You have all heard the classic female tale. Whether bleeding through your khaki uniform pants and your mom telling you, “You’re a woman now,” losing your virginity in the back of an old pick-up truck at summer camp, or becoming a mother after a seamless pregnancy and having your perfectly round-headed and healthy baby placed on your ready-to-breastfeed chest, you know these movie quality stories to be wildly uncommon. You instead, as resilient you are, guide yourself through the untold truth of femininity.
You throw away 100 tampons before knowing how to use one. You lose your virginity on a messy, confusing, and imperfect night and you experience birth in a deeply personal and courageous way that likely completely deviated from your best-laid birth plan. Yet, you, as a powerful and resourceful force of nature, figure it out. You talk to your friends, converse with the Google Search Bar, and overcome the unknown.
Welcome to Self-Taught, where we discuss how women teach themselves about their bodies—because we’ve all been failed by school courses, perplexed by movie scenes, and embarrassed by conversations with parents and peers.
For far too long, flawed systems and unrealistic media have depicted the female body—the female experience—as too skinny, too fat, too messy or neat, disgusting or pristine, but rarely the truth that lies between every extreme. In Self-Taught, we’ll share stories of how women uncovered flaws in systems, products, and lore, and taught themselves that there is a better way—and they deserve better.
From purity contracts to sexual empowerment, Ev’Yan Whitney has seen it all. As a sexuality doula from a conservative family, Ev’Yan worked tirelessly to not only find her own sexual liberation but also inspire thousands of others to do the same. Always giving and always learning, Ev’Yan’s acceptance of herself and others allows her to comfort and heal the hearts and minds of her clients.
What was the conversation regarding sex throughout your childhood?
Abstinence only. I was taught from a very young age—because I was raised in a strict, Christian household—that sex was between one man and one woman and those two folks had to be married. Any sex outside of marriage was sinful. This wasn’t just penis and vagina sex, but masturbation and impure thoughts. I was brought up with ideas of purity, abstinence, protecting my virginity, and holding my virginity to a really high standard. I witnessed other people sign purity contracts and eventually signed one of my own to say that I was going to remain a virgin until marriage.
Did you ever receive a sex talk by either a parent or teacher? What did it look like? What worked and what didn’t?
I did get a sex talk from my parents. My mom, and perhaps my dad was there too, sat me down and gave me the talk about where babies come from. I learned about the male and female bodies, but still through the lens that sex before marriage was wrong. In school, I wasn’t so much given a sex talk but just learned biology. I don’t recall having a conversation about STDs or STIs in school. I just picked up on that stuff through osmosis and watching TV and talking to my friends.
Can you explain your role as a sexuality doula?
My role looks like me educating, facilitating, holding space for, and helping to heal folks, specifically women and femme, who are in a place of uncertainty, fear, confusion, or trauma when it comes to their sexuality—and they want to step out of that. A lot of my clients come to me and aren’t having the best sex of their lives, haven’t had sex in a really long time, are feeling a blockage to their sexuality because they have body shame, or they have some kind of trauma. They come to me because they want someone to help them liberate themselves and heal whatever is keeping them from being sexually free.
What has teaching others about their bodies taught you about yours?
In doing this work, I always tell my clients that it is such a reciprocal dynamic. I think a lot of folks think that I do these sessions and give, but I am also receiving so much from my clients. Their stories really help to inspire and provoke me to continue on my sexual liberation journey as well. My work is not just one-sided—I am constantly in a place of wanting to heal and liberate my own sexuality. It is through my clients’ stories or watching their brave transformations that I am also able to do that in my own way.
What is one thing you want to teach others about sex?
So many things! I think the most important thing that I am always preaching to my clients is for them to prioritize their pleasure. I hear this from a lot of folks—especially women—who have been taught to defer their pleasure to their male or male-identified partners. As such, they are not actually sticking up for or prioritizing their own pleasure. They are entering sexual experiences feeling that they are the ones supposed to be muses and they are the ones supposed to inspire someone else’s pleasure, but their own pleasure gets put on the back burner. My work looks like giving women and femme permission to prioritize and center their pleasure, to take up space with their pleasure, and to be curious about what their pleasure looks like. That is another aspect of this, too. If you have spent so much time going with the flow of someone else’s pleasure, desire, and arousal, you’re not going to have a really clear idea of what your own pleasure, desire, and arousal looks like.
I ask my clients to be curious and to be hopeful and playful about their own journey to pleasure. I think a lot of people think if they focus on their pleasure, it will take away from the pleasure of other people. However, I have seen that from the moment women step up and say what they like and need, sex as a whole becomes much more pleasurable. You don’t take all the focus off of that person—you instead create a really healthy environment for a conversation and dialogue to happen between you and your partner about what you both need to get off and have fun.
You started the hashtag, #sensualselfiechallenge. Can you tell me about the meaning behind it and why you choose to promote it?
The Sensual Selfie Challenge is a challenge that I created in 2018 to inspire and encourage folks to use sensual self-portraiture as a way to connect to their body, their sexuality, and their sensuality. I have always used self-portraiture as a way to connect to myself and it’s been such a great medium for self-realization. I figured if it was working in a platonic area of my life, I wondered what it would look like that add that sensual twist with the intention of bringing celebration and liberation to my sexuality. I created the challenge to give folks permission to explore taking up space with their bodies and to begin to do some serious healing around their own body image. I wanted to subvert the message we have been given that says we are not allowed to be overtly sexual. We are taught not to luxuriate or delight in our bodies.
You have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Girl Boss, Rolling Stone Magazine, and so many other amazing publications. Congratulations! Why do you think society is now starting to pay attention to, and even getting excited about, a woman’s sexuality?
I think there are two answers to that: the first is cynical and the second is a bit more positive.
I think folks are realizing there is a lot of money to be made from a women’s sexuality. They are realizing there is a market for this and that there are untapped resources to explore. I don’t think all companies are trying to capitalize on women’s sexual empowerment, but I do think this is coming from a place of, ‘Oh we haven’t been paying attention to this. Let capitalize off of it.’ I don’t necessarily think it’s negative, but I don’t know if it is coming from a place of authenticity or money.
I do also think more people are stepping up and talking about sex. They are putting themselves in very vulnerable spaces and are being really honest about their sexual struggles and triumphs. People are willing to say, ‘I am a sexual woman and I am having amazing sex and am totally OK with it,’ or, ‘I am a virgin and I am okay with that.’ We are really starting to see people share their stories more and I think that is what is creating more of a safe space for people to feel like they can speak up. I also think people are realizing how important sex and sexuality are to personal development and sexual realization. I think for so long we compartmentalized who we are in the bedroom and who we are outside of the bedroom. I think people are starting to have really important conversations about how for most of us, our sexuality, our sexual expression, the sex that we have, is really deeply connected to who we are outside of the bedroom. I am starting to see much more of a holistic view of the way we treat sexuality as opposed to it being very compartmentalized.
You also have the podcast, The Sexually Liberated Woman, and now have over 45 episodes! What inspired you to speak about sexual liberation in this way?
I originally created The Sexually Liberated Woman to be an audio series that featured the brave and beautiful transformations of my former clients. The first three episodes were me interviewing previous clients who had signed up to do a three month intensive with me. In those three months, and sometimes even longer, their entire relationship with their bodies and sex life was dramatically shifted. I wanted to highlight their stories as a way to show people how important it is to tell your story and that you are not alone. Shortly after I published those stories, people started calling what I was doing a podcast, and I didn’t even really know what a podcast was.
I really enjoyed the platform because, first and foremost, I am a writer. It is my main method of discovering myself. What I love about podcasting is that it feels a lot more intimate to me. It is a way to have many conversations about sex and sexuality that I don’t think I would have if I was just writing about my own experiences. I am really proud of the community I have created with the podcast. The conversations are elevating voices of sexual liberation and are giving perspective in this conversation of sexuality which has been primarily led by white cis folks. It is very radical for me as a black queer femme to have a platform to talk about sex and sexuality. It is both a community and a radical act of taking up space in a field where I haven’t felt welcomed or recognized.
What makes you feel sexually liberated?
So many things. Whenever I am tapped fully into my body and senses and can slow the fuck down and tune into the messages my body is sending me—that helps me access my sexuality and feel sexually liberated. So many of my own sexual issues or confusion have come from me feeling disconnected from my body or being connected to old stories about my body, sexuality, gender, or race. The moment I can slow down, connect to what is true for me, connect to the new stories I want to live in, and know that my sexuality is a gift and deserves to be prioritized, I feel sexually liberated.
On your Instagram, you have spoken a lot about self-care, which you seem to do so well in so many ways. Can you talk to me about how you incorporate cannabis into your self-care routine?
Having cannabis in my life is a really new concept. I didn’t start smoking weed until a couple of years ago. I started doing it because I wanted to find some pain relief from my period. I have intense period pain, so originally I was looking to alleviate that pain. It wasn’t until after a few times smoking that I realized it was enhancing my sex life in really amazing ways. I am not really using cannabis as much for period pain relief anymore, but I use it help me connect to my body which helps me have amazing sex. There are a lot of things I am discovering about myself and I have been using this plant medicine to help me access parts of my sexuality and body awareness that I don’t have when I am not consuming it. So far, I have been having a lot of fun exploring the way I can use cannabis with intention.
With so many new meditation apps circling the Apple Store, it seems like everyone is meditating. Can you talk to me about how you meditate and how it has helped you sexually?
I have never been able to do sitting meditation. I always thought there was something wrong with me because of that, but it turns out that there are a lot of ways to meditate. I realized—through a divination from a medium—that I am not supposed to sit through my meditations and that my body needs to move. She gave me permission to connect to my body by meditating through movement. When I do sitting meditation I feel anxious. I can’t get my brain to stop thinking and then I am thinking about not being able to stop my brain from thinking. It is so distracting. With dance meditation, I can show up to the music and the movements and move my body in a way that my body wants to naturally go in. It helps my brain to quiet down and get really clear on what my body is trying to say to me. I am a huge fan of any meditation that isn’t me sitting cross-legged trying to quiet my brain.
What is one thing you wish your younger self knew about sex?
That sex is not something you should be ashamed of. That sex is beautiful. Not just sex that you have with another person, but sex that you have with yourself. I really wish that in my education there was more conversation and permission for me to explore my sexuality on my own terms. Sex is built to be this incredible event between you and another person, but I had no idea that sex with myself and cultivating a sexual relationship with myself was just as important. I wish I knew that my sexual relationship with myself is the most important sexual relationship that I will ever have. Fortunately, I am making up for lost time, which is amazing, but I wish that was something my younger self knew.