Sexual Health Expo N.Y. Speaker Preview: Dr. Hernando Chaves
LOS ANGELES — As one of the most prominent sex experts in the field today, Dr. Hernando Chaves has heard and seen it all from his clients, questions sent to his AskMen.com column, and frank discussions with his colleagues in the field.
But that doesn’t lessen his curiosity, or his enthusiasm for the ever-growing sexual health and wellness field. A licensed marriage and family therapist, professor of human sexuality, and sex educator, Chaves not only takes on common sex concerns and dysfunctions, but actually specializes in the tougher fields of erotic minorities that include BDSM, fetishism, non-monogamy, unique sexual lifestyles and expression.
If that’s not enough, the sexpert teaches human sexuality courses at Orange Coast College, is Penthouse magazine’s “Sex Academy” DVD instructor along with Dr. Av Cadell, and is a contributing author to the International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality.
With credentials like these, and his ability to take on the more sensitive, but burgeoning areas of sexuality, it’s no wonder that his appearance at the upcoming Sexual Health Expo (SHE) set for September in New York City is hotly anticpated. At last spring's Phoenix SHE Expo, Chaves’ “Unique Orgasms' workshop "had jokes and laughter while introducing attendees to lesser known techniques and occurrences for achieving orgasms, such as breastgasms and coregasms."
Chaves took time out of his busy schedule to let XBIZ in on his thoughts and plans for the upcoming Expo, and his take on some of the most talked about aspects of today's sexuality.
XBIZ: You’re one of the few men practicing as a sexologist and specializing in this area. Why do you think experts in this field are predominantly woman?
Chaves: Sex education and sex therapy are helping professions, which traditionally have more females. I think it takes a special kind of man to be in this field. Someone with nurturance, compassion, good communication, and empathy is needed to thrive in this field. You also have to truly be comfortable with sex and not afraid to share that with the world. For some men, that’s not easy to do. I also think the few men in this field tend to respect women, promote feminist ideals, and have good boundaries. I can’t think of a better job. Every day I get to help people, promote sexual health, hang out with open-minded folks, and travel the country and world spreading the gospel of sex. Thank God I didn’t become a real estate broker.
XBIZ: What are your main areas of specialization?
Chaves: Sex education and sex therapy. I spend half my workweek teaching college human sexuality courses at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa and the other half of the week at my office in Beverly Hills as a sex therapist. I love both and really enjoy the diversity. One day I’m speaking to 18 year-olds about sex education and the next day I’m working up close and personally with people with sexual concerns. As a sex therapist, my practice is split between sexual concerns such as erection difficulties, early ejaculation, and low desire, and erotic minorities, people with a sexual interest or expression that is less common. As a professor, it’s amazing how little sex ed teens receive. I can relate as I grew up going to Catholic school. Not one nun or priest explained sex to us. It comes as no surprise that my first anal sex experience didn’t involve lube. Ouch. I still feel for that girlfriend, I didn’t know a thing about sex. Memories like that keep me humble and remind me I was just like them at their age.
XBIZ: You’ve been a speaker at past Sexual Health Expos (SHE). How did this come about?
Chaves: I have to thank SHE Sexpert of the year Dr. Ava Cadell for that one. She received an email for SHE L.A. and snuck me in through the back door for a co-presentation. We’re best friends and have spoken together a number of times. Working with friends makes things much more enjoyable and I’m looking to have as much fun in my work as possible. I find that my relationships with my colleagues grow and strengthens when we work on projects together. Most weeks you’ll find me working with a colleague like Dr. Ava or Dr. Emily Morse and then going for dinner or a hike at Runyan Canyon.
XBIZ: What is your impression of the SHE conference in general?
Chaves: I enjoy speaking and attending SHE. There is a strong focus on community education and most of the attendees are regular people. Other conferences such as SSSS, AASECT, and Catalystcon attract some members of the public, but mostly educate professionals. SHE is like a sex education block party and I appreciate having so much contact with people outside of the field. I also like that SHE brings in high quality educators. It’s a who’s who in sex education and I am grateful of the continued focus on the diversity of speakers and presentations. In case you didn’t pick up on it, I’m brown, Colombian to be exact, and I’m thrilled to see more people of color like Francisco Ramirez, Sunny Megatron, and Sinnamon Love speaking at SHE. Wait; does anyone know Sinn is speaking in N.Y.? Ooops. Spoiler alert.
XBIZ: Are you seeing the general public becoming more interested in sex education?
Chaves: I am seeing a huge shift in public discourse from educators and more interest from the public. In L.A., I attend Pleasure Chest workshops and every Wednesday it’s a packed house for their sex seminars. Sex Positive World, Los Angeles, recently put on a July sexuality event at UCLA with speakers such as Janet Hardy, Dr. Chris Donaghue, Kate Loree, and myself, which drew close to 300 people. I’ll be starting a monthly sex education series for Sex Positive World this fall to help continue the momentum we generated. People are thirsty for good sex education. They aren’t getting it from their schools, their families, and society. It’s not just happening in America, it’s happening in many parts of the world. Dr. Ava and myself will offer a sex education seminar in China, as people desperately want to incorporate sex positivity and guilt–free sexuality into their lives.
XBIZ: What are the most common questions you get in your AskMen column?
Chaves: Most of the questions I get from men are about their performance. How do I can I make my erection harder, last longer, make her cum, how do I know she orgasmed, and so on. The truth is, men are human and many struggle with sex. There is more worry and anxiety than meets the eye. Most guys have few outlets to talk about their sexual concerns and bottle it up. The reality is, having sexual anxiety is a common human experience that is unfortunately fueled by society and it’s sex negative baggage. I got lucky, somehow I came out of Catholicism a healthy pervert.
XBIZ: How do you feel the burgeoning pleasure products industry is affecting sexuality and sex positivity?
Chaves: I absolutely love that the pleasure product industry and sex education are finally lying in bed together. I see more and more companies placing value with incorporating educators to educate the public about their products. You’ll see it at SHE. Many of the presentations will include information about pleasure products and plugging products that will enhance people’s sex life. I’m especially happy to see the adult industry also coming together with the pleasure product industry. Who better to promote pleasure than those working in adult who provide pleasure to millions? Bonnie Rotten’s line from Pipedreams is a good example of that synergy between the adult industry and pleasure products. In addition, Nina Hartley continues to pump out sex education DVD’s for Adam and Eve and Jessica Drake is hitting home runs with her "Guide to Wicked Sex" instructionals. I wish everyone would watch sex education DVDs. It’s the perfect fusion between the adult industry, pleasure products, and sex education.
XBIZ: Tell us about your work with “erotic minorities.” What’s trending right now?
Chaves: I tend to work with people with more unique sexual interests or expressions. It ranges from sex workers, folks into BDSM, non-monogamous and open relationship clients, people with fetishes, and gay men. What’s trending these days is authenticity. People are tired of hiding, they’re over having mediocre sex lives and looking to kick down whatever closet they’ve been hiding in. People are exploring, feeding their curiosities, venturing out beyond their comfort zones. For a lot of people, good things are happening
XBIZ: How do you coach people on experiencing the “ultimate orgasm?”
Chaves: I generally try to take the focus off orgasm and look at ultimate pleasure instead. Most people forget that sexual bliss is a lifelong journey and we should continue to explore our bodies. We have erogenous zones everywhere on our bodies yet many of us stick to what we know or what has worked in the past. I think we have to stay curious, creative, and continue to explore the capabilities of our body. Also, it’s time for people to get over the stigma of sex toys and use them guilt-free by themselves and with partners. Thankfully, recent research suggests that 53 percent of women have a vibrator. Great news — and I hope that number continues to climb. But men are still painfully behind the curve with buying into pleasure products as sexual enhancement, especially for themselves.
XBIZ: What will you be addressing at the New York SHE conference in September?
Chaves: In New York, I’ll be doing Unique Orgasms by myself, but Dr. Ava Cadell and I wrote that workshop together for SHE L.A. We were brainstorming one day and our goal was to come up with something different. We wanted to talk about something pleasurable but not what others typically discuss with orgasm (clitoris, G-spot, prostate, etc). We decided to explore the world of orgasms that most people don’t know or discuss. What kinds you might you ask? Well you’ll have to attend to find out, but some unique orgasms even shocked me. And I don’t shock easily.