The taboo topic of sex education can be harbored with feelings of embarrassment and shame, due to the lack of conversation during adolescence and high school. Myths surrounding masturbation and penetration were whispered through many ears prior to your first sexual experience, but the lack of comprehensive sex education, especially for Black women, was prevalent.
Sex was a touchy subject, and in many households, it still is. For Shan Boodram, this comes natural. The talented sexologist started creating YouTube videos about sexual wellness to educate inquisitive minds, and her latest venture includes being the new intimacy expert on Peacock TV’s Ex-Rated. The unscripted series is described as a “revealing social experiment” recently launched on the streaming platform on August 15, and it explores the romantic lives of several adult singles. Boodram will be featured in the series alongside host and executive producer Andy Cohen.
“It feels incredible that we've come so far,” Boodram says. “I started in the space in 2005, where you just would never have the kinds of conversations that we're having on Ex-Rated. And I take that as a personal win, but more so as a win for all of us as a community of people who have continued to say, “Hey, the way that I have sex deserves to be talked about, or the way that I experience pleasure or don't experience pleasure deserves to be talked about.”
Ex-Rated will be exploring “sex and relationships in a whole new light” while challenging adult singles — varying in different sexualities, races and ages — to face candid feedback from their exes. Each episode will force the participant to confront their undesirable traits like their ability to communicate to their oral sex performance.
“Traditionally, there's this one size fits all dialogue that we're having [about sex], and if you don't fit within that, that leaves most people feeling very disconnected from their sex lives and feel like there's something wrong with them,” Boodram says. “I think that shows like Ex-Rated show a lot of people that you're not alone, and I love the fact that I get to be a part of that. And hopefully, for people who've been following my journey, it's a full circle moment for them too.”
Although her journey in sex education began in 2005, Boodram described her interest in sexuality starting as a child.
“I think people refer to purpose as this thing that you have to go out there and find,” Boodram shares. “But a lot of people, myself included, that I've talked to said their purpose was baked into their core from the beginning, and a lot of it was about rediscovering as they got older, because our natural interests as a kid aren't always supported. And when your natural interest as a kid is in sexuality in the body, naturally, it's not going to be supported, especially by Caribbean parents who rightfully so want to protect and are fearful and come from a culture that is sexual in some ways, but when it comes to talking about sex is absolutely not. So I feel like I knew when I was five, that this was an area that I had a natural interest in.”
Boodram continued to discuss the discouragement that she faced by her parents and Catholic school, until her hormones began to revive the interest. By 17, she came to terms that her sexual experiences didn’t benefit her, but her urge to learn more about her body and sexuality led her to a local library.
“I literally spent an entire summer in a library reading every book I could on sex, and I left that summer thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I feel like I've learned so much,’ but furthermore, I think that this is information that a lot of people could benefit from learning to and I thought to myself, ‘Well, why not me? Why can't I be the expert that I wanted in my own life for somebody else?’”
For many Black women, Boodram has been that expert. The sex education and reproductive justice spaces have been very white and heteronormative until recently, but Black educators like her have had to face adversities and micro-aggressions to receive the platform they currently have.
“When I first got started or whenever I got a job, there was always somebody else's name on the contract,” she said. “There's always somebody else's name on the outline, which identified to me that I wasn't their first choice and that they had gone for a white educator who maybe didn't want the budget or was busy at that time. So that continuously happened to me that small micro-aggression of being well aware that you are the second pick.”
Before we ended our Zoom call, I shared my love for Boodram and her informative videos with her, since she taught me the sex education that I never received throughout high school. Her presence on YouTube as one of the only Black sexologists on the platform inspired me to feel comfortable talking to my friends about sex.
“I really appreciate now that I hope that sentence is one that doesn't exist anymore, because there's so many incredible Black women in the space and it's really opening up,” she said. “My favorite DMs that I get are from people who say, ‘I was inspired to start my career as a sexual educator, because of the work that you did.’ Diversity doesn't mean one more. They need your expertise, and they need your experience and visibility. So if this is an area that you feel connected to, I just want to encourage everybody to put their foot in, because you can make a massive difference. There's so many stories that we have yet to tell. And I'm really grateful to be a part of a community of women of color and Black women who are saying my story deserves to be told and my voice deserves to be respected in the space.”