AS a certified sexologist, Reece Malone’s job is to help his clients explore, embrace and enhance their sexuality, and also address any problems that may be hindering their fullest sexual expression.
That means ensuring they get the proper support, education and tools — sometimes literally.
"For some people who don’t have a partner, their assignment may be to go to an adult toy store or boutique," says the Winnipegger, who has a private practice at Four Rivers Medical Centre.
In some cases, apparently, the most educational tool might be a hand mirror.
"A lot of people don’t know about the clitoris," says Malone, 37, who holds a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in human sexuality. "I’ve had people who are in their 30s and 40s who haven’t seen their clitoris or their vulva. They’ve always been told that those parts are private, or dirty."
Those parts, along with every other aspect of female sexuality, will be discussed and celebrated during the Fifty More Shades of Pleasure women-only seminar taking place Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. (cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m.) at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Winnipeg. Tickets are $25 each and available at Smitten Adult Boutique (120 Osborne St.) and online through TicketWeb.ca The seminar, which Malone is co-hosting with local sexuality educator Katie Owen, is the first in a series of events that aim to enlighten and empower women on an aspect of themselves that has historically been unexplored, dismissed or misunderstood.
It’s about opening the subject matter up in an "uncensored, unapologetic way," across cultures and ages, says Malone. "I believe that women deserve the truth about their sexuality, that they need to be informed about how culture and society have negatively impacted their body image, their sexual identity and orientation and their relationships."
The title of the seminar, in case you’ve been living in a cave, is a nod to the insanely popular erotic novel trilogy by British author E.L. James, which follows the titillating adventures of Anastasia Steele, a naive young college student who gets wooed into the kinky world of BDSM (bondage, discipline, domination and submission) by billionaire business magnate Christian Grey.
The Fifty Shades phenomenon, dubbed "mommy porn" and "socially acceptable porn," has been called everything from empowering to oppressive to trashy and "unputdownable."
Whatever reactions the books may elicit, their biggest success, Malone says, has been to get women talking more openly about sex and desire and to possibly see themselves in a different sexual framework.
Many women don’t have a sexual voice in their relationships, he says, nor do they give themselves permission to fantasize without feeling as if they’re cheating on their partner. The books made it not only OK for women to read explicit accounts of sex and to put themselves in the heroine’s kinky shoes, they made it trendy to do so.
Not that Anastasia Steele, who falls in love with the controlling and obsessively possessive Grey, is being held up as a role model. But while her initial lack of sexual empowerment is pretty sensationalized, Malone says, in many ways her character isn’t that farfetched.
"The Anastasia Steeles who walk into my office have never looked at themselves, they’ve never had a boyfriend and they’ve never had sex or masturbated before," he says. "They feel a lot of body shame."
Some people come in feeling very broken, Malone says. They think they’re sex addicts because they have a strong libido or because a partner has labelled them as such, or they believe there’s something else wrong with them.
"I’ll do a full intake on these people and there’s nothing wrong with them. Their culture or their religion or their family or self-labelling has had a negative impact on their sexual health."
A sexologist, a specialist in human sexuality and sex behaviour, differs from a sex therapist in that the latter typically has training in the mental health field. A sexologist, however, must complete more than 3,000 hours of formal training to become certified. (Alfred Kinsey and Masters and Johnson were all sexologists.) Malone, who charges $75 an hour, says there is a sex coaching" component to his practice, although he never touches his clients — 70 per cent of whom are women. Twenty-five per cent are couples and five per cent are men.
"People come and pay me just to teach them skills," he says. "We talk about everything from how to touch to oral sex to how to talk dirty to each other to strategic positions."
His educational toolbox contains anatomically correct models and "sexually explicit media." He has a vulva hand puppet he uses when clients are uncomfortable seeing pictures of the real thing.
The Fifty More Shades seminar is just the start, says Malone, who hopes to hold regular public workshops, including one geared at helping long-term couples reignite the erotic spark. Think: Fifty Shades in the bedroom.
Couples may not feel called to start brandishing whips and chains à la Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, he says, but the success of the books shows people are intrigued by the sexual power exchange underlying BDSM. "It’s taboo, it’s in the closet. We’re a culture and society that reinforces sexual equality in the bedroom and these messages subvert sexual equality," Malone says. "Sexual equality for most people is not hot."
For more information, go to www.reecemalone.com