The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health is unique. There is nothing else like it on the East Coast, you would have to travel to San Francisco or Portland, Oregon to find anything similar. The Center describes themselves as “a sexuality education and training organization that works to reduce sexual shame, challenge misinformation, & advance the field of sexuality.”
Regular readers will have noticed that RI Future has been running an advertisement for the Center’s fundraiser, “An Affair to Remember” and so I took this opportunity to visit the Center to meet the staff and learn about what services are offered.
Programs Manager Kira Manser gave me a tour of the space. Erin Basler Francis, content and brand manager for the Center and operations manager Shayna Parker were on hand to answer my questions. Bisquit the Cat kept a watchful eye on us all. I immediately felt that I had entered a safe and welcoming space.
At the Center you will find one of the largest libraries on the subject of sexuality in New England, with comfortable chairs on which to park yourself to do some reading and research. I immediately recognized the importance of such a resource as a journalist, since it is often difficult to find objective data on contentious subjects that deal with sexuality online, but here you will find both a well stocked library and professional help in navigating subjects often fraught with misinformation.
Manser then showed me a large collection of sex toys and aids. These items are not for sale, they are for instructional purposes. Often times when someone purchases such an item, they do so without understanding that some products are not as safe as others. To make this point Manser showed me some Kegel balls with cotton strings attached. The cotton can absorb moisture and become a place for bacteria to take root. It is better, she said, to use a product where the string is coated in washable silicon.
The Center provides professional development training in sexuality for those working in the fields of health care, counseling and education. They have a monthly discussion group for people living with cancer, cancer survivors and their partners wanting to reclaim their sexuality. The Center holds these discussions in conjunction with the Gloria Gemma Foundation.
Other workshops offered at the Center concentrate on the safe use of lubes, vibrators and sex toys, sexual techniques, or maximizing sexual pleasure for yourself and your partner(s).
The fundraiser, An Affair to Remember, is an effort to get the Center on more solid financial footing as they seek to expand their offerings. The evening will feature partying and drinks, and an art installation, “A Place at the Table,” inspired by feminist artist Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party.” The Center has invited artists to design plates “inspired by important historical moments and themes in the field of sexuality” and the “final pieces will be displayed together on a banquet-style table, each with a place mat, cup, napkin and utensils.”
Erin Basler Francis told me that the artwork she’s seen so far has been amazing. I am very excited to see it for myself. The event will be held on Saturday, September 19, 2015 from 6:00-9:00pm at the Fête in Providence (103 Dike Street).
The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health is located at 250 Main St #1, Pawtucket, RI and is open Tuesday through Saturday 12-6pm and by appointment. Rhode Island is lucky to have such a resource. As an added bonus, not only is the staff knowledgeable about issues of sexual pleasure and health, they know more than a little about comics and geek culture. Very cool.