Stella Harris is a Portland-based sex and intimacy coach who stays busy engaging the local community and traveling far and wide to gain and share knowledge concerning sexological anatomy, hands-on bodywork, healing sexual trauma, erotic energy cultivation, and so much more. We had the chance to find out more about her practice and her general perspective. Read the interview below.
How did you begin and sustain yourself in this career as a sex and intimacy coach?
I think sustaining myself is still something I’m striving for. It’s hardly a stable career - but it’s one I’m passionate about and determined to make work.
As for where I began, that’s a matter of what you want to count from. As early as 13 years old I had to teach my grandmother genital anatomy (when she said I’d break my hymen with a tampon) and I realized that this was information people didn’t know. I studied sex and gender as part of my Sociology degree in college, and then took a long detour into a different career before coming back around to sexuality. I started by publishing erotica, and then teaching in the kink & BDSM community. Then I received more training and began teaching general sex ed as well as offering private coaching.
What's the best part of your job?
I love that people trust me with their most intimate and vulnerable selves. And I absolutely love being present for someone’s ‘ah-ha’ moment when something finally clicks for them, and they begin experiencing the sex or sexual expression they’ve been craving.
How much do you worry about this occupation being problematic if you are single and in the dating scene?
It can be tricky, for sure. Deciding what to say about my job is the most frequent thing I change on dating profiles. People can get the wrong idea pretty quickly and it also makes folks a lot more likely to send sexually explicit messages to me right away, which is not what I’m usually looking for. Some people also seem to find dating a sex educator intimidating, and that can be frustrating to push through.
How do you begin to build trust with complete strangers?
I’m looking for a lot of cues when I meet someone new. Both what they say and how they act, and also how they have various conversations. How willing are they to have a safer sex talk? Does that seem like something they do on a regular basis? Do they seem nervous or offended when I ask? How they have that conversation is as important as what they say.
How important in sexual chemistry in a long term relationship?
Absolutely vital. Unless the members of the relationship negotiate to have a companionate partnership, and are in an open relationship, I think sexual compatibility is one of the most important elements of a relationship being satisfying over the long term.
In your personal opinion, are we becoming more open sexually as a country?
I think so, but it’s a slow process. And sometimes it looks like one step forward, two steps back. At least in terms of laws, we’ve certainly seen some backlash.
But you are seeing things like kink and polyamory starting to hit the mainstream, and colleges have started hosting “sex weeks” in the last few years, getting a broader range of information to students, so I do think things are changing.
Also, young folks seem to have a much more flexible and inclusive view of gender, and I’m excited to see how that will change the culture as those folks grow up and move into positions of power.
What are your favorite subjects to teach?
I love it all, really. There’s so much valuable information to share with people I don’t like to limit myself to one or two topics. Probably my most popular class is Mapping the Vulva, which has a couple different versions. Sometimes I teach it with a live demo and sometimes I demonstrate touch on sex toys.
What does the future of sex education in public schools look like?
I’m not very optimistic for the next few years. Beyond that, I really hope we start seeing some major changes. Abstinence only education has been a nightmare, and eventually I hope there’s enough of a tide shift that young people can get the information they need to make safe, healthy, and informed choices.
How do you think mainstream porn influences cis - gendered, heterosexual males’ sexual priorities and expectations?
Well, I can’t speak from the male perspective, but from what clients tell me I hear that porn can lead to unrealistic expectations for how men are expected to perform. Porn can make it look like cis-men get erections on demand, and that those erections always last as long as you want them to. That’s simply not the case. Bodies can be unpredictable and don’t always do what we’d like.
I think porn can be a great way to explore new fantasies or sex acts, especially if you seek out ethically produced porn, but it should replace other sources of information about sex and sexuality.
What are you involved with now?
I’m doing more speaking at universities and conferences and I’m very interested in helping train other professionals, such as therapists and doctors.
I have two conferences coming up in April - one in Vancouver BC aimed at sexuality professionals and one for people interested in Kink & BDSM. At the sexuality conference I’m speaking on a panel about the intersections of polyamory and mental health, as well as doing a 3 hour workshop on battling imposter syndrome. For KinkFest here in Portland, I’m teaching their etiquette and orientation class as well as my communication class and my class on pegging.
What are some new projects you have been working on?
I’ve got a guide to rope bondage coming out soon, that will be a companion to my classes and private lessons. When that’s done, I’m eager to start some other, longer, writing projects.
Find out more information about Stella Harris HERE!
Podcasts are an incredible way to digest information. We’ve rounded up our sex positive favorites that offer an exceptional perspective on important topics today.
Savage Love, Dan's sex-advice column, first appeared in the The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative weekly, in 1991. In 1996 Dan launched the Savage Lovecast, a weekly, call-in advice podcast. It is now one of iTunes top 50 podcasts. Dan’s graphic, pragmatic, and humorous advice has changed the cultural conversation about monogamy, gay rights, religiosity, and politics.
Dan Savage is an author, a sex-advice columnist, a podcaster, a pundit, and a public speaker.
Why we like it
“When I write an advice column or record a podcast, what I’m doing is creating this store of common sense in the heads of the listeners who didn’t ask the question. Because often what happens is: someone hears an answer, it doesn’t apply to them at that moment, but then they find themselves in a similar circumstance three or six months later and it comes back to them. That’s what advice columns and podcasts do: implant memories of what you do when x is happening to you.”
Dan Savage’s advice is sound, with the situations relatable. His approach is consistent but covers a diverse range of topics and is worth a long-term commitment.
The Sexually Liberated Woman
The Sexually Liberated Woman podcast is an ongoing sex positive dialogue that highlights, celebrates, and encourages the sexually liberated woman—not just the idea of her, but her true-blue sexual empowerment in the flesh. It features vulnerable conversations and laid back discussions with incredible erotic advocates and sexually wise souls.
Ev’Yan Whitney originally created Sex Love Liberation so that she could “have a place to chronicle her journey into sexual healing and awakening”. Since then, it’s transformed into a safe haven for other women who want to find peace within their sexualities and get their footing as erotic, sensual, self-empowered beings. Her purpose is to work with women intimately to help guide them into their own sexual awakenings and recover the lost connection with their desires.
Why we like it
The Sexually Liberated Woman is intentional, empowering and holds true to its promise to share vulnerable conversations and in-depth explanations into Ev’Yan Whitney’s journey into sexual liberation.
The Heart is a podcast and audio art project about intimacy and humanity, focused on creating culture that challenges the way that we think about love, sex, and gender.
Kaitlin Prest, host of the Heart, 28, started working with audio 7 years ago when she joined an experimental, erotic college radio show called Audio Smut in Montreal. In 2014, Prest and Kaboli landed a deal with Radiotopia, and have been steadily climbing the iTunes podcast charts to nearly 50-60,000 people downloading the show per episode.
Why we like it
The Heart just feels good to listen to. The sound clips, transitions, narrations and overall flow of episodes are distinct from other podcasts but are not isolating in its eccentricity.
Sex on the Brain with Amory Jane
Sex on the Brain with Amory Jane is a geeky, feminist take on sex, kink, and culture. This sex-positive podcast from educator and comedic storyteller, Amory Jane, will cover a variety of topics, such as porn, non-monogamy, BDSM, gender, and sex in pop culture.
Amory Jane, M.A., host of Sex on the Brain, is a sex educator (education coordinator at She Bop), comedic storyteller and feminist filmmaker.
Why we like it
Episodes of Sex on the Brain sound like listening in on a conversation between close friends. Amory Jane brings a strong sense of community in which they share true perspectives on experiences we all have. We recommend starting with the episode featuring the femme sex party.
Sex Out Loud
Sex Out Loud interviews leading authors, educators, artists and icons to give you an uncensored, inside look at alternative sexual practices and communities. Tristan Taormino delves into topics from the popular to the taboo, including sex education and sexual health, erotic fantasies, BDSM, non-monogamy, the adult industry, and more. Tristan answers audience questions on the air and shares her 15 years of experience through honest and down to earth sex-positive advice.
Tristan Taormino is an award-winning author, columnist, sex educator, speaker and filmmaker.
Why we like it
Tristan’s experience coupled with the guests she features on Sex Out Loud provides a reputable voice for all things sex-related. We recommend starting with the episode featuring JoEllen Notte on “Sex, Depression and The Conversations We're Not Having”.
Now that we’ve shared ours, feel free to share yours. What are your favorites?
In my line of work I get some interesting emails and it takes a lot to surprise me these days. But when I got an email from Portland State University asking me to come and talk about sex parties, I sat up and took notice. I might even have giggled.
For some context, this event was for “Sex Week.” Universities across the country started hosting sex weeks a few years ago and the idea has really taken off. Given that sex ed is sorely lacking in the standard curriculum, sex week allows the students to see presentations on the topics they’re interested in. These events are often run by student groups like the women’s center and the queer center. A couple of years ago I spoke on a PSU panel about BDSM.
Still, I was surprised and delighted that the university was hosting this topic. Because of course the students will do these things anyway. Better that they do them in a way that is safe(er) and well informed.
In addition to myself, the panel consisted of speakers from a couple of local venues as well as someone from the Cascade Aids Project. The event began with everyone on the panel introducing themselves and their backgrounds. I was delighted to be sharing the stage with several older gay men who were open about their positive HIV status. I’m sure for some of the college students it was a first to see people being open and shame-free about that topic. It was also incredibly valuable that they explained the ways they still play at public parties and the ways they keep themselves and their partners safe and informed. (For more about this, you can visit the Cascade Aids Project website)
The introductions from the panel led one student to ask, “What about places for heterosexual play?” It gave the presenters a smile, because of course the majority of public play spaces are mostly hetero-focused. It also gave me a chance to chime in with a list of options for public play in Portland:
• Privata, a swingers club in downtown Portland that also features a monthly kink party called Deviance.
• The Velvet Rope, a swingers club in SE that hosts theme parties including kink and trans specific nights.
• Sanctuary Club, a queer friendly space downtown that hosts a variety of swinger and kink parties.
• Catalyst, a space on SE Foster that hosts mostly kink events.
• Hawks, a gay bath house that also has bi-night every Sunday (for people of all genders.)
• Steam, another gay bath house.
• PDX-Rated, a monthly kink party at the Bossanova Ballroom.
• And many more events you can find online here
I also made sure to emphasize that you don’t need a public party or venue to have a sex party, you can throw your own. And sometimes, having your own party is the best way to get started because you can control all the variables. You get to decide who to invite to the space and you get to decide what tone to set, and what rules will make you feel comfortable. And it doesn’t have to be all out sex, either. Throwing a spin-the-bottle party can be a great way to get used to a sexy group vibe, while also feeling safer for a lot of people.
Doing things like spin-the-bottle a few times is a great way to figure out which of your friends might be a good fit for a play party that includes sex - because those parties certainly aren’t for everyone. Public play, even among friends, can feel scary or vulnerable especially at first. So it’s a good idea to warm up to it slowly. You also want to choose people who are good at handling themselves and good at communicating about their wants and needs.
Another question we got was about negotiating, and that’s another vital step when you’re discussing play. You’ve got to be ready to talk about both your wants, and your boundaries. And you need to know what your safer sex expectations are. The panel participants at the PSU talk were fantastic at pointing out potentially hurtful language that people commonly use when discussing STI tests. Have you ever heard or read someone say they’re “clean” when discussing their test results? Consider what that implies - that people with an STI are dirty. This kind of language adds to the stigma surrounding STIs and that stigma and shame makes people less willing to get tested or disclose their status.
Remember that knowing STI information is great for making an informed choice, but STIs don’t have to be deal breakers for play. Some STIs like HIV or HSV2 have medications that make transmission less likely, and there are also forms of play you can engage in that are incredibly safe, like having hand sex while wearing gloves, or playing with toys.
One last point to remember: voyeurism is participation. It’s okay to attend a sex party and not engage in any play. As long as you’re watching respectfully, that’s a fine way to participate. After all, exhibitionists need an audience. So go have some fun!
Stella Harris is an author, educator, and coach who helps people build the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to explore their sexuality safely and free of shame. You can learn more about Stella or schedule a consultation on her website, www.stellaharris.net or follow her on Twitter: @stellaerotica or IG: @stellaharriserotica
First things first when it comes to body hair: you should decide what’s sexy. You could find yourself in a deep, dark hole of thousands of articles explaining why it’s best to keep or best to get rid of your pubic hair. When using the Clone-a-Willy or Clone-a-Pussy kits, you could shave or trim to help the replica come out closer to looking like your body parts.
A General Guide to Shaving
- Utilize grooming scissors to trim the area you’d like to keep. If your hair is longer than ¼”, trim before shaving.
- Soak in a tub or shave last while in the shower. It will give your hair follicles a chance to soften, lowering your risk for irritation.
- Exfoliate the area gently beforehand to get an even closer shave and ward off ingrown hairs.
- Use a shaving cream without heavy fragrances.
- Always use a fresh razor.
- Avoid too much pressure while shaving.
- Never dry shave. At the very least, use a warm washcloth to bring moisture to the area before shaving.
- Wear 100-percent cotton underwear after taking off body hair. It’ll give your skin a chance to breathe and recover, preventing ingrown hairs in the process.
Pros of Shaving
- Skin can be more sensitive to sensation.
- Oral sex can be more enjoyable for all involved.
- There is a lower risk for odor build-up without hair.
Cons of Shaving
- Hair acts as protection from friction during sex and a cushion for forms of exercise that put pressure on your pubic area.
- The importance of hair in sweating. There are two types of sweat glands: eccrine (secretes sweat with no odour) and apocrine (found specifically in the armpit and pubic area). The apocrine gland uses the follicles of pubic hair as a way to secrete sweat that’s rich in proteins, lipids, and pheremones.
Regrowth, ingrown hairs, itching, tiny cuts through which bacteria and viruses can penetrate are never fun.