I love teaching workshops about sex. There’s something about getting up in front of a group of people and talking with them about how to create passionate, powerful sexual experiences that makes me really happy. And as a sex educator, I’m always learning new ways to offer my audiences different ways to learn about pleasure.
Sometime last year, I started including a live demonstration in some of my classes like Awesome Anal Sex, Prostate Massage, and Hitting the Spot: Prostate Play & G-spot Pleasure. It’s not something that is always appropriate, of course. It depends on the topic, the audience, and the setting. But when it works, it adds something to a workshop that talking just can’t convey. And I think it’s worth looking at why that is so that sex educators understand the value and the limitations of live demonstrations in workshops.
When I’m deciding whether to develop a workshop demonstration, the first question I ask myself is: what would this add to the audience experience? I’ve attended plenty classes that had demos and while many of them were well-designed and relevant, not all of them were. Sometimes, it seemed like the presenter did it to look cool and edgy or because they enjoyed showing off to the crowd. Sometimes, they got so caught up in putting on a sexy show that they lost track of the fact that the demo is supposed to explain the techniques rather than get people turned on. Sure, it’s fine if folks get aroused, but that’s not the purpose of a workshop demo.
In my opinion, it’s not enough to say that it’s helpful for people to see the techniques. Presenters need to be clear on exactly what benefit the audience gets from seeing it compared to the benefit of having more time for content. That might mean scaling back on the sexiness, since too much sexy can distract folks. For example, a bondage demo can be really useful. But there’s no reason for the model to be naked or scantily clad since a leotard works just as well for showing the techniques. Similarly, I once saw a rope bondage demo that showed how to tie a Magic Wand so that it’s held against the clitoris for hands-free pleasure. That was fine, except that the presenter decided to leave the vibrator on until the model orgasmed. It was sexy, but totally irrelevant and it took up a lot of valuable workshop time. So presenters need to understand how the demo will add value to the class without becoming a distraction. And if there’s a way to create the same value with a scaled back demo or without one, that’s a sign that the demo isn’t necessary. (Protip: if you’re convinced that the demo model needs to be an attractive, young woman, there’s a good chance that you’re more interested in putting on a sexy show than in teaching. There’s nothing wrong with a sexy show, but there’s a difference between education and edutainment.)
There are two reasons I like teaching demo workshops. First, they give me the opportunity to model the specific techniques I’m talking about. I can do a lot with words, and the folks who come to my non-demo classes certainly learn plenty of useful skills. But getting to see what I’m talking about helps it make much more sense. It’s not too different from a cooking show. You can talk about how to do something, and if you’re a skilled teacher, the students will learn from that. And they’ll get much more if they can actually see what you mean.
More importantly, a demonstration allows me to show how to touch someone with care, attention, and intention. I can talk and write all day long about how anal play works better when you go slowly. But when I get to show people what I mean, they consistently say that it helps them understand more fully. Before the demo, they thought I wanted them to slow down from a 10 to a 7, but I really want them at a 3. And there’s nothing like getting to witness that to help people understand it.
Similarly, when I teach my Awesome Anal Sex class, I always start the anal massage demo by explaining to the group that I have no specific goal in mind. We might only do external massage. We might try internal massage and then need to stop. We might be able to show a more extensive demonstration of internal massage. Since bodies are unpredictable and even an anal aficionado might have an off night (especially when there’s an audience), I make it very clear that my demo model’s comfort and safety is more important than showing a specific technique. A lot of people who have seen that workshop have told me that it gave them permission to be less goal oriented about their own anal play adventures, which is exactly the point. And again, while I can explain that verbally, it’s much easier to demonstrate it.
The same thing happens when I check in with the model during the demo. That’s not something I do once and then consider finished. I do it throughout the experience, which allows me to show the audience some ways they can do the same with their lovers. People who have been students in these workshops often tell me that seeing how I do it helps them integrate those skills into their sex lives.
Live demonstrations in sex workshops won’t work for all presenters. Partly, it’s an matter of individual style and taste. But there are also some challenges to them that some teachers might not want to deal with. It’s not easy to hold the container of the group while also focusing on the model. Explaining what you’re doing without interrupting the experience takes practice. Projecting your voice to the back of the room can be jarring for the model, so you need to be able to speak clearly and calmly at the same time. Plus, demos can be quite time-intensive and for shorter classes, it’s not always the right way to go.
So there are lots of good reasons to not do live demos. But when it’s a good fit, they can definitely add to the workshop experience, as long as there’s a clear reason for them. And while I only do them when it’s right for the topic, the audience, and the setting, I really enjoy them. They’re lots of fun and they offer something that words just can’t do.