Sex-ed with Danielle Bezalel
Hi Danielle! Can you start by giving us a quick intro to who you are and what you do?
Hey hey! I’m Danielle (she/her) -- I’m the Founder and Host of Sex Ed with DB: a feminist multimedia platform and podcast bringing you all the sex ed you never got through unique and entertaining storytelling, centering LGBTQ+ and BIPOC experts. I have a Master of Public Health from Columbia University with a focus in sexuality, sexual and reproductive health.
For fun, I love to travel to a new and exciting place, Peloton to a reggaeton class, sing on stage (hmu to do karaoke anytime) and eat any kind of chocolate-y peanutbutter-y concoction.
How did you decide to start the Sex-Ed with DB podcast?
You can read my entire origin story about the podcast here but, essentially, I had an “aha" moment when I was teaching abroad in Israel in 2014. It made me realize that there are so many people out there who do not have proper access to comprehensive, non-judgmental, medically accurate sex ed. This experience (coupled with the 2016 presidential election of he-who-shall-not-be-named) encouraged me to take action and start my own business while also allowing marginalized folks to take center stage as guests, as their stories often get side-lined.
How has your experience as a sex educator been since starting the pod?
In doing over 165 episodes of Sex Ed with DB over the last 6.5 years (!!!) I’ve learned a ton from the brilliant guests I’m lucky to interview. When reflecting on how I feel now compared to how I felt when I first began doing this work, a few key realizations come to mind.
1) I now feel way more confident in my ability to share my expertise and ideas. This confidence has come with getting a Master’s of Public Health, guesting on other people’s podcasts, teaching workshops on sex ed, and being able to articulate my knowledge to young people in the classroom -- if there’s anyone who’s going to absolutely roast you and test your knowledge as best they can, it’s the youths.
2) I now feel more empowered to talk about masturbation, pleasure, and orgasms. These are topics I, personally, always wanted to talk about but felt like other people were going to think I was weird or “being too sexual” for wanting to talk about them. I’ve definitely met my matches when it comes to chatting with researchers, experts, and professors who have made an entire career out of discussing and teaching about these topics. I’m incredibly inspired by these folks and so many others who are unapologetic about the way they prioritize the topic of pleasure, especially for women and vulva owners.
3) There is still so much shame and hate in the world. People hate themselves (their bodies, their circumstances, their personalities) so they hate on each other to try and make it hurt less -- this is apparent in my comments on the daily. Self-love is something that is a major part of being able to have a healthy mental state. Through my content, it’s so important for me to share that loving yourself is a daily practice necessary for you to engage in a healthy relationship with yourself and others.
What do you think society gets wrong when it comes to sex education?
Oh boy, how long do I have? Dare I say … most things?
There are so many barriers to quality sex education in the US. Only 18 states require sex ed to be "medically accurate." 29 states require that abstinence be "stressed" in sex ed classes. Only 10 states require lessons to teach about the importance of consent in sexual activity. Our states need to do a better job at requiring sex ed in their schools. I think the fact that America is one of the most religious countries in the world is another huge barrier. I think the fact that we, as a society, don’t understand and accept that youth are sexual beings (and most of them will have sex by age 17), is another. I can go on and on. The main thing that kids should know is that they deserve medically accurate, age-appropriate, engaging sex education that allows them to ask the hard questions and learn all they need to know to make the best decisions for them to live happy and healthy lives.
What was your sex-ed experience in school? How did YOU learn about sex?
Overall I think I had an *okay* sex education experience, but not necessarily because of what I learned in school or how I learned it. Growing up on Long Island in NY, we did have sex ed in middle school but I mainly remember the scary parts of it: the STDs, the unwanted pregnancies. Luckily, as I mentioned, my mom is an OB/GYN and supplemented my sex ed from school with at-home chats about relationships, pleasure, and periods. She even put in my first tampon for me (we got pretty close in that moment, physically and emotionally). If I had to put a number on it out of 10, I’d say my sex ed growing up was a 6/10 since it wasn’t pleasure-based and the classes didn’t continue throughout high school.
Who is your favorite guest you’ve had on the pod and what did you learn from them?
This is a tough one (remember, I’ve done 165+ episodes!). One of my favorite episodes of all time was with an erotic artist named Armando Cabba. I learned about the triumphs and tribulations of being an erotic artist as well as the challenges erotic artists face with social media censorship -- sex educators and erotic artists have this in common, unfortunately. We dissected racism and sexism that exists within the Instagram algorithm, how sex educators and erotic artists work to bypass censorship on social media platforms, and how fans of sexual education content and erotic art can support creators like us. It was a really incredible episode and our energy flowed really well together.
Can you tell us a bit about your feature in The Principles of Pleasure on Netflix?
Yes! I was lucky enough to be featured in Netflix’s “The Principles of Pleasure”: a three- part docu-series narrated by the incredible Michelle Buteau about pleasure!! I had no idea what the docuseries was going to be (or even if I would make the final cut!). But I am SO incredibly excited I got to be a part of such a wonderful project that uplifted the importance of pleasure with science, health education, and stories by women and people with vulvas. It was incredibly special and unlike anything I’d ever done before. You’ll just have to watch it yourself!
Anything else you want to share with us?If you like funny, medically accurate, comprehensive, pleasure-centered sex ed content, follow us on IG and TikTok for more! If you’re wanting to become a sexual health professional full-time, check out my workshop here.
Claire Wasserman dishes on her fertility journey and advice for queer couples
6/7/2023 • 7 minutes
Natassia Miller: How to be confident and communicate about sex; and why it’s so hard for women
Lindsey Metselaar gets real on infertility, IVF, and advice for her 18-year-old self