c/o Olivia Berger

c/o Olivia Berger

Hello dear readers, 

Surprise! I know we said our official goodbyes in our article last Thursday, but we couldn’t leave you all on such a sad note. We’re popping back in with a fun article featuring Wesleyan’s very own Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology Professor Christine Curley! Professor Curley co-hosts the podcast “Sex Ed Debunked” with her daughter Shannon Curley. To support every episode, Curley includes academic research, including scholarship from her PhD, on the relationship between positive sexuality and wellbeing. 

Having lived on a college campus for the past four years, I would consider this environment to be the ultimate rumor mill. False information can spread like wildfire, and for topics that can be a bit taboo, we rarely get to hear an expert intervene and set the record straight. As a special treat for our last article, we’re bringing Curley’s expertise to Pillow Talk.

When talking with Curley about the topics we’ve touched on in Pillow Talk, we got to chatting about everything from BDSM and porn to navigating sexual identity. From her “Psychology of Human Sexuality” (PSYC339) class here at Wesleyan, she’s noticed that many students are intrigued by BDSM and its relationship to our mental health. Inspired by this curiosity, she dedicated a podcast episode to debunking the myth that BDSM and kink is a sexual trauma response (Myth #60: BDSM is a Trauma Response). Curley clarified that BDSM is not an extension of trauma but rather a way for participants to step into their sexual agency. The empowerment resulting from BDSM and power play can be deeply healing for individuals who have had abusive experiences rob them of this sense of agency. 

Another podcast episode features guest sexuality researcher and writer Niki Davis-Fainbloom, and dives into the topic of porn. While Doe and I have explored our own thoughts about porn in our past article “Porn—Yay or Nay?”, this podcast episode offers a deeper dive into the truths and falsehoods behind porn production. Davis-Fainbloom interviews porn stars to bring a level of transparency to an otherwise unclear topic.

In addition to guests, academic research, and personal anecdotes, “Sex Ed Debunked” offers an intergenerational perspective through the mother-daughter format. For many of us, the thought of hosting a sex podcast with our parents—or even hearing them utter the word “genitals”—evokes a wave of fear, embarrassment, and disgust. So how has Curley managed to not only bypass this uncomfortable barrier, but even record and publish these intimate conversations with her daughter in the form of a podcast?

Curley clarified that this degree of openness has not always been her family dynamic. Growing up in a strict Catholic environment prevented her from having an open dialogue about sex with her parents, and thus she lacked a model for fostering this relationship with her kids. However, when faced with questions about sex from her young kids, she opted for transparency around sex and pleasure. 

If you’re hoping to foster a more open dialogue with your parents about sex and sexuality, then Curley suggests incorporating an outside source to get the conversation rolling. For example, watch a TV show together or listen to an episode of a podcast that touches on some of the topics you want to discuss. This can make it easier to bring up questions that might feel uncomfortable. 

Additionally, think about the physical environment where this conversation takes place. I have always found that car rides and even walks, rather than sitting face-to-face, can create a more relaxed atmosphere. Being able to do a simple task during the conversation, like walking or driving, can take the pressure off and relieve some discomfort. Curley also suggests easing into these discussions (what she calls “breadcrumbing”) to build comfort and trust over time. As nerve-wracking as it can be for children to participate in conversations about sex, our parents are also experiencing this discomfort. For many parents, they are balancing their own lived experiences, lessons from their childhoods, and even religious upbringings with their desire to trust, love, and protect their child. Therefore, starting small and building up to greater degrees of openness can allow everyone to adjust to a better family dynamic.

Positive sexuality has such a substantial—and often ignored—impact on our physical and mental health. Just as we should look after our diet, exercise, and sleep to live a long and healthy life, a positive sex life contributes significantly to our well-being. Especially in our generation, where we’re constantly being bombarded with media, dating apps, and the ups and downs of hookup culture, looking after our sexual health positively impacts every other area of life. Whether that means celibacy, casual sex, or a committed relationship, the key is to take the time to decipher what “positive sexuality” really means for you. 

If you’re going to miss our weekly Pillow Talk articles for the next few months, then check out “Sex Ed Debunked” to get your sex chat fix. If you have any requests for myths to hear debunked in the podcast, feel free to send an email to ccurley@wesleyan.edu

Goodbye for real this time!


Dill & Doe