July 22, 2019
Sexuality Superheroes: Wendasha Jenkins Hall, PhD.
Meet Dr. Wendasha Jenkins Hall. She is this week’s Sexuality Superhero. Dr. Wendasha’s mission is to help provide more concrete, science-based sexual health knowledge to those with limited resources. She offers a variety of sexuality consultation services, educational workshops and sex education programming to her clients. She aims to empower, inspire and transform these individuals into their best sexual selves. Read about her background and work below.
1. How did you find yourself working in sexuality?
I started this journey when I was 16 years old. At that time, I was trained as a HIV/AIDS peer educator by the local AIDS service organization in my hometown, Tallahassee, FL. That experience got my feet wet, but I was completely thrown in the ocean when I started grad school in Baltimore at Morgan State University. At the time I was on the path to becoming a mass communication/intellectual property lawyer, but I was assigned a graduate assistantship in the University’s counselling center. There I worked as a program assistant to the university peer health education program which focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and sexual assault and intimate partner violence prevention. It was my job to train peer educators, facilitate workshops for first-year students, coordinate campus-wide sexual health programming, and establish community-university partnerships. I had a great supervisor who had her ear to the streets and knew that the typical college-based HIV/AIDS prevention programming at the time wasn’t going to work for our students. She ensured that our work was pleasure-focused and black- and LGBTQ-centered. My most vivid memory of this time was when we planned an old school pleasure-party for our students, so they could learn more about their bodies and how they respond to different sensations produced by different sexual products. After that experience, I knew law wasn’t for me. Instead, after I earned my master’s in communication I shifted my focus to public health where I went on to earn a doctorate in Public Health Education.
2. What is the best part of the job?
Not to sound cliché, but I really love sharing knowledge and helping people come into their own sexually. Sex is so ubiquitous, but there is still so much ignorance around the topic. The sheer amount of sexually repressed and traumatized people due to a lack of knowledge and information, which is often purposefully withheld, was and still is troubling to me. I knew that if I could plant a seed in just one person through a conversation, workshop, lecture, or social media post, I would be making a difference. It’s always fulfilling to see the light click on in someone’s head and know that the information I’m sharing is actually sticking. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not my goal to convert people to my worldview. I just want people to be armed with factual information so that they can make informed decisions about their sexual lives.
3. What is the most challenging part of the job?
There are a couple of things that are challenging about the job. First, is having to justify that my chosen profession/subject matter expertise is real and valid. You’d be surprised by the number of people who are dismissive of my work, stating that I’m just out here peddling opinions, pushing an agenda, and trying to corrupt the minds of the young and innocent. Despite the degrees, published academic manuscripts, scientific conference presentations, glowing references, and work experience, I’m still asked if the info I share is factual or just personal experience and anecdotal stories. Another challenge is simply being a Black woman in the field of sexuality. I feel that I’m simultaneously invisible and hypervisible. Often times I feel pressure to prove that I, that we, are good enough and know enough to exist in this space. While showing that it’s important to center Black sexuality in my work. To be honest, I was once told that Black people simply aren’t palatable in this field unless we’re in the sex work arena (i.e. porn actresses, escorts, fetish trainers, exotic dancers, etc.). There is absolutely nothing wrong with sex work. However, we are not monolithic and we bring much more to this field. We are researchers, artists, podcasters, educators, therapists, counsellors, and coaches. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the awareness then that I have today. I once believed in these constraints because when I looked around, most of the ‘respected’, ‘popular’, and ‘mainstream’ sexperts were (and still are) white or racially-ambiguous. I didn’t see myself and my perspectives represented. But, these challenges are actually blessings because I use them as opportunity to carve my space in this field and add value.
4. What is your most important piece of advice that has the potential to revolutionize relationships?
Check-in periodically. This is not to be confused with interrogating your partner or being completely overbearing. It’s about making sure you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of your relationship. We often get wrapped up in our day to day routines and we tend to put everything on cruise control. We don’t stop and check in until we hit a bump or run into a wall; I always say that everything is good until it isn’t. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Like a car, our relationships require routine maintenance to keep things running smoothly. Simple questions like, “How was your day?”, “Is there anything you need from me?”, “How do you think things are going sexually?”, “Is there something you would like me to do more or less of?, or “What are our current relationship goals?”. Checking in can help you remain certain about your partner’s relationship expectations, goals, and desires. If you do come across info that is surprising or unsettling, you have the option and opportunity to course correct.
5. What do you do to decompress and take care of yourself given that you spend so much time helping and caring for others?
I unplug and walk away from social media. There’s so much going on all the time that I just need space to get back to my peace. As a person who suffers from anxiety, it’s imperative for me to take time to decompress and ground myself sans the noise and drama found on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and the like. While I do take breaks from social media, I often indulge in my favorite shows, which include House Hunters and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
6. What do you want people to know about your work as a sexual health & wellness coach?
I want people to know that this is important work because it is healing work, especially for Black women and femmes. We often carry so much sexual baggage, shame, and trauma that weighs us down and inhibits our sexual potential and ability to live sexually fulfilling lives. My work goes beyond educating on the mechanics of sex and the maintenance of one’s sexual health. I want to help everyone I reach get started on their journey toward self-possession and sexual liberation (which doesn’t look the same for everyone). Letting people know that it’s ok to prioritize your needs, wants, and desires is an act of resistance. And I want to be a part of that.
7. Where can we learn more about your work?