Words by Mya Abraham. Art by Mia Coleman.
Sex is a constant trending topic in today’s society, whether represented as a fantasy on the big screen, shoved down our throats through advertisement, or lives at the forefront (or as a back-burner) of our lives. Clinical sexologist Shannon “Shan Boody” Boodram is one of the few to have created a safe space to discuss all things sex.
Boodram is more than an advocate and educator of sex, though. She’s also a non-traditional lover. She lives life and loves on her terms, and goes to bat for those, who like herself, believe in the unconventional when it comes to dating and sex.
In November, her and her partner Jared Brady took to YouTube to share the story behind their open relationship and “to help the person who has felt like a failure in conventional relationships realize there are other ways.”
Boodram has launched several video series on which she educates viewers on statistics and various lifestyles, and interweaves intimate details of her own love life to assure others they’re not alone. In 2013, she launched her Magic vs. Logic series where she gave readers two types of advice: common sense (logic) and heart-driven (magic). She then shifted her content to include a more personal standpoint, with videos like “How To Get Naked And Win” and “The Secret To Being Single And Victorious.”
Below, Boodram shares with ILY the science of relationships, what it means to be yourself with someone, and when it’s time to let go.
Mya Abraham: What made you get into clinical sexology?
Shannon “Shan Boody” Boodram: I was always a very sexually precocious person, from a young age. I remember my Barbies were banned from being naked, but I was a very touchy-feely kid; that kind of sexual tendency mixed with suppression and lack of information led me to me to an unfulfilling sex life. I tried pursuing a fulfilling sex life by grabbing whatever was at my fingertips which was porn, books, or fiction, but there wasn’t much available. Together, the sexual interest and whatever information was available, led me to a super shitty sex life as a teen. I decided there had to be somebody who was young and willing to say, “We deserve better.” Somebody who was willing to talk from a place of education. I saw a niche for being a woman of color who was willing to talk about a topic that we all have an interest in, but don’t have much information on.
What made you focus on being an advocate for safe sex?
One, I’ve been a victim of non-safe sex where I’ve contracted a sexually transmitted infection (chlamydia). Two, aside from my one-on-one counseling service, I constantly meet people who are a face of the statistics. They say one in four people under the age of 24 will contract a sexually transmitted infection in their lifetime–and that seems made up to us because we think we don’t know anybody who has a STD or a STI–but for me, I know a lot of faces [that do]. I know a lot of stories. I know a lot of people where that’s their truth. There’s truth in those numbers, and so I want to talk about these things because it’s affecting people’s lives. It really does make a difference when you take that extra minute to make sure you’re protected; it can save you.
How much do you think love and sex are connected in relationships?
Sexuality is the basis of everything because there’s two segments of life; there’s survival and there’s procreation, and sex has something to do with each. People put too much magic and mystery in what love is, and not enough science, practicality, and sexuality. Adding science and a sexual understanding to your relationships will greatly help you understand love and help you to make better choices for yourself. Love is not all mystery, magic, and connection. Love is neurons. Love is dopamine. Love is chemical levels. Love is your endocrine system. Love is your nervous system, and when you understand how those things work in tandem with your feelings, you can get a better sense of control. For me, understanding sex, sexual drive, sexual tendencies, and the reason behind sexuality has greatly helped me in making better choices in my relationship and it’s helped me coach and counsel other people to do the same.
How does one incorporate science into relationships?
It is a matter of programming. For example, at age 16, your pelvic floor fuses. Your cock-stick and sacrum come together. You now have a child-bearing hips that are ready to go. Your pituitary glands release certain hormones and tell the body it’s time to have sex. If you’re aware of that, when you have these sexual urges, you’re less likely to be like, “I feel this way because this must be my soulmate” and “I feel these sexual urges because we’re perfect together.” You’re more likely to say, “No, this is just science. This is that time of the month. I’m naturally gonna feel this way whether or not this person is a good fit for me or not. This is what my body is gonna urge me to do, so let me make a better decision.” Love isn’t something that God gave us because he wanted us to have a happier life and be more magical beings. Love is a neurological condition.
Why sex is addictive for women is because after an orgasm we release oxytocin which intensifies bonding.”
Also, love is addictive. Once you know that, you’re more careful with who you invest time in. The reason why sex is addictive for women is because after an orgasm we release oxytocin–and especially if we cuddle after sex, our bodies release oxytocin–which intensifies bonding. If you knew that, you’d be clearer about who you share your body with or you’d be more rational about why it is that you’re attracted to people. I hope that that frees people from the slavery one can go through in relationships. The love and sex part of your life can be very stressful, very confusing, very emotional, but with more understanding, it can be something you look at more in hindsight. You then may have better control of making a right decision. Once you make right decisions and choose the right people, it is magical, it is emotional, and it is you letting down your guard. It’s not to say you take away all the magic, but you definitely then don’t exist in a space of ignorance, hoping that, without understanding yourself, you’re gonna make the right decisions.
What has your experience been with dating when considering what you cover in your career?
There’s definitely men out there who are threatened, intimidated, uncomfortable, or feel challenged by what I do, but I would never partner with that person. They exist, but why would I choose that person to date? I was in a very toxic, addictive, and negative relationship for four years and it’s been a year of not [being] in that at all. My experience since has been awesome. I’ve met great people. I’ve had amazing, healing experiences with men from the past. I’ve learned about my body. I have a partner who now lives with me, and the relationship happened in an organic and natural way.
I feel like my sexuality and my love life is a positive and fun part of who I am. Whereas in the past, it was a place of failure. A place of rejection. A place of hurt. A place of confusion. A place of disconnection, but using what I’ve learned, honoring who I really am, and focusing on what compatibility means for Shannon Boodram has freed me. When I work with people that’s all I really want for them. Everyone has their own unique path, personal or professional. Everyone has their own path that brings them freedom, passion, love, and enthusiasm–it’s the same with your love life, but if you don’t research and understand it, you’ll never begin to put the tools together to create that for yourself.
Do you think you can entirely be yourself when with someone?
No, I don’t think you can be entirely yourself because we’re never really entirely ourselves. There’s parts of that we have to push down. When you’re around your friends and your friend says to you, “Oh my God, look at all this new makeup I just bought.” In your heart, you can be like, I’m fucking poor. Why does she have money to buy makeup? That annoys me. You would never say that, but that’s a part of who you are. That jealousy that creeps up is who you are, but you wouldn’t say that to your friend because it’s not a healthy thing to say or contribute to the relationship. A part of who you are is you not wanting to put on makeup or put yourself together or feeling lazy, but you would never walk out into the world with pajamas on without brushing your teeth, even though that’s how you really are and how you feel. You would make an adjustment to be a better version of yourself in order to suit the situation. You know? You suppress your jealousy to suit the situation which is being a good friend.
I think the problem we make in relationships is that we think that’s our space to be ourselves. But often times, being ourselves means showing our asses or giving ourselves permission to show the negative parts of ourselves that, for other people, we push down because we know it wouldn’t be a positive contribution. We can be ourselves with our self, and when we are ourselves, we should be honest. When we show ugly parts of who we are, we should examine them, try to work on them, and understand them, but we don’t show that to the world because it wouldn’t be productive. Eighty percent of communication is not what you say, it’s what you want to accomplish. If what I want to accomplish with you is a good friendship or relationship, I have to suppress certain things or not say certain things because that would be counter-intuitive. I think that that scares people–the thought that you can never truly be yourself. But, you shouldn’t ever really be your total self because you should always be working on a greater version of you, and I think that that’s a challenge, but it’s also a really worthwhile, healthy challenge.
You shouldn’t ever really be your total self because you should always be working on a greater version of you.”
Focus on what you want to accomplish with somebody and don’t be so precious on how you say it. Don’t be so precious on how you want to communicate it. Think about what you want to accomplish and then accommodate to how they’re best gonna receive that. You have to find unique ways of communicating. I’m a big fan of love languages, which is understanding how people receive love. I look at it as like you speak Vietnamese and I speak German. I can be telling you the most amazing things or being completely rational with you, but that’s not your language, so it goes over your head. When you feel like it’s not working, you’re not getting something across, or the message is lost–whether that person is lost in previous drama or lost in projection or lost in victimization–you may have to adjust how you communicate. Change your language. Maybe it’s not through words. Maybe it’s through action. Maybe it’s through space. Maybe it’s through somebody else. Maybe you get help and get another person to express what you’re feeling because for whatever reason, the way you communicate with that person has disallowed them from hearing you anymore because they think of it as an attack. Maybe whenever you talk, they go into fight or flight mode and they’re no longer able to rationally connect with you. You have to adjust the language you talk in.