Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, MSEd, ACSE
“You put it out there, the Universe delivers.”
I always tell my students: “You create your own learning experiences;
I’m just here to be your facilitator and guide.”
MEET YOUR GUIDE: MY STORY, BACKGROUND & MOTIVATIONS
I’m often asked how one becomes a “sex expert”, and, more recently,
“a sensualist.” In either case, imaginations run wild as people assume
my “sexpertise” is based on a wild’n’crazy sex life, or watching people
have sex, or engaging in sexological bodywork, or any number of
sexplicit endeavours that your average sexologist cannot confess to
as anywhere near the truth. This is my journey…
I moved to the United States, from my home country of Iceland, at age 10. I was quickly chalked up as the girl with the funny accent, who had an amazing tolerance for cold weather - AND the one (I mean that literally) with big breasts. As the first girl in my elementary school to have hit puberty, I received a lot of attention – and mostly not the good kind. I quickly learned that having breasts sexualizes a female, even if she’s not ready to be a sex object. In being sized up, I could see that none of my new friends’ mums were thrilled about the fact that I was developing, my changing form eliciting adolescent curiosities.
Peers informed me that I needed to start wearing a bra and that nobody should be able to see my nipples. Any leg or armpit hair was to be removed, no matter how blonde. I learned that boys and girls can’t be friends once puberty starts – that good girls stay away from boys, lest they want to earn a certain kind of reputation. I was told that God made “Adam and Eve” not “Adam and Steve”, and that homosexuality was wrong (and not a way of loving another, as I’d been raised). I was told that people weren’t to have sex until they were married (something that’s far from the Icelandic norm), let alone dare to have children out-of-wedlock (Iceland consistently holds the world record on this one).
I immediately picked up on the fact that my Icelandic upbringing handled sexuality and gender messaging very differently from that of my American counterparts. What was normal and natural in my country was made perverse in the U.S. Ways my Icelandic relatives and countrymen lived their lives was suddenly sinful. Tired of all of the negative messaging I was getting about my body and what I could and couldn’t do with it, I was inspired when the first opportunity to do something to challenge these notions came my way. The chance came in the form of a class assignment - a 5-minute presentation on a system of the body.
The Birth of a Sex Educator
I gave my first formal lecture on sex in the sixth grade, when I gave a presentation on the female reproductive system, menstruation and sexual intercourse (I learned, years later, that the teacher had had to ask the Principal for special permission for me to do this). Thanks to help from my parents, I showcased an impressive homemade clay model of the female internal reproductive organs, with tiny eggs made of tin foil, a cut up plastic jack for the sperm, and fake blood. As I detailed what happens during menstruation and how babies are made, my classmates’ eyes were the size of saucers. I felt empowered by the information I was delivering and that my audience was spellbound. I didn’t know that a “Dr. Ruth” existed, nor was I aware that sexuality education could be a career. But I knew, during that presentation, that I had found my passion. My calling. I was going to be a sexuality educator one day.
My mission eventually became the promotion of sexual wellness. I wanted to equip people with the facts so that they could make their own informed sexual decisions based upon their own attitudes, values and beliefs. I wanted to be a source of support for people seeking their pleasures, owning their attractions and eroticism, and discovering one of the most critical aspects of themselves. I wanted to end sexual shaming and empower people to see sexuality as something natural, normal and good. You can imagine my excitement, in ninth grade, when I got my hands on my first Cosmo magazine and its bold approach to owning one’s sexuality!
Fast forward… I was 15-years-old and an au pere for my cousin Eydís, in Reykjavík, Iceland. Aware of my sex educator aspirations, Eydís shared that one of her good friends, Jóna Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, had recently become Iceland’s first qualified sexuality educator, in having graduated with her Master’s in Human Sexuality Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Already aware that finding a human sexuality program is like looking for a needle in a haystack, I was thrilled by this news. Years later, when I was a psychology major at Penn State University, Eydís gave me a book by a sexuality educator/media consultant who had gone to the same program as Jóna. This confirmed that UPenn was where I needed to go for education and expertise!
Ready to Sexually Save the World
The UPenn program was one of the best learning experiences of my life, largely thanks to my amazing mentors. I stand on the shoulders of giants. Armed with my Master’s in Human Sexuality Education, I was ready to save the world and foster healthy, open discourse about sexuality, intimacy and relationships. I let everyone know I was a sex ed Super Woman with creds, pitching myself to every media outlet I could think of – and to no avail. Then one evening, out of the blue, an editor with W Magazine called, saying, “I get pitches like yours all the time, but what made yours stand out is that you’re actually qualified to be giving sex advice. If you want to work for the media, then you need to write a book, get yourself published.” And with that, my writing career was officially launched!
While writing my first book, I worked for the American Medical Student Association, which led to consulting work with the U.S. Surgeon General. I returned to graduate school at New York University for a doctorate in international community health education with a sexual health focus. And I established myself as the sex columnist for NYU’s Washington Square News. Surprisingly, this little gig ended up being the biggest career launcher, as national and international media featured the hot, new “trend” of the college sex columnists. I was featured on NBC’s “Today Show,” in USA Today, the New York Times, and a host of other media outlets serviced by the Associate Press and Knight Ridder Tribune, which led to my first book contract. Other opportunities to write, be a spokesperson, act as a media resource, and do consulting work poured in, allowing me to promote healthy sexuality as I’d always dreamed.
And that’s what I did for years as a sex and relationship advisor for publications like Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health magazine, and Foxnews.com, for companies like Astroglide and Durex, and as a media consultant to TV, radio and print publications worldwide. So many of the questions and concerns I fielded from readers and listeners, asking for advice, highlighted the need for:
Effective communication in sexual and romantic relationships;
Body empowerment and ownership;
Greater sexual empowerment and self-esteem;
More sexual vitality and better sex;
The cultivation of one’s sensuality and pleasuring sans apologies;
Mutual pleasuring and sexual respect; and
Better self-care, and healthier sexuality and relationships, overall.
As co-host on Sirius Maxim radio’s “Sex Files,” I was reminded every week about the concerns men, in particular, have around female pleasuring and helping her to climax, how to last longer in bed, and how to inspire their partner to be more experimental.
As a professor of human sexuality courses these last 20+ years, I’ve read thousands of sexual histories from college and graduate students at various American-based universities. Ranging in age from 18 to 60, my students have been from all walks of life, parts of the U.S., and far reaches of the world. While each person’s experiences are unique, themes throughout their stories highlight the need for:
Increased sexual knowledge and comprehensive sexuality education;
Better support for diversity;
Sexual recognition and “abling”;
Education to counter child sexual abuse and assault;
Training on consent and guidance on consuming alcohol “responsibly” (and not as an excuse to become sexually active);
Healthier sexual decision-making & communication;
Access to affordable, quality sexual and reproductive health services; and
Guidance on healthier relationships, where partners are seen as equals.
Becoming a mother in 2012 enabled me to truly understand parents’ sex and relationship challenges in a whole new way. While quite the team in terms of parenting, my wonderful husband and I weren’t immune to the impact of child-rearing individually and as a couple. I learned, first-hand, the hard way, what parents had shared with me, realizing that I truly hadn’t understood struggles around:
Finding the time and energy for the self, let alone a lover;
Getting into an erotic frame of mind;
Finding the time and energy for intimacy, including sexual intimacy;
Feeling attractive and sexually vibrant when desired;
Managing relationship and sexual expectations; and
Realizing life balance.
Becoming a mother also made me realize how burned out I was from all of the advice I had been giving to countless media outlets over the years, in addition to writing 9 books, 3 e-guides, and hundreds of column articles. I was tapped and lacking inspiration to deal with anything not involving my baby girl and, three years later, my baby boy. Further challenged by health-related issues, I had zero energy for dealing with the demand of answering lovers’ questions, and the pressures I’d put on myself in that realm.
From Pooped Professional to Sensualist
When my younger child turned four, I found myself slowly able to reclaim my professional projects and interests, only with an entirely different outlook and desire. In my latest evolution as a professional, I find myself becoming more turned on by my abilities as a sensuality educator – a sensualist – tapping my 20+ years as a yogi and meditator, my meditation and mindfulness training, my Icelandic roots, and intensive study of positive psychology and happiness in life, overall, and erotic relationships. These interests have reinvented the way I approach everything personally, as well as professionally – future articles at the HuffPost and psychologytoday.com, book projects in queue, the promotion of my own sexual enhancements product line with XR Brands, Savvy, and sexuality education consulting.
I try to start every day with a swim and gratitude practice, thanking the Universe for the opportunity to relax, recharge and renew. After much self-care, reflection and revitalization, I’m energized to realize my latest ambitions in serving others. I’m motivated to support you in your journey for healthier sex and sensualism via SensualIceland.com and other resources.
I’m excited that you’re here! Thanks for wanting to learn more about me.