We are delighted to gain insight from Kira Manser, Executive Director of Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
The CSPH is one of the organizations we support through our Coupons for Causes program which allows customers to translate their discounts into donations. Use the discount code CSPH to take 5% off your order in our store and we will make a donation in the same amount to this wonderful organization.
How did your organization get its name?
The CSPH got it's name because Megan Andelloux wanted to highlight that pleasure is an essential part of health. It is really a descriptive name- although because we highlight the term "sexual pleasure", it is often considered a very radical name as well.
How does CSPH differ from other regional or national organizations which deal with Sexual Education?
We are the only organization whose main purpose and mission is to offer pleasure-inclusive medically accurate sex education to both medical providers and allied health professionals, as well as members of the pleasure industry. We sit right at the intersection of health and pleasure and work to build the awareness of the importance of that intersection!
Adult toys have gone mainstream. We see them everywhere from Walmart and Target to Rite-Aid and of course on Amazon. How has mainstream acceptance affected your group and how you develop programs or interface with the public?
Unfortunately, just because toys are more available does not mean that accessibility to accurate pleasure-inclusive sex education has also increased. With the increase in comfort talking about and using toys we've seen the need for our services increase as well. People deserve to have accurate information about their sexuality products so that they can make informed decisions about their bodies and health.
That's one of the reasons I love how much you work to provide both :)
How has Amazon affected your business?
Well, we use their services as a small non-profit. The largest impact has been because we have an Amazon Smile account- so if anyone chooses The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health as their designated 501(c)3 on amazon smile- we get a portion of their purchase as a donation :)
Because of increased demand, markets tend to see more counterfeit products available. Have you heard of a lot of problems with this?
Not with counterfeit products- but definitely with products that are made from materials and ingredients that are harmful to bodies. There's no regulation on what is put into sex toys (because then our government would have to acknowledge people stick things up their butt for pleasure!), and very ineffective regulation about what goes into sexual lubricants. We work to make information about this widely available so people are informed when they go to buy their sexy things.
Besides wider acceptance, how has industry changed in last 10 years? 20 years?
Consumers are way better educated now than they were 10 years ago! There's still a large amount of information that should be common knowledge that isn't- but WAY more people know about glycerin in lube, and phthalates in toys for example. I also think that companies are responding by offering many more responsibly made products. There are so many more options, and designs, and creativity in the industry now than 10 years ago. It's awesome!
How do your programs enhance customers' experiences?
With more information and less feelings of shame, our community members are able to be more effective and powerful leaders in their own sexual lives!
What would you like clients to know about your programs and organization that marketing materials might not adequately communicate?
Our educational experiences are both amazingly entertaining as well as being transformative and powerful. Everyone at The CSPH loves this field so much- and that passion comes out in our work. We work hard behind the scenes to stay up-to-date with the latest research, and then we strive to deliver that content in an engaging and approachable experience.
What are three programs or resources which the CSPH provide that do not get enough recognition?
Our Intern Program - we support 3-6 interns a semester in developing their information and connections within the sexuality field. This is a very holistic and amazing program that does a lot for the folks that go through it. We're very proud of it and hope the industry recognizes the value of having well trained pleasure-inclusive sex educators!
Our Professional Learning Program- we teach classes for retailers so they can educate their customers with medically accurate information
Our Therapy Program - We do both in-person and skype based talk therapy for folks looking to work on specific sexuality goals.
Who is your target audience?
Adults in the US who are looking for good sex education.
With the trend of Americans' expanding waistline, are you seeing more overweight clients or patrons approaching you about related issues? If so, what kind?
One of our values is being body-positive- so we work to include information that is relevant to people of all sizes. We don't track the sizes of people that access our services. But something that our consumers of size often want to know about are products that are made in larger sizes, and ways of working with a larger body when you're having sexy times.
The adult toy industry is largely unregulated from a medical perspective so there are some manufacturers who market their use of "body safe" and "medical grade" materials (e.g. the industry has moved from rubber, to PVC to Silicone among others). Do you think the industry would benefit from more regulation and oversight when it comes to materials?
It depends. The FDA has started to regulate lubricants and so far that has actually been more of a administrative mess that forces companies to spend thousands of dollars to get testing done. It's an awful lot of red tape that hasn't improved the safety of products on the market. So I would love to see regulation from the government but it would have to be done in a way that prioritizes people's safety and not making money.
What kind of regulation or oversight affects your organization?
We are not allowed to provide services to people under 18 years old because we educate about sex toys. I think it's funny that an 18 year old can buy a gun and vote- but NOT see a sex toy. Because it's illegal.
How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the training and education you provide?
We collect evaluations to measure people's level of knowledge before and after being in one of our classes. We also hear directly from a lot from our learners about how impactful the training was.
Our company believes that enjoyable sexual activity is important to healthy adult lifestyle regardless of physical disability. One group of consumers whom we are trying to serve are the physically challenged. What kinds of programs or resources do you offer/recommend which can help those with physical disabilities reconnect with partners?
We do a lot of work around adapting sex toys to support people with physical disabilities being able to access pleasure. We also do professional development so medical providers and direct service staff can act as advocates to make sure people's sexual rights are being upheld regardless of their physical abilities.
Who are three others in your field whom you admire and why? What makes them different or distinctive?
I love Charlie Glickman. He's so good at making really information accessible and I love the ways he talks about things. Whenever I read his blog or talk to him I feel his deep kindness and passion come out!
I also love Aida Manduley. She's an incredible educator and I'm convinced she never sleeps. She's so prolific and everything she touches is so great in terms of it's social justice connection.
Lastly! I love Sarah Mueller from Smitten Kitten. She's a fantastic educator who has really picked up the Sexual Lubricant banner and is doing great work educating around the country about lube.
Follow Kira on Twitter @Shes_A_Muppet