What Is a Sex Doula and What Do They Do?
When you hear the word "doula," you might think of someone who provides birth or postpartum care. But in recent years, the scope of doula support has grown to encompass life transitions such as death, abortion and sexuality.
Though critically important, clinical and medical care might fail to address nuances involved with an intimate experience. In a society where people often feel embarrassed to speak about their sexual health, sex doulas provide necessary spiritual and emotional support. Unlike therapists, these doulas aren't clinicians, but they do provide support and ask engaging questions.
Doulas have long been healing guides for people in intense times of transition, and sex doulas are no different.
The deal with sex doulas
There's a tangible intimacy involved in seeing a doula that's not there when you visit your doctor. Doulas are strictly nonmedical companions. Their job isn't to diagnose but to provide for a need, or several needs. Unlike with traditional therapy, a sex doula's care is not pathology.
Ev'Yan Whitney coined and trademarked the title of "sexuality doula" in 2014, to create a path for clients to work through sexual issues in a different way. Rather than hoping for a therapist to give them answers, Whitney instead stressed the most important sexual relationship someone has is with themselves, and it's only through deep and thorough work that someone might find a greater connection to their own sexuality.
A sex doula offers insight, education and attention to vulnerable matters shared, which are then reckoned with and worked through. Whitney began to call themself a "sexuality doula" because the words encompassed more than a word such as "coach" ever could: Doulas take on many roles, such as healer, activist, educator, liberation companion and caregiver.
Whitney also specifically uses the term "doula" to honor their ancestral lineage, tracing back to enslaved healers.
Embracing sexual autonomy
Sex doulas make it very clear that sex care is synonymous with self-care. The pandemic has caused a boom in the sexual wellness industry. While capitalizing on people's sexual desires, however, this boom frequently fails to connect folks to more mindfulness-based practices of exploring pleasure, such as becoming more aware of sensations or desires. In direct contrast, sex doulas marry pleasure with the embodiment of sexuality.
The training necessary to become a sex doula, according to Whitney's site, is a culmination of a background as a healer and an educator. There is, however, training available to complete a formal certification. For example, the National Black Doulas Association hosts a session covering topics like sexual energy, anatomy, trauma and healing practices.
The profession of a sex doula exists in opposition to patriarchal systems that have historically repressed and failed to prioritize women's pleasure. When doing healing work with a sex doula, you might also work to question harmful beliefs and learn to celebrate your own pleasure.
"Most of the people I work with are people who grew up socialized as women, and we are often told to not listen to our intuition," said Corey Bush, a full-spectrum doula and sex educator. "So much of what I do is validating people's gut feelings and reassuring them that their intuition is powerful and intelligent."
Reconnecting sex with the self
Being a sex doula is, by nature, a form of activism: To prioritize autonomy is to decondition from oppressive beliefs. This means working through and away from narratives like caring for someone else's pleasure more than your own or going through sex based on what you think it should be or look like. Learning to advocate for your wants extends beyond the bedroom.
Sex doulas don't offer a diagnosis, and if you have a medical issue or concern, be sure to address it with a certified therapist or doctor. However, if you're interested in engaging with your sexual beliefs in an open and honest format, working with a sex doula could help you reconnect with your sexuality.