In “Doing The Work,” a three-part series from HG contributor Tiffany Lashai Curtis, three Black women who work in different industries tell us their stories. During Black Women’s History Month, we hope this series uplifts and amplifies the work of Black women in spaces where they are underrepresented or rendered invisible.
The sex and wellness industry has expanded in recent years as more and more conversations take place highlighting women’s pleasure and undoing sex-negative messages. But as in other industries, the work of Black women in the realm of sex and wellness isn’t always highlighted or celebrated.
Historically, Black women have had a tumultuous relationship with sexual pleasure. As we continue to reclaim our bodies and our sexuality, we are still forced to navigate centuries-old stereotypes of either being hypersexualized deviants (the “jezebel”) or homely figures devoid of sex lives (the “mammy”).
So when it comes to our sexual health and pleasure, the conversation extends beyond trying a new sex toy or exploring a kink. It’s about healing and finding bodily autonomy as Black women and their bodies continue to be disproportionately subjected to violence and scrutiny.
That’s why the work of Black woman sex educators, therapists, and wellness practitioners is so important, and Jimanekia Eborn is a Black woman sex educator, trauma specialist, and podcaster who is out here doing the work to help Black women and femmes achieve sexual liberation. One example of this is Eborn’s recent collaboration with The KinkKit, a sexual wellness and education company founded by Candice Smith, on a pleasure-positive healing kit for survivors of sexual assault.
For the first profile in this series, I spoke with Eborn about her work around pleasure and trauma, as well as the importance of Black women in the sex education and wellness space. Read our conversation below.
HelloGiggles (HG): You’ve been doing work around mental health for the last 10 years. What moved you to begin incorporating sex ed and sexual trauma support into your work?
Jimanekia Eborn (JE): Funny you ask that. I actually started focusing on sexual trauma pretty early on. After I was assaulted during my third year of college and [my experience was] dismissed, the first thing I did was become a rape crisis counselor and open an online vintage clothing store. I am a Gemini with a Cancer Stellium—when I say that, it suddenly makes sense to folks. I was drawn to helping and supporting survivors, which for me just felt natural and easy.
As for the combination of sex ed and trauma, working in the intensity of mental health was a lot. I wanted to work in a space that was ever evolving and never boring. I told my mom one day, ‘I think I wanna work in sex.’ Her response was ‘Oh, hell.’ I don’t know about you,, but when I tell my momma stuff, it is official for me. When I started really exploring sexual education, I realized that not a lot of people were talking about trauma… So many of us are connected to trauma and need to deal with the trauma to get to the pleasure aspect. So when I realized that most weren’t, I started to [explore that]. I found my niche in sex ed doing something that I truly loved and was really good at: supporting survivors.
HG: How has your identity impacted your work in the sex education and wellness space?
JE: I have many identities that I think have been helpful in many ways. I’m queer and polyamorous. A lot of people in sex ed are as well, or just understand these identities, so that has been cool—although there is only one [identity] that is visible. Being a Black woman is interesting in any space. I still feel like I have to fight and break doors down. I’m constantly calling people out. As for being queer and polyamorous, those aren’t things you have to fight for as much in these particular spaces. But the more I evolve in the field, the more comfortable I am; I’ve become louder when calling people out and holding them accountable.
HG: Whose voices do you think are centered the most in the sex education and wellness space? Whose stories need to be amplified?
JE: I mean, any voice without melanin is centered. I will be honest; sex ed is no different from any other field. There are levels to this game, and at the top is white men, down to white women, then the rest of [us]. As long as I grew up hearing about sex ed, it was never from the voice or work of those who had melanin within their skin. I will say that within the last two years, things have been changing quickly and aggressively, and it’s somewhat beautiful. Sadly, the voices that need to be amplified are having to show up and show out to get their voices heard—which are POC folks, trans folks, and folks with disabilities. But we are tired of being pushed to the side. So we are amplifying each other and calling others out. We are quick to back each other because other folks have not.
HG: April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. What are some ways that the sex and wellness industry can better support survivors of sexual assault, especially those who are people of color?
JE: That is easy. The same thing that I tell anyone that asks how they can support survivors: Listen to them and ask them what they need! It is so exhausting constantly reminding people that they do not know better than the survivor. Ask them what they need versus telling them what they need. Listen to hear them, do not listen to respond. It is not helpful to either party.
HG: How can sex ed curriculums do better at addressing topics like consent and sexual trauma?
JE: I am still wrestling with the fear that people have about talking about consent and sexual trauma. Like, do they think if they do not talk about it, it will stop or go away? These are things that we are all affected by. We all have known someone that has had their consent [violated] or has had some sexual trauma. The only way that we can evolve to safer spaces is to actually talk about them. Be honest about what is going on in the world. I think we need to start talking to kids pretty young. If we give them the tools while they’re young, I believe it can help them to better navigate the world.
HG: Your podcast Trauma Queen aims to normalize talking about assault and healing. Season 3 of Trauma Queen is specifically focused on the experiences of Black femmes. Why is it important that Black femmes be given the opportunity to tell their own experiences of surviving and healing from trauma of all kinds?
JE: For me, Black femmes are everything. We carry the world on our shoulders and no one gives a damn about us. Honestly, Black femmes raise themselves, their kids, their partners, and other people, and other people’s damn kids. Yet we are constantly overlooked and thrown under the bus. I wanted to recognize different types of femmes as well; that was really important to me. Because there is no one way that a Black femme looks. I wanted someone to hear a story that resonated within them, that they could say, “Chile, me too.” I also really and truly believe that there is so much healing in storytelling, which is something that is very important and strong in Black culture in general. I also think this season was healthy for me to spend time emerged in the energy of Black femmes. I am so thankful.
HG: Black women have historically never held autonomy over their own bodies or sexuality. How can pleasure positive experiences help us to collectively heal and reclaim our bodies?
JE: Sadly, this is so real! There is something about being told that you matter. We as Black women do not get told that outside of from other women. And even then, there are some women who do not support others. That is a whole ‘nother conversation. But having pleasure positive experiences strengthens us. And teaches and reminds us that we are so much more than what others have pushed upon us or attempted to force us to believe. There is strength in numbers; there is strength within beautiful and positive experiences. I have been and will continue to say, this is our year! This is not temporary; this is the START of the breakdown because as Black women, we are tired and taking what is already ours back.
HG: Why is having Black women as practitioners and experts in the sex education and wellness space essential?
JE: Black women to me are traditionally natural healers. It is just embedded within us and passed down through us. We have a way of reading you down and also picking you up in the same breath. Making you feel seen and supported, knowing that we mean business. We are a force to be reckoned with and I honestly think it makes people nervous and keeps them on their toes. I believe that is why we are also held back, because we are truly walking beings of magic. Black women are also not just focused on themselves as some others may be—we are about uplifting and doing things together, unlike others.
HG: Black women are chronically underrepresented, undervalued, and under-recognized across many industries. What’s one thing you want people to know about the work of Black women in the sex ed and wellness industry?
JE: Whew chile, one thing? We have been doing this work in our own communities and homes for years. Why are you so afraid to share the space, and give us our roses now? GIVE US OUR ROSES WHEN WE ARE STILL HERE!
See more entries in this series: