Recently, I had the pleasure of seeing the legendary Sue Johanson speak in <em>A Night of Questions and Answers</em>, kicking off the <em>Science of Sexuality</em> exhibit at Themuseum in Kitchener.
The 83-year-old has had a distinguished career, from opening Canada's first birth control clinic in 1972 to working as a sex educator, registered nurse, radio personality, and sex toy designer.
Being a sexually adventurous 20-year-old with an unapologetic nature and more than a few kinks, I was intrigued to see this octogenarian in action — after all, every like-minded individual I’ve met seems to be like-bodied as well. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement — Sue Johanson is a quirky, incredibly animated individual who deals with topics of sexuality in a refreshingly frank manner.
Her approach was part sex education, part stand up act, and all practicality: everything I had been looking for when I was voraciously consuming old issues of <em>Cosmopolitan</em> magazine as a teenager. Questions you wouldn't be able to broach with your parents without permanently turning crimson were fielded in a packed room by a woman that could easily be your grandmother.
Throughout the course of the evening, many common topics of sexual curiosity and anxiety were covered, such as orgasm, sexual health and prevention, female ejaculation, and intimate innovation within long-term relationships.
Johanson focused on establishing a balance between genders in sexuality, and working to dispel attitudes and archetypes which inhibit positive sexual growth. Some examples of this included debunking the myth that bigger is always better (primary sexual sensation in women comes from the clitoris and only the first third of the vagina), criticizing the inflated singular importance placed on achieving orgasm, and calling out the dangerous sensibility that quality of character stems from one’s degree of sexual innocence.
Furthermore, she took care in addressing the often overlooked divide between romanticized and realistic sexual activity. Even when confronted with questions she was unable to provide definitive answers to, Johanson spoke with honesty and tact: referring the anonymous asker to other professional sources or encouraging candid self evaluation.
The only cause for complaint I found during the evening was that the conversation rarely strayed from more vanilla topics, though this limitation was mostly a result of the audience’s demographic and their associated sexual inquiries. Moreover, some of the less conventional topics (such as questions regarding threesomes and swinging) were met with a pessimistic treatment from Johanson, an unfortunate assessment which seemed to be based solely on her personal experience.
Overall, it was incredibly inspiring to see such a sexually liberated senior who advocated open communication, playfulness, innovation, and safety in sexual relationships. Sue Johanson has something for everyone, and for me that was a renewed aspiration to stay freaky for life.