing ads — can be restricted or straight-up banned.
In many ways, stigmatization only scratches the surface of the challenges sexuality professionals face.
When it comes to connecting through networking events or career retreats, sexuality professionals are still being left out completely. And if we do happen to be in the room, we have to wade through information to determine what is and isn’t relevant for us, which prevents us from being immersed in the space and giving it our full attention.
I wouldn’t change being a sex educator for anything, and I love being able to do this work full-time. But I also wouldn’t miss an opportunity to gather in a space where I can be supported as my full self, not just by professionals or curious individuals.
Known as “The Sexual Happiness People,” Lovehoney is a U.K.-based sexuality retail brand that’s been in business for over 15 years. Camp Lovehoney, the first initiative of its kind by the company, was started to create a private and physical gathering space for sex educators and sex-positive media to learn together.
But exactly what happens at sex camp?
Camp Lovehoney was hosted in upstate New York at Gather Greene. We stayed in the cutest cabins, which were intimate and personalized for each guest, each one outfitted with a king-size bed and a gorgeous see-through panel overlooking the wilderness.
The vibes landed somewhere between glamping and true camping.
Rather than include all the elements of traditional camping (which, trust me, was a good thing), Camp Lovehoney focused on providing a variety-filled learning experience. Sessions were a mix of lectures, Q&As, demonstrations, and interaction among the attendees, so there was something for everyone.
And when I say variety, I mean: Other attendees and I sat through presentations on the benefits of anal sex, workshops with examples of products that can help amplify your orgasms, and an input-encouraging workshop on how to introduce kinks in the bedroom.
But I’d be remiss not to mention that Lovehoney did provide a classic glamping experience where we wound down the night with a three-course dinner, drinks included, under the stars and DIY s’mores by a campfire.
For me, the biggest appeal of attending sex camp didn’t come from the assumption that sex would be encouraged out in the open (and no, I didn’t have sex while I was there), but rather from the fact that it represented huge needs within the sexuality space.
Interacting with other professionals was also a great opportunity to dive deep into a central question: What does sexual wellness look like, truly?
I learned it can mean curiosity and permission — permission we give ourselves to freely explore our desires. It can mean welcoming and encouraging exploration from ourselves and our partner(s). It can mean acknowledging that there’s more to sex than a race to have an orgasm, and that you can learn from knowledgeable people who know how to tailor it to their specific audiences.
Facing digital roadblocks only makes these physical spaces — places where sexuality professionals can gather, learn from each other, and be in a community that understands where they’re coming from — feel even more like a luxury. A luxury many of us in the field simply don’t have because of the expenses needed to pull it off.
Leaving Camp Lovehoney, I felt rejuvenated, as an individual and a sexuality professional. I felt a deeper connection to the work I do and the necessity of it.
It’s no accident that so many of us do this work because we want to create what we didn’t have in our childhood. Spaces like Camp Lovehoney understand that.
They created a space to help folks understand their own definitions of sexual wellness by inviting sexuality professionals to show up as their authentic selves and learn collaboratively from each other for professional development and invaluable community connection.
I hope this is the beginning of normalizing spaces where professionals can continue the necessary work of sex education.
And yes, I would strongly encourage even people who are just curious about holistic sexual wellness to attend an education-based sex camp if they ever get the opportunity.
Cameron Glover is a writer, sex educator, and digital superhero. You can connect with her on Twitter.