I Am Not Certified

All my life I’ve suffered from chronic insecurity. Testing into the 95th percentile as a teenager, I just assumed that was like a participation trophy: designed to boost your self esteem and make you feel better about your effort. Turns out that was not the case and I was well above average when it came to writing (and taking tests).

Though insecurity can make it difficult for people to feel like they’ve succeeded, it can also spur people into higher achievement and so, I think, it was for me.

When I began offering bodywork to my clients, I felt it wasn’t right to provide a service I had no training in. I went to massage school, passed all the exams, and walked away a proudly certified massage practitioner.

When I started thinking of myself as a sex educator, I started wondering what else I didn’t know, and how to find out. I reached out to a small local university and enrolled in their sex education certificate program. While sex and couples therapy interests me, sixty thousand dollars and three more years of full time school sounded a lot less appealing than a quick and easy certification program.

I started class expecting to enjoy myself, and to learn something.

My expectations were way off.

Previous experiences in school led me to think of myself as a good student. I test well, I write well, I take in information well through text, and I generally do well with externally imposed deadlines. Eight years face to face with people’s sexuality has shown me the enormity of it. As with anyone who knows a lot on a topic: I know enough to know I don’t know that much, so I expected to consume vast quantities of new information.

Previous experiences in school were not at the graduate level. Those externally imposed deadlines are more like guidelines, way less structured than expected. I wasn’t prepared to not only answer questions, but have to write them first. Vague prompts frustrated me and my insecurity (perhaps hubris) kept me from asking for help until it was too late.

I was able to take value from each class, but what was revelatory for many other students was just another day in the life for me. I found myself bored by the content, frustrated at my boredom, then feeling an aversion to the next round of content.

Add onto that distance learning and travel options opening back up and I found myself writing my way into a temper tantrum for my first midterm paper.

My teachers were patient with me, and I was able to salvage the quarter, but it was a sign.

One of the themes that popped up over and over was one of independent learning. Sex workers talked to my class about institutional knowledge, wisdom gained through experience, and the fact that certification doesn’t always mean excellence, and excellence doesn’t require certification. Rogue educators told institutional gate keeping to fuck off and let their work stand for itself.

I knew from day one I wasn’t interested in AASECT certification. Their ethics clause includes a stipulation against touching your clients. While I will strive to maintain safe boundaries for myself and my clients, I believe in the power of touch to teach and transform.

Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the freedom in this realization until halfway through the second quarter.

If I don’t care what they think, I can do what I want, when I want, how I want. I learn through reading and process through writing. If they need a video log or a slide show or an academic paper, and I don’t think that will help me, I just don’t have to do it. What freedom!

It truly felt real when I had to fly and miss half of a one credit class. Pelvic floor health and it’s role in sexual function, taught by an internationally recognized pelvic floor PT? I don’t give a flying fuck whether or not I get credit for class, I just want the information! Someone recorded it for me, I watched it later on my terms, and now I have that in my back pocket when I need it.

For a year, I watched TED talks, read research articles, took notes, wrote essays, put together a book proposal, did a lot of thinking, and I traveled. I spent time with friends instead of filling out forms and took an entire month off to build a garden and take my first psychedelic journey instead of building powerpoints.

I am not an AASECT certified sexuality professional. I did not meet the requirements set up by other people, to teach other people’s classes, the way they think classes should be taught. I gained some excellent tidbits of knowledge and external resources. I gained insight into my own needs and abilities. I gained a better sense for how much I do, in fact, know about sex and sexuality. I gained a greater appreciation for the mutual education my community has done. I gained a healthy skepticism of your average American’s knowledge of sex and sexuality. And oh dear God did I gain an appreciation for guilt-free down time.

So while I won’t be listing my educational credentials here, or in many other places, I also won’t be worrying about whether or not I need them. I’ll keep learning the way I like to learn: slowly, over time, from books and from the people in my community as things arise.

One Reply to “I Am Not Certified”

  1. As I grow older, I find more fulfillment with the knowledge and experiences from living life than my diplomas, job titles, certifications or professional licenses. Youth makes one yearn for credibility from others. With age, comfort in one’s wisdom prevails…

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