“People are only afraid of the things they don’t fully understand,” says LightHouse Sexual Health Services Program Coordinator Laura Millar.
Laura is speaking to the stigma around sexuality, and more specifically the stigma faced by people who are blind or low vision when navigating their sexuality — one she has set out to address in our community via her brand new LightHouse sexuality workshops for adults and youth.
“With blindness and with sexuality, there is the fear and the unknown,” she says. “These workshops offer permission for exploration, because it’s brought out into the light. I want to give people permission, to say it’s okay to talk about the range of possibilities within sexuality.”
Laura’s upcoming December 8th workshop for adults, Exploring Sensuality, Sexuality & Erogenous Zones with Dr. Carol Queen, is a particularly exciting one. Laura and Dr. Queen have worked together to craft a fun and educational workshop tailored to blind or low vision individuals who wish to explore sexuality in a safe, supportive and non-judgmental space. The workshop is open to all participants regardless of gender, sexual orientation, sexual experience or relationship status.
Coming to us as a representative of Good Vibrations sex shop, Dr. Carol Queen is an author, editor, sociologist and sexologist active in the sex-positive feminism movement. She is also a staff sexologist at Good Vibrations and curator of the Antique Vibrator Museum, as well as director of the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco. She is known for her award-winning personal essays and books including The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture.
Armed with a wide array of experience speaking on many topics of sexuality, Dr. Queen hopes to center our blind and low vision students’ nerves and fears and normalize the range of human sexual experience. Her approach is a sex-positive one, which emphasizes welcoming and exploring the many variations of human sexuality. We spoke to Dr. Queen this week about the upcoming LightHouse Sexuality workshop, and she had some great insights.
“What would it take for everyone to have access to what they need to have happy, pleasurable sexuality?” says Dr. Queen. “We live in a culture that tends not to give us enough diverse and useful information about sex, especially sexual pleasure but even sexual health. From that flows questions of different needs and respecting specialized needs that may be relevant, including sexual orientation, finding appropriate partners, communication, sexual health and being sure that we operate in an atmosphere of consent. There are so many pieces of the puzzle.”
We don’t think that blind or low vision people need a separate space to learn about sexuality, but we’re doing these classes at LightHouse because we know that certain widely used visual resources are inaccessible to our community — and when it comes to sex, it’s not always easy to ask the questions that need answering.
Both Laura and Dr. Queen hope this will be a space of mutual learning and trust. There will be no nudity or partnered exercise, so don’t fret! Dr. Queen hopes to incorporate speaking exercises and some individual touch, but the emphasis is on education, discussion and openness. Various tactile tools will be provided by Good Vibrations.
“It’s about agency and understanding yourself,” says Dr. Queen. “The aim is to give people a way of thinking about sensuality and pleasure and the body, because those things are important to any person, no matter what kind of body they live in.”
Laura adds: “The best tool I can give people (blind or sighted) is the opportunity to explore the wisdom of their own bodies and to trust what they feel — to get them out of their heads and into their bodies.”
LightHouse is honored to work with Good Vibrations and Dr. Queen, and it seems the feeling is mutual!
“It’s an honor to work with an organization that means so much to people,” says Dr. Queen. “I got a tour the other day and I was really blown away by how thoroughly LightHouse tackles the work that they do. I run a small nonprofit and I can’t even imagine being as fabulous as you all when we group up. It’s an honor to learn from you all and participate and bring something over.”
Please RSVP to Laura Millar at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-431-1481.
Exploring Sensuality, Sexuality & Erogenous Zones with Dr. Carol Queen
When: Thursday, December 8, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where: LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired Headquarters
1155 Market St., 10th Floor,
San Francisco, 94103
Who: Adults (ages 18 and older) who are blind or have low vision. You may bring an adult guest with you.
Cost: Free to attend.