A day in the life of a sex educator

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A day in the life of sex educator Gayathiri Kamalakanthan, who works to create an open atmosphere for young people to learn about sex

Gayathiri Kamalakanthan is a sex educator at sexplain. She lives in North London with her flatmates.

MY ALARM GOES OFF…

Around 7am. I’ve normally prepped overnight oats in Tupperware, so I grab that and eat it on the bus. My workwear doesn’t really differ from the weekend; it’s quite casual – jeans with trainers, either secondhand or from & Other Stories. On my way, I listen to the podcast Death, Sex And Money by WNYC. I get to work for 8.15am

I’M RESPONSIBLE FOR…

Teaching sex education workshops in schools to Year 9 students. My job is to create an open atmosphere where students know that there is no silly question.

I GOT THE JOB…

Through reaching out to Sexplain’s founder. I was looking for LGBTQ+ or sex education charities to get involved with and a friend told me about what our founder, Amelia Jenkinson, was doing. I emailed her, but she said they were still small and not in schools just yet. About a year later, she got back in touch. I watched her do a session and then I did one myself; there was never a formal interview.  

Sexplain_playdough
What did you do at work today?

MY TYPICAL DAY…

Starts with a school assembly and then I go into workshops. I usually begin with the question: “What do you think sex is?” I’ll give the class about 15 seconds to shout out all the words they associate with sex. I tell them it’s totally normal to giggle and that, yes, it’s awkward to talk about at first.

For us, it’s about allowing all those feelings to just be and exist in that space. I would never say, “Stop laughing.” The topics we cover are sex, consent and gender identity. We talk about the difference between your gender identity, biological sex and sexual expression.

I finish with an activity called “playdough anatomy” where students make a model of a vulva and penis. I talk them through each part and they will be really keen on listening to the instructions for the vulva because they don’t know how to make it themselves. It’s reflective of how little we know about the vulva in society.

I stop for lunch at 12.30pm. I batch cook once a week – something like pasta with spinach and fresh coriander pesto – and I’ll take that with me. I like to eat outside and just stare at the sky.    

MY MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT…

Was talking to a class about consent. Someone asked, “What if you’re not sure the person is consenting?” The answer is you ask them, of course, but they said that would be too awkward. Which is true. It is awkward. So I said, “Would you rather feel awkward in that moment or allow something non-consensual to happen?” Everyone is going to get rejected, there’s not a single person in the world it hasn’t happened to. It was like a lightbulb moment for them. They all said they’d rather ask. 

"No sniggering at the back. Okay, you can snigger a bit."
"No sniggering at the back. Okay, you can snigger a bit."

THE WORST PART OF MY JOB…

Is when a young person voices an intolerance to LGBTQ+ people. On one hand, though, that’s why we’re there: to educate them. That’s where we can be most impactful.

THE BEST PART OF MY JOB…

Is when you see a shift happen – even if one student goes from not being open to gay people to realising it’s just as normal as being heterosexual. 

AFTER WORK…

I might go on a long walk – I live near a big park. Then I’ll cook dinner; something like chilli or lasagne. I like to get into bed early, I’m big on my sleep! But before, I’ll talk to my aunt on the phone, we are quite close and I find that relaxing before bed. Then I will basically read until my eyes can’t stay open. Right now, I’m reading The Love And Lies Of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Khan.  

Jameela says:

“It’s so important young people have someone to teach them about sex and consent.”

Photography: Gemma Day

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Hannah Keegan

Hannah Keegan is the features writer at Stylist magazine.

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