What made you want to become a sexologist?
I’ve always been fascinated by sex (no surprise!) and began volunteering as a sex educator over ten years ago. However, I was prompted to get more involved in the field when I began working as a high-school teacher. Young people have so many good questions about sex and not enough places to go for accurate answers. The lack of education and resources can have a catastrophic impact on their self-esteem, relationships and overall health. I went into sexology to help improve access to sex education and I just got lucky that the job is so incredibly fun and rewarding!What is a typical day in the life of Jessica O'Reilly like?
Each day is unique and I’m so fortunate that my work is always changing, challenging and engaging. I split my time between working one-on-one with clients, facilitating workshops, speaking at conferences, developing sexual health programming and providing a “sexpert” perspective for print and television media. I love that I get to travel for work and as an independent contractor, it is easier for me to maintain a healthy balance between work and play.
Most people in North America (Quebec excluded) have never heard of a sexologist, so my colleagues and I have to work hard to promote our profession -- and we have a long way to go. Thankfully, people in this profession are very supportive of one another and even though we’re spread out across the continent, we collaborate and share resources online on a daily basis.
Let's talk about sex: what are the most embarrassing questions you get and how do you answer them?
Almost everyone I work with is nervous or embarrassed at first, but putting them at ease is my first priority. I remind clients that it’s normal to be nervous and I encourage them to laugh, fidget or giggle if that’s what comes naturally -- it’s not everyday that you get to talk about nipples, dildos and strap-ons, so of course you’re embarrassed!
I hear questions about everything and anything sexual -- from female ejaculation and orgasm to butt plugs and broken penises. My job is to provide clients with accurate information and encourage them to assess their own feelings and reactions in order to make healthy, empowering decisions.
Tell us more about your workshops!
I teach a wide variety of educational workshops ranging from training sessions for classroom teachers to intimacy-building sessions for couples.
But most people want to hear about the fun workshops that involve a brave group of women, some very creative techniques and a whole whack of very happy carrots that function as props. Delivering these sessions is one of the highlights of my job. The participants usually arrive feeling a little nervous and leave feeling confident and eager to try out their new moves.
I always learn a thing or two from the frisky women who sign up for these workshops and love connecting with each new group. Some of the workshop topics include hand jobs, blow jobs, dirty talk, seduction, sexual positions, sexual empowerment and erogenous exploration. Participants sign up as singles or with a couple of friends and I’ve even had a few mother-daughter teams sign up together which is really cool.
Do you consider yourself to be a younger, more modern and sexier version of Sue Johanson?
That’s a flattering comparison. Sue was a trailblazer in the field and her ability to talk candidly about sex opened the doors for the next generation of sexologists. While our approach to sex ed. may be slightly different, we definitely share a passion for spreading the sex-positive message.
What did you study in University/College? Would you have done anything differently?
My doctorate is in human sexuality and my undergrad focused on sexual diversity studies. I also did an education (teaching) degree and if I could go back to school (which I still can!) I would sign up for some trades courses to learn how to build my own dream home.
Best place(s) to shop in the city?
Food is my favourite thing to shop for! The St. Lawrence market, The Big Carrot and McEwan are a few of my faves.
Tell us about your neighbourhood and what you like best about it.
I live in the Upper Beach and I love that I can walk down to the water and rollerblade across the city on the bike path. While I sometimes miss living in the core of the city, I think it’s awesome that all the kids in my neighbourhood can leave their bikes, toys and sports equipment outside overnight and it’s all still there in the morning. The Caribbean fare at Cool Runnings also keeps me smiling.
What do you wish someone told you when you were younger and just starting out?
Take a broad range of courses in school to keep the doors open to a variety of possibilities -- you never know what the future holds!
What life advice do you have for hip + urban girls out there trying to figure out what they want to do?
Life is a process and we’re all still figuring out what we want to do even those of us who adore our jobs. So enjoy the ride!