Sexual health educator Erica Marie Butler fosters open dialogue about sex
It's in the movies and TV shows we watch. It's in the lyrics of songs we hear. It's on the cover of magazines we pass by in the supermarket.
Sex is ubiquitous in our society, yet it's still a taboo topic of conversation.
“We're having more sex and talking about it less,” sexual health educator Erica Marie Butler said in an early-May interview. “Nobody is communicating about what feels good on their bodies [and] what they actually enjoy. … I just feel like people are missing out on these great sexual experiences, all because nobody wants to talk about the thing that everybody is doing.”
To that end, Butler has created the SexEzone, a trivia party where people divide into teams and answer a series of sex-related questions for prizes. The next event takes place Friday, May 18, at the Vanderelli Room.
“I don't make people uncomfortable. That's not the point,” Butler said. “In a classroom, I'm gonna make you uncomfortable because that's how you're gonna learn. But this is not the setting for that.”
Years before Butler was hosting parties and teaching teens in schools, churches and agencies, she was an educational resource for her peers in high school. “All of my friends who were in relationships steadily would call me [and] come to my house to ask me for relationship advice,” she said. “My dad nicknamed me Ann Landers.”
Butler went on to obtain a bachelor's degree in health studies, and worked as a research assistant for a study on female adolescents. However, she felt stifled by her role. The young ladies would ask for her advice, but helping them would have interfered with the results of the study.
“These girls would consistently come back pregnant or have had an abortion or have had a miscarriage,” Butler said. “What if I was the only person that they felt comfortable talking to about these things?”
So Butler left and earned a master's degree in human sexuality before starting the Happ E. SexTalk company, which educates and empowers adolescents, teens, women and parents.
“At first it was like, ‘I want to be a resource that people can go to when they feel they don't have anybody to ask these questions,'” Butler said. “[But parents] don't know what the hell they're doing because they were never given sex education, either. They don't even know how to talk about sex in their own relationships.”
Butler also works with women and girls of color, who often have a different set of challenges when it comes to representation.
“The way that sex and intimacy is portrayed among people of color in the media is absolutely different than it is among Caucasian people,” Butler said. “So it's a matter of getting people to take back the control of how their sexuality is portrayed, or at least being able to recognize … [and] analyze it.”