July 2022 Power Player
At Power to Decide, we’re committed to uplifting the many individuals on the ground doing the work that matters most. Each month we highlight an individual who is championing the effort to support young people’s reproductive well-being. Check out this month's Power Player profile.
Anne Hodder-Shipp, CSE (she/they)
Founder & Lead Educator, Everyone Deserves Sex Ed (EDSE)
What work have you done to ensure that all people have the information and access they need to make decisions that align with their intentions and improve their reproductive well-being?
I work to provide people with the info and access they need through a few avenues: I teach intentional and expansive sex education directly to people of all ages, with a focus on tweens, teens, and young adults. I work directly with families to supplement or replace the sex ed that family members have had access to with more affirming and accurate information, and I also work with educational institutions as an educator and a trainer for staff. Since 2016, I have been providing group sessions to teens and adults in inpatient and outpatient facilities to make sexuality education a part of programs that treat substance use disorder, eating disorders, and stigmatized mental illnesses.
I also run a 35-hour Sex Educator Certification and professional development program for service providers, everyone from educators and caregivers to clinicians and medical practitioners, through my organization Everyone Deserves Sex Ed (EDSE). It’s essentially “teaching the teachers.” I figure the more people we can get out there in the world who feel comfortable and confident having these important conversations with others – and helping to shape the curricula, groups, classes, and social media that circulates – the greater the impact.
How did you get started in your field? What is your driving force?
I have always been interested in and curious about sex and sexuality, since before I really knew what those words entailed. I was very much on my own as a kid and teenager, and the internet wasn’t really easily accessible until closer to high school graduation, so old library books and back issues of women’s magazines were the resources I had within reach. Because I had no formal imprinting or sexual and social scripts imposed on me by the adults in my life, I was fortunate to develop my own ideas about sex, sexuality, and relationships—albeit many of them hetero-centric and misinformed—and did not carry many of the common “rules” and belief systems that so many of us end up having to dismantle later in life. One of my core driving forces is helping young people develop an expansive, affirming, and self-identified concept of sexuality, pleasure, and identity so they can feel more empowered and informed as they enter adulthood. And to be the trusted, less-cringey resource and support system that I lacked when I was young.
I studied gender and sociology along with my journalism degree, and soon out of college, I was a reporter covering the business of porn and adult retail. In 2009, I moved on to form my first company, Hodder Media Inc., which provides PR and copywriting for sexuality businesses. I was also hired as a sex blogger for LA Weekly, and though I was technically teaching sex ed through the written word, I really missed working directly with people. So I started my training as a sex educator, which included training and working with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles to teach 9th graders a 7-week state-approved sex ed curriculum. The years navigating the Los Angeles school district on behalf of Planned Parenthood was where I really honed my skills for teaching, connecting with, and listening to teenagers, and that’s also when I dove into the deep end of teaching sexuality groups within the addiction and mental health treatment field. EDSE was born in the midst of all that, and our first Sex Educator Certification program was offered in Spring 2019. Now we host three a year, 100% online via Zoom, and the last seven sessions have completely sold out.
What advice would you give to someone looking to effect change in the field that you currently work in?
First, remember that there is no well-worn path to becoming a sex educator or counselor, and while this can make the process overwhelming at times, it means that you get to create your own career by piecing together the training, education, qualifications, and work experience you need to do the job.
It also means that you will likely encounter hurdles and barriers along the way that other career choices don’t carry, including challenges with banking and financial services that have restrictive sexuality business clauses; and social media, advertising, and marketing software that enforce overly broad obscenity and censorship rules. Building a sexuality business will never look or feel like building a non-sexuality business, but fortunately there are hundreds of us who’ve managed it for decades and have found workarounds and loopholes—as well as sexuality-friendly business services—that can help you thrive. That’s also why building and nurturing professional community is essential. You will absolutely need and benefit from mentors who can support you along the way.
My last piece of advice is to be discerning about the trainings and professional development you seek and sign up for. Feel empowered and confident to ask questions about the curricula: Who created it? How often is it updated? Which identities and voices are involved in the creation and teaching of it? What texts or frameworks inform its content? How is expansiveness, intersectionality, and anti-racism included in the learning process? Are these concepts on educators’ and organizers’ radar? You may find that you will have to choose the trainings that are affordable and accessible to you, even if they may not fully align with your values, but you can absolutely take what you need and leave the less helpful stuff.
Why should someone care about ensuring that all people—regardless of who they are or where they live—have the information and access they need to live their best life?
Accurate, expansive, and affirming sexuality education literally saves lives. It actively fights the political and social forces that consistently and intentionally work to block access to this information and, instead, impose harmful beliefs onto us starting before we’re even born. You can often literally see the impact of providing this kind of care on clients’ faces as you help them learn and unlearn. If you have the drive and desire to impact people’s lives in this way, then it will likely become one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, impactful, and powerful things you do in life.