“It’s about the stories,” says Dr. Logan Levkoff.
Connection. That’s what I think she’s talking about, at least.
Logan is among the scores of sexologists and sexuality professionals who are also Jewish. And it’s not a coincidence that so many of us Jews go into the field of sexuality. It was through Jewish community that Logan learned progressive values and, in particular, the value of learning. “That’s an amazing place to start talking,” she explains.
Logan has a Ph.D. in human sexuality from NYU, and she currently consults with independent schools in and around New York City on sex education, as well as working with parents and families around sexual communication, giving college lectures, writing and working with the media.
And she’s coming to Boston on Tuesday, April 30, to speak at both CJP’s Jaffa Society luncheon and the Jewish Federation of the North Shore’s Choose to Connect event to invite Jewish women to engage in honest conversation about sex, sexuality, and our culture. (For information about the CJP event, please contact JulieSue at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information about the North Shore event, please contact Stephanie Greenfield at email@example.com.)
“I grew up in a Zionist family,” Logan explains. “I was supposed to heal the world.” Then, in the early 1990s, when Logan’s parents signed her up for a pilot program that used peer education to promote condom use and prevent HIV/AIDS, Logan felt like she was really doing something important, something to start healing the world. “I have a voice, and that’s a privilege,” Logan says. “I’m going to use that privilege for good.”
She sums up her approach: “I believe in being provocative with a purpose.”
I like it!
Logan’s sex advice for all of us? Talk to each other. We have lots and lots to learn from each other if we open the space in which we can talk about things that are usually uncomfortable or even taboo. Often we are held back from these conversations because we don’t even have any words to use, we can’t name what we think and feel, and we lack role models. We don’t hear anyone else having these conversations, so we don’t either.
We need to start somewhere. Logan shared a story from when she was still in the hospital after giving birth. Her grandmother was there and asked her, “How’s your whose-its?” A confused Logan did not understand. Her grandmother repeated the question a few times and then finally used the word “vagina.” Logan says, “It was so great for my grandmother to actually ask me about my body. She did what she could to ask the important question.”
So what should we talk to each other about? In my conversation with Logan, I identified three themes:
- The double standard: Logan explains that in her own teaching about sex and sexuality, she spends most of her time deconstructing the double standard, which refers to the aspect of our culture through which “unfair and unequal expectations of entitlement to sex and bodies” go to men over women. “All other problems stem from that,” Logan explains, including sexual violence, shame and fear, and homophobia.
- Bodies: Talk about your whose-its or your what’s-its. Talk about what feels good and what feels bad. Talk about your experience of living in your own body, how connected or disconnected you feel in your own body, where you feel pleasure and where you feel pain. As Logan states, “Your body gives voice to who you are.”
- Pleasure: “Parent-child talk about pleasure sends a healthy message for young people,” Logan asserts. We have a lot of fears about sex and relationships, but there’s so much to enjoy as well. We can’t leave out that part, the pleasure part. We need to talk about all of it.
“The best stories we have are the ones we tell each other,” Logan says. Not the ones in the media, but the ones we tell each other. We need to tell more stories.
Indeed, the hope of The Debrief is that this can be a place to share our stories. So post in the comments or email me to tell your story about the double standard, bodies, or pleasure. The story can be of any shape or size, and if you’re sitting there remembering a story and wondering if it’s applicable, it is. The best stories we have are yours. Share with us.