Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words…Can Also F*ck You Up
Guest blog by Maria Two-Straps
Maria Two-Straps is a sex & relationship coach, an unfiltered sex educator, a loud and proud Queer POC, and a (soon to be) intimacy coordinator and sex therapist. She’s also a powerlifter and NASM Certified personal trainer. Maria knows many aspects of human sexuality and relationships are difficult to talk about. She comes equipped with an open minded head and loud heart to accept you fully. Count on Maria to feel all the feels with you. Her mission as a coach is to F*ck Shit Up… in the best, most empowering, and most productive way possible.
Maria Two-Straps is a 2019 graduate of the JRNI Coaching Intensive. Check out her work at: https://www.sexandsquats.org/
I went through a shitty break up last year and parted ways from an unhealthy relationship. Emotional abuse, self-harm threats, public beratement, and too many doors slammed over roughly two years. I couldn’t take it.
I thought I was “strong enough”. I thought I could “help” because I am in the mental health field. I thought I was “immune” to absorbing the bullshit because I am a sex & relationships coach.
I was naïve and I was wrong. I witnessed friends distance themselves from me post-breakup to comfort the human I had experienced the emotional abuse from. Then COVID happened.
I was desperate so I went onto some random "relationship break up" coaching site. All I wanted was to feel heard.
Here’s what happened instead:
ME: “Hi, I’m Maria. I just went through a break-up and I’m feeling a little gaslit and lost. I was wondering if I could talk things out with someone who can listen.”
COACH: “Of course, Maria. Break-ups are rough enough as is. We deserve support after going through something as difficult as that. Can you tell me about your break-up with your boyfriend?”
ME: (Confused as f*ck because I’m lesbian as f*ck) “Um, my ex was a woman. I date women exclusively.”
COACH: “Oh, okay.”
This was my first actual experience working with a coach. No joke.
I’ll spare you the rest of the horrifying details, but in short, they continued to make assumptions about me and ultimately said:
“I’m sorry, I think your issues may be outside of my pay grade.”
I didn’t feel seen. I didn’t feel heard. I didn’t feel validated. I didn’t feel valued. After experiencing one of my lowest lows, I managed to feel even shittier post-coaching call than post-breakup.
THERE’S GOTTA BE A BETTER WAY
Okay, so a client wants help with sex and/or relationship issues.
How do we prevent leaving them in a deep, dark mental hole? How can we make them feel seen, heard, validated and valued?
As a sex educator, I know all too well how difficult it can be to talk about our own intimate lives. It can also be challenging to hear about other people’s intimate lives, let alone coach someone through sex/relationship/intimacy related issues.
Regardless of whether one feels awkward or passionate about talking sex, I see the same mistakes continuously pop up. I have made them too, and learned greatly from them.
To Do Better, We Have to Know Better.
These small mistakes can really…to put things bluntly…f*ck someone up. Just like that “coach” f*cked me up. (Their first big f*ck up? Assuming I was a heterosexual woman and that my previous partner was male. I felt unseen from the get-go.)
Inclusivity. Multiculturalism. Intersectionality.
There you go. Those are three simple ingredients that I believe any coach must have by default when approaching sex and/or relationship issues with a client.
Okay…how? What? Why?
Let’s Break it Down:
This is the INTENTIONAL act of including vulnerable, excluded, or marginalized groups. To a client, this feels like: “Holy, shit. You SEE me!”
This can be achieved by using gender-inclusive language, asking what a client’s pronouns are in your intake sheet, and even starting introductions with your own pronouns to let people know that you welcome inclusivity.
“Hey, guys!” is probably the most common greeting phrase I hear. “Hey, all!” or “Greetings, earthlings!”...now those are much sexier and much more inclusive.
Be inclusive about gender, be inclusive about sex(uality), and (VERY IMPORTANT) don’t ASSUME anything about their gender identity and/or sex(uality). We must fight the urge to assume gender, sex, orientation, and other assumptions about their identity.Your femme presenting female client might not be a heterosexual, sexually submissive woman. They can be a non-binary, queer individual who likes to peg men, but only exclusively dates women.
(Peep links at the bottom for a guide to inclusive terminology and the Genderbread Person!)
Everyone is their own giant Lego box.
Open up a Lego box and you’ll find neat, little baggies full of the Legos you need to complete a specific section. Now, I love me some Legos and have had quite a few sets throughout the years. Sometimes you get lucky and there are extra pieces in the baggies, sometimes pieces are missing, and sometimes the correct piece is an entirely different color.
Think of each Lego section as representing a culture you are a part of (ethnicity, sex, religion, socioeconomic class, disability, physical appearance, etc.) Connect the sections together, and VOILA, there’s you!
What we don’t start to realize until we see everyone else’s Lego sets is how beautifully unique we all are! Even if your box is similar to mine, your sections will have their own distinct differences.
At the end of the day, we must remember to acknowledge the uniquely beautiful pieces each of us is working with. We must remember to acknowledge that our own configuation of those pieces shapes how we view sex and relationships.
Consider the interconnectedness of all of our Lego pieces and sections. Maybe some sections fit seamlessly together and maybe some don’t. Maybe someone was lucky enough to receive so many extra pieces that they canbuild an entirely new section.
See where I’m headed?
Understanding intersectionality means understanding how everyone’s unique pieces, along with how many or how few pieces they have, can put them into privileged positions and/or marginalized positions within our society. We must remember as coaches to meet our clients where their beautiful pieces are at, instead of expecting them to work from an instruction booklet that may not make sense to them.
At the end of the day, Legos are f*cking cool. And it’s more fun to share them and build them together.
When A Client Wants to Talk About Sex
Coaching sex and relationships isn’t just body parts and the physical act of rubbing your body against another human (or other humans).
Sex and relationships = feelings, emotions, communication, gender, sexuality, intimacy, multiculturalism, intersectionalism, and a vast gamut of complex human deliciousness.
To get to the root of the issues, we have to meet our clients where they are. It’s the Golden Rule!
- It’s NOT the “hottest sex position”
- It’s NOT the “hottest sex toy”
- It’s NOT “how to give your partner mindblowing orgasms!”
Here’s what it IS:
- It’s being INCLUSIVE.
- It’s viewing one another through a MULTICULTURAL lens.
- It’s understanding the INTERSECTIONS of our uniquely beautiful selves.
That shows that we SEE one another.
That we HEAR one another.
That we VALIDATE someone’s existence.
That we GIVE A SH*T about them!
Calling All Life Coaches:
I challenge you to give your clients the safe, sex-positive space and respect that they deserve. And I challenge you to expand on that by pouring values of inclusiveness, multiculturalism, and intersectionality out into the wider world as well.
Here’s 3 ways you can begin making your practice more inclusive and sex-positive today:
- Check out The Language of Identity article from the University of Missouri. It’s a neat list of inclusive terminology. Words are very, VERY important.
- Gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexuality, sexual orientation, and sex assigned at birth. Knowing the differences is crucial. The Genderbread Person shown above is a cute diagram to review for yourself, and something you can send as a resource to clients as well. Bonus: if you dig unicorns, they also have a Gender Unicorn!!!
- Penis. Vulva. Clitoris. BDSM. Polyamory. Toe sucking. Fetish. Vagina. Anal rimming. Did any of those terms make you giggle and/or feel a little icky, squicky, and weird? Did you notice yourself making a weird face? Did you smirk or snicker? This is the toughest challenge for most, but I urge you to practice keeping a poker face. I urge you to take a deep dive and ask yourself WHY any giggles may have come up.
Truth: I still giggle when I make sex jokes with my friends...but imagine if a client were to come to you, and you were the first person they felt safe disclosing their toe sucking fetish to. If you let out a giggle or made an involuntary face, how might that person feel?
Sometimes, our giggles come from discomfort. I totally get it. But clients are very receptive to our body movements and sounds and facial expressions, and we don’t want them to ever feel shamed in our presence.
Here's an exercise to try on:
Write down some sexual words and phrases that make you most uncomfortable. (Need a jump-start? I put together a “Dirty Word” exercise for you to play with - just drop me a note to request your copy!) Now try saying these out loud in front of a mirror. Practice fighting those icky, squicky, weird, and giggly feels, and discover what non-judgement looks like in your own reflection.
All my love,
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