If you grew up anything like I did, or like countless other college students around the globe, you remember having "the talk" with your parents. You remember how awkward and uncomfortable it made you, and how it was meant to shame or discourage your sexuality. Growing up, talking about sex was made to be taboo and I felt uncomfortable and even pained from bringing it up. No one seemed to be around who would provide an unbiased opinion on these changes going on in my life. It was always "Don't have sex. Don't get pregnant." As an adult, I am trying to reclaim the sex education I missed out on at home and in school, and sometimes it feels like an uphill slope. However, when I found that one could make a career in sexual education, I was greatly intrigued. How does one make a whole career on what my health science high school teacher spent two weeks discussing? How can you make money on sex, when most prefer not to talk about it?
I went digging and found many different popular sex educators. Zoe Ligon, the star of one of my favorite Facebook shows, Sex Stuff, really introduced me to the potential of making a career out of your sexuality. Instagrammers such as Erika Hart solidified how popular and in-demand these careers actually are. I reached out to Kristin Hambridge, owner of Sex Stuff to find out more about this career.
How would you describe your career? How would you describe your job duties and responsibilities?
"I am a sex therapist and educator. I have a private practice and I also consult for different colleges/universities, as well as mental health organizations. I am the owner of Sex Stuff With Kristin, is my social media handle and my blog name is KristinHambridgeLICSW.com/blog/. As a therapist, I meet with individuals, couples and families primarily around issues related to sex, sexuality, gender and relationships. My specialty areas are sexual dysfunction, low sexual desire, monogamous and non-monogamous couples; gender identity; body image; Kink & BDSM; sexual fetishes; sexual trauma; cross-dressing and sexual compulsions."
What got you interested in your current line of work, and when did you realize this was something you wanted to do?
"I have a graduate degree in clinical social work and was a therapist for a number of years before I realized that a specialization in sex and gender would be a benefit to both myself and my clients. I knew that I wanted to specialize in something, so I did some research and found a program that would help me become an expert in all things related to sex and sexuality."
What college programs would you recommend students take to pursue your career?
"My professional trajectory started out as becoming a therapist and then once I was a licensed independent practicing social worker I was able to commit to a specialty. If someone is interested in becoming a therapist there are a number of ways one could do that such as: a master's degree in social work, psychology, or marriage and family therapy or a doctorate degree in psychology and social work. Some graduate programs offer training in sex therapy, but I completed a program that will allow me to become a board-certified sex therapist through AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists). In order to become an AASECT certified sex therapist (CST), a person needs to already be a licensed therapist."
What is your favorite part of your work? What is your least favorite?
The favorite part of my work is helping to dismantle the culture of sex-negativity and stigma within the United States.
We live in a country that shames us for being sexual beings, on one hand, but then bombards us with sexual imagery and pornography, on the other hand. It's extremely confusing and creates a lot of misinformation and shame.
"I'm lucky that I am able to create a safe space to unpack those feelings and work to create healthy narratives around sex and sexuality. I also love being someone who gets to support gender diverse individuals around the exploration of their gender and/or their process of transitioning. On the other hand, being a therapist can be very emotionally draining. It's my job to carry a lot of my client's traumas, fears, shame, etc., which can be challenging, so self-care has to be constant. Being a helping professional, in general, is a double-edged sword."
What advice would you give to a college student wanting to enter a career in sexual wellness?
"My advice would be for them to take steps to work on addressing their own biases around sex and sexuality because we all have them! Whether this is with a sex therapist or through research on their own time, you need to be willing to take a look at the tough stuff within yourself in order to help other people."
What advice would you give to the general student in regards to sexual health and enjoyment?
"Always use protection, get tested and remember that you are responsible for your own pleasure, no one else!"
If helping others understand their own sexuality and identity interests you, then you should definitely look into what routes your college offers that can help you land a role in sex education and sex therapy. Thank you again to Kristin Hambridge for your wonderful insight into the field, and for some amazing advice! Please check her out here and at the handle @sexstuffwithkristin on Twitter.