What Good Girls Do, with Wendy Petties
Pleasure to Meet You, Wendy!
Opportunities for safe, nonjudgmental sex and pleasure education are far and few between, even in 2017. O.school wants to fix that. We have a team of more than 40 experienced Pleasure Professionals for whom we seek to be an amplification platform. Our Pleasure to Meet You column introduces the brilliant folks you can engage with and learn from at O.school.
Wendy Petties, a “die-hard” New Yorker from Queens, is truly a queen of all trades: She is a psychologist, trained sex educator, licensed feedback coach, co-owner of both a travel agency and a “Day Of Wedding Coordination service agency”. With her MBA in Organizational Behavior, which she describes as “specializing in people dynamics”, Wendy also provides executive coaching to business executives. But her passion is running her sex and relationship coaching business, Good Girls Do!.
While working with women of color at risk for HIV in the eighties, Wendy realized that there was a need for open, honest conversation regarding sex and pleasure — particularly discussion geared towards communities of color.
“Women in the black community are often trained to be ‘good girls’. They are raised to grow up, go to school, get a good job, get married and have children. When we stray from that path, or when we fail — especially in the area of relationships and sex — many of us experience shame and guilt.” In her work, Wendy teaches that being a “good girl” can mean being loveable, smart, badass, and strong — and having amazing sex! “Goodness” and pleasure are not mutually exclusive.
At O.school, Wendy focuses on working with shame; she encourages her clients to take the opportunity to reexamine their belief systems, to ask questions like, “What do I believe? Where did I learn that from? Is that really what I think?” She will also teach about sex after menopause, sex after hysterectomy and sex after sexual trauma.
Maya: You have so many areas of expertise! But I know you’ve identified sex education as your passion project. How did you find your way into the field?
Wendy: I wasn’t thinking about having a career in sex ed, until I was about 20 or 21, and working for a civil rights advocacy organization that was pretty conservative at the time. We had a health project contract from the Red Cross called “Sistas in the Face of AIDS”, which was created to address the fact that during the height of the AIDS crisis black and latina women were dying in droves but everybody thought it was a white, gay male disease. One strategy proposed was to teach women in communities of color how to get their men to use condoms.
When my organization got started on this project, they kind of whispered apologetically, “…And you’re gonna have to talk about condoms.” Everyone was like, “Oh no, not me! Don’t pick me!” [Rolls eyes.] I was trained as a sex educator so that I could answer the questions that the women might have asked me. I went out to the projects in Brooklyn and community centers in Harlem to talk to these women, but no one wanted to talk to me about using condoms.
I learned that the problem, aside from not believing HIV would affect them, was that they were not having pleasurable sex. They were having sex as a utility, a means of exchange or because, “that’s just how we do things”. I heard this over and over again and I was absolutely horrified. There was no mention of pleasure at all. I was young, optimistic and idealistic, and I thought, “We have to fix this!”
I kept going back to have these conversations. I told them, “You don’t have to have sex with anybody you don’t want to be having sex with, and you should be having pleasurable sex!” and I taught about condoms and how to have the often-difficult conversations. I became known as “The Condom Negotiator”.
Maya: Were you having pleasurable sex?
Wendy: I was lucky enough to be with partners who were open to exploration with me.
I remember having a boyfriend when I was about 15 or so and saying ,“Ooh that guy is cute,” while I was holding my boyfriend’s hand! I just kind of blurted it out. And instead of freaking out, we had this really interesting conversation about how me having feelings for this random guy or anyone else doesn’t negate how I felt about [my boyfriend]. I was blessed in that way.
As I got older, I became interested in the BDSM* world, as well as in the swing** world. I went to my first swing party with my then-boyfriend. He couldn’t make the next swing party, so he sent me by myself and I met someone new there! I felt very comfortable telling him that I had had an amazing time and that I’d met someone. He was like, “Oh my god! That’s a cool dude — I see why you would like him!””
Maya: Play parties are social gatherings designed for people to share sex, in some form or another. What is your advice for folks who are new to the play party scene? (Asking for a friend!)
Wendy: First off, any exploration that you do — whether it’s BDSM or swinging or polyamory*** — should really be for yourself, and for yourself only. Only do what you’re comfortable with. What you decide to do can change at any time. You can always start or stop. You can just watch, if you so choose! You have power and control over your own self. Bask in that power.
Second: go with someone who you trust. It doesn’t have to be a partner or lover, it can just be a friend; but you should not go alone because you may be overwhelmed.
And it doesn’t mean that there is now a new label on you if you go; you’re still a Good Girl.
Maya: I know that your sex education work is grounded in what you’ve coined “the ABC’s for grownups.” I want to learn this new, sexy version of the alphabet!
Wendy: The ABCs for Grownups are about acceptance, boundaries and communication. It’s really a communications class: figuring out what your needs, wants, red-flags and deal-breakers are, learning to accept that in yourself and in your partners, because they may or may not want to do what you want. We talk about what kind of language to use to express yourself in a powerful way.
Whether you want one or multiple partners, you still need to have those conversations. Most importantly, you have to remember that your needs are important and if someone can’t give you that or isn’t willing to, that is okay! You have to accept that. But, it doesn’t negate that you still have that need. You have to figure out how to get that need met in whatever way works for you.
Maya: What are some options for getting needs met?
Wendy: An example from my own life is that I identify as poly, and in the past, I have had four people in my life simultaneously: One person was absolutely my protector — who made me feel safe and secure, who would make sure my locks are taken care of, that kind of stuff; one person who was my cheerleader; one person who was my juicy, juicy lover (oh my god the sex!); and another who was my confidante, who I could talk to about anything.
Maya: Is that because you negotiated those roles or they just worked out that way?
Wendy: Both. It was a natural configuration, but it was also negotiated. We would re-assess periodically: “What’s working, what’s not working? This is what I need, are you getting what you need?”
Maya: You are a relationship champion!
Wendy: Yes, even in my work! I’ve been called the relationship strategist, because that is really what I do. Even when I go into a company and work with a CEO and I guarantee you that the problems have to do with relationships. It goes back to the ABCs. People leave jobs because of their bosses, not because of the work.
Maya: Do you focus on a specific audience?
Wendy: I work primarily with women of color because there are certain things that have to be talked about in our community with just us that are really, really, really important. I have plenty of people who are not black and latina women who are my clients and who come to my classes and have fun and are welcome. But first and foremost, I’m talking to people like me.
Maya: What is your favorite subject to teach?
Wendy: I love teaching my orgasm class, because my clients are always amazed to find out that there are so many ways to have an orgasm. Some people are aroused by touching their nose, some people like feet! It goes back to the, “Don’t believe everything you think you know.” You might not think you like something, but you don’t even know what it is and you haven’t tried it and suddenly — “Oh my god, I do like this!”
A few more “adult ABCs”:
* BDSM is a composite acronym that stands for: bondage and discipline, dominance and submission and sadomasochism. BDSM covers a variety of activities and lifestyles between consenting adults. Read more!
*** Polyamory is a subset of non-monogamy that involves multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships. These relationships may be hierarchical or not, but all partners involved are aware of and consent to the configuration. Love more!
O.school is a shame-free platform for pleasure education. Our mission is to help billions of people unlearn shame, heal from sexual trauma, develop skill sets to communicate what they want and don’t want, discover new sexual desires in a LGBTQ-friendly and judgment-free space, and most of all — own their desires.
Interested in bringing O.school to your college or university? We do workshops and speaking events on topics from pleasure to consent. Get in touch with email@example.com for more information.
If you are a sex educator, activist, performer, or coach, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or apply to be an instructor here.
Maya Peers Nitzberg is a content writer and community support team member at O.school. Dislikes: trolls, false equivalences (💩). Likes: emojis, enthusiastic consent, constructive criticism. 🍆🍒🍑.