When people feel stuck in the sheets, led astray by porn or clueless when it comes to sex education, who do they turn to? Stella Harris!
Stella Harris is a Portland-based intimacy educator and sex coach. She helps people tear down the personal roadblocks they may have with intimacy and sexuality and is hailed as “clearly an expert level sexuality educator both in knowledge and experience” as per the testimonials on her website. Harris was kind enough to take some of her time to explain some of the aspects of her job and answer a handful of questions:
VG: In a nutshell, what does your job entail?
SH: I have a private coaching practice out of my office in North Portland. I see individuals and couples who are seeking help with communication, relationships and sex.
VG: What would you say to young adults who find themselves struggling with intimacy and sexuality?
SH: You’re not alone. Our culture doesn’t provide any good information, and there’s a bunch of harmful information out there. It’s okay to feel different or to want to go slower than your peers are going.
VG: If you could only pick ONE misconception—about sex, anatomy, toys, anything—to clear up for the rest of your life, what would it be?
SH: There’s no such thing as “normal.”
Unfortunately, there are a lot of messages in our culture that sex is supposed to hurt or at least, that it hurts the first time. This isn’t true! Sex of any kind should never hurt. If it does, your body is warning you that something is wrong. You either need more arousal, more lube or to go slower. Or maybe you’re not ready for that thing at all, and that’s okay.
Sex is about intimacy and connection, not having camera worthy moves. Porn is a fantasy, not sex ed. And while I’m all for (ethical) porn used for arousal, remember that it isn’t real life. Not only are the performers professionals, but they’re getting to warm up and lube up off camera.
VG: What are some of your favorite topics to cover when speaking at colleges?
SH: My favorite thing about college gigs is the questions students ask me—especially when writing anonymous questions is an option. It’s so rewarding to know that questions people have been sitting on for ages are finally getting an answer.
At colleges people seem worried about being on the same schedule as their peers and worry about being less sexually experienced. I always tell people there’s no one right time table—everyone feels ready for different things at different stages and it’s important to not rush yourself because you think it’s what everyone else is doing.
People also struggle with not feeling as open or wild as their peers. It’s totally fine if you’re not into polyamory, kink or anything else you see people talking about. There’s no relationship style or sexual interest that’s better or more evolved—and as long as it’s all between consenting adults and people are freely choosing after knowing what all their options are, that’s great.
VG: Do you have a favorite safeword?
SH: I’m boring—I just stick with green, yellow or red.
Harris also shared some of her favorite resources that people can turn to for help. She works for an online sex coaching app called “Juicebox,” which anonymously pairs people with a coach. The app is free, however, access to a coach is fee-based. You can specifically request to speak with Harris, as well.
Find out more about Harris at stellaharris.net. She also teaches regularly at She Bop, an adult boutique with frequent classes at their Beech Street location. Next up: “Mapping the Vulva: Licking, Touching, Teasing, & Talking” on Feb. 25.
Maggie Lombard is a future theatre educator and current grocery store cashier. She has been published by the Portland State Vanguard and Neopets. You can find her online @calilombardi on twitter or in the park blocks, acting like a Disney princess to urban pests.