Shifting Sex Research: Lauren Albrecht
"Sex is inspiring because it is one of the few commonalities we all share," reveals academic and blogger Lauren Albrecht. "In a complex world, sex brings people together—both literally and figuratively! Whether you are sexually active or not, sex is forever a hot topic, there is always more to learn, and I absolutely love that there is no one way to do it ‘right’."
Taking this idea of sex having no specific script among people, Lauren is pursuing research for her Master's thesis in the Department of Educational Policy Studies, specializing in Adult Education, at the University of Alberta. She is considering non-traditional venues of sexuality education for adults, including informal/non-formal, non-medical, non-fear-based, non-reproduction-centered concepts.
Having been a teacher of both children and adults, Lauren discovered that students were seeking honest and factual responses to questions of sex and sexuality. "This was challenging and frustrating for me, as there is little room for these discussions in a classroom setting, in spite of the fact that these conversations are important to our health and well-being."
A particular focus of her research is the in-home sex toy party. Since 2007, Lauren has been working for The Traveling Tickle Trunk, as a sex toy party facilitator. "Through my experience I discovered that the sex toy party environment lends itself to great conversations on a variety of sex-related topics. I want to understand why people attend these parties, do they come with the expectation to learn, do they learn within the party, if so, how does this learning impact them after they leave? "
Traditionally, sex and sexuality research has had a health-related focus, and moving away from that has been daunting for Lauren. "Sex, especially in relation to sexual pleasure, is largely a taboo topic and sexual health brings discussions about sex into the mainstream; however, sexual health is only one aspect of our sexuality. While disease and pregnancy prevention are important aspects of sex education, emphasizing these areas to the exclusion of sexual pleasure offers a limited, medicalized perspective of our sexuality that is often fear-based. It is important to broaden the conversation to include relational, psychological, sociocultural, political, and economic factors that influence our sexual identity and sexual experiences." She credits her supervisor, Dr. André Grace for being an enthusiastic supporter of her work.
Inspiration for her work comes in many forms, including noted feminist academics Patti Lather and bell hooks, media projects such as The Good Men Project, The New View Campaign and Dan Savage's Savage Lovecast. Lauren also notes an important group of people without whom research would not happen at all. "Educators can’t have this conversation alone. It takes brave and inspiring people to publicly put a voice to their thoughts, questions and concerns. With so much silence and shame around sex and sexuality, especially desire and pleasure, it is difficult to know where to find answers, but I want to use this opportunity to locate pockets of resistance, where people can come together in an open and honest fashion and talk about sex."