How can sex be both stigmatized and celebrated? That’s the beauty and downfall of a taboo topic, and no one knows this better than Anne Hodder, a sex educator and marketer with a laundry list of sex-ed certifications under her belt.
While pleasure products and sex journalism have exploded across the mainstream over the last decade, most vibrator purveyors still leave something to be desired in their sales pitches. Sure, it’s fun to get paid to talk about butt plugs for a living, but how many retail staff and manufacturer reps can rattle off more than a few product specs?
Over the course of her career in sex toy marketing and sex education, Anne Hodder — the boss lady at HodderMedia.com and the recently launched EveryoneDeservesSexEducation.com — has watched sexual health rise to incredible popularity while many folks, even industry experts, fumble with the basics of pleasure anatomy.
In addition to the alarmingly underwhelming sex education curriculum in America (or, more accurately, the lack thereof), Hodder recalls several sales meetings with consulting clients that proved something needed to change.
“When sales executives, often younger men, practiced pitching a new vibrator, [many] stumbled over the most important selling point: sure, it’s got 10 speeds and 400 functions, but how will this make a vulva or clitoris feel good? They genuinely had no clue what to say,” Hodder recalls.
“Many sales executives lacked the vocabulary necessary to talk about pleasure while others, in an attempt to differentiate their products from competitors’, made up usage features that actually could cause bodily harm,” Hodder says. “Imagine how much better sales pitches, trainings, and business’s bottom lines could look if adult industry employees knew how to talk about sex comfortably, confidently and accurately.”
Hodder’s latest business venture is a 25-hour course of comprehensive sex education training aimed at professionals whose working knowledge of sexual health is vital to their success.
At the end of the course, pleasure pros walk away with an official certification that puts them ahead of the game by blending the science of sex with adult biz essentials.
“Teaching sex education involves way more than discussing biology and body parts,” Hodder says. “This kind of work helps people develop a foundational understanding of their emotions, desires, value systems, behaviors, bodies and more. And it highlights how beautifully unique each and every one of us is.”
Hodder’s latest venture, dubbed Everyone Deserves Sex Education or EDSE, isn’t just for retail and distribution staff. Hodder encourages corporations, healthcare professionals, and others in the field of personal care to consider the enormous benefits of learning how to communicate with their customers about sex.
“Think about all the professionals working in occupations, industries and life roles that involve intimate human interaction — healthcare, education, childcare, you name it — and how unequipped most of us are to have meaningful and helpful conversations about sexuality,” she says. “And that’s literally what most of us in the adult industry do every day.”
Hodder’s classes take place over two weekends, and while she notes that 25 hours isn’t quite enough time to pack in several year’s worth of sex-ed homework, her classes tackle the full breadth of modern sexuality.
EDSE courses cover everything from the bare-bones basics we scarcely skimmed in high school, like STDs, anatomy, and pregnancy and birth control, to hot-button media topics like porn, consent and sexual communication, and relationship dynamics.
Early in Hodder’s career as a sex journalist, she was thrust into the sexpert spotlight without enough education to justify the title, and that didn’t sit well with Hodder. It’s part of the reason she’d like to equip budding sex toy enthusiasts with such valuable skills.
“It didn’t feel right being given those kinds of titles without having had some kind of direct training, and I knew there were a lot of topics I just didn’t know how to talk about,” Hodder recalls. “I researched options and found there were very few credible training programs available for sex educators at the time.”
A handful of years and several certifications later — including the acronym ACS that follows Hodder’s title, which stands for American College of Sexologists — Hodder set out to empower a new generation of future sex educators with a springboard for a lifetime of accurate sexual discourse.
Hodder was also inspired by the retail chains who championed the sex-ed movement in the adult industry, namely the Pleasure Chest, which regularly holds after-hours classes and workshops that promote sexual acceptance for all.
“The Pleasure Chest is one of the longest-running adult retail stores in the country and I believe much of its success is due in part to the fact that accurate and unbiased sex education is part of The Pleasure Chest’s core values,” Hodder says.
“Store employees undergo a comprehensive sex ed training process prior to working the floor, which means shoppers have access not only to quality products but also living breathing human beings who can (and will) respond to sex-related questions with compassion and accuracy, and without bias. That builds trust, ensures repeat business, and gives the public a safe space to shop in.”
As evidenced by the pleasure industry’s many traveling, road warrior product trainers, the iron is red-hot and the time to strike with a heavy hit of sex-ed is now. The public has spoken, and consumers want more than just cheaply sold sex.
Retail staff that can act as sex therapist, impromptu best friend, and pleasure consultant in a single interaction are most poised to create an enlightened client — and thus repeat sales.
“This work literally transforms people’s lives and watching someone change and grow as a result of something you’ve shared or taught is a rewarding experience that’s difficult to describe,” Hodder says.
“Accurate information fuels empowerment and helps eradicate the harmful misinformation, stereotyping, judgment, and shame that so many of us carry — often without even realizing it,” she says.
“Sexual shame is often considered one of the most powerful and devastatingly painful forms of shame that a human being can experience, and knowing that I can help clients identify, process, understand — and eventually let go of — this kind of baggage keeps me motivated and inspired every day.”