advertisement
advertisement

This Site Hopes To Be The First Troll-Free Sex Ed Oasis On The Internet

The founder of a new kind of online sex-ed class aims to provide a safe space to talk about sex, pleasure, and trauma for marginalized people.

This Site Hopes To Be The First Troll-Free Sex Ed Oasis On The Internet
[Photo: Flickr user Jennifer Yiu]

Think back to the last time you were in an educational setting around sex—where you learned more than just how to put a condom on a banana. And you were older than 15. Maybe you learned how to reclaim your body after trauma, how to achieve orgasm, how to find pleasure after giving birth, or how to deal with feelings of sex-related shame.

advertisement

Still thinking?

According to Andrea Barrica, the world is starved for pleasure-focused, trauma-and-shame-informed sexual education. Add to that lack of education that members of the LGBTQ community and communities of color that don’t see themselves represented in nearly any type of sexual education, and it presents a huge gap in the marketplace.

Enter O.school, a site scheduled for a fall launch with Barrica, a former fintech entrepreneur-turned-venture capitalist at the helm. The site will offer live streaming sex education classes focused squarely on safety with secure login and careful student vetting to help decrease access for trolls. In addition, moderators will be on-hand to quickly delete offensive and inappropriate comments.

“We are creating the safest, most trusted place on the internet to talk about sex, period,” Barrica says.

Classes will be taught by veteran sexual educators from around the country (dubbed “pleasure professionals”) on topics as wide reaching as sex after trauma, how medical professionals can practice trauma-informed care, and how to get the most out of your hookup.

The site will start with one live-streamed class per day; some classes will also focus on sexual shame for people who grew up in specific cultural and religious communities; others will be geared toward people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ population.

advertisement

Bianca Palmisano [Photo: courtesy of Bianca Palmisano]
While students will be able to log on (with the option for pseudonymity) and see select live streams for free, O.school plans to offer tiered memberships in the future. Payment for its pleasure professionals will be largely tip-based early on; Barrica says the site will explore other payment models later on.  At the moment, the startup has five employees—the majority queer women of color (“we recently added a cis white straight dude and it added diversity to our team,” says Barrica) and has offices in San Francisco and Atlanta.

“Uniquely, there isn’t any nudity on O.school,” says Bianca Palmisano, a pleasure professional and owner of D.C.-based Intimate Health Consulting, which focuses on education for healthcare professionals. “We don’t want to re-trigger anyone by exposing them to imagery they aren’t expecting.”

Breaking Down Online Barriers

Barrica first became interested in this space after leaving InDinero, an accounting company she helped found, and becoming a venture partner at 500 Startups. It was there that she started investigating issues impacting women.

“I asked women where they learned about sex and how they formed their attitudes around it, and found that porn is the de facto sex ed today,” she says. “The problem? The internet hasn’t created a safe space between Planned Parenthood and PornHub.”

Andrea Barrica [Photo: courtesy of Andrea Barrica]
If you wanted to talk about sex on the internet, harassment is almost a guarantee, especially for women, say Barrica. She looked offline and found hundreds of in-person educational workshops taught by trained professionals on everything from orgasm to kink to experiencing pleasure after giving birth and more. While in-person classes were comprehensive in some locations (read: big cities; Barrica lives in the San Francisco Bay Area), they were nearly non-existent in smaller, out-of-the-way locales.

“Adult sex ed is fragmented and inconsistent,” she says. “The internet should have solved this problem. I started asking myself: why can’t you learn on platforms that already exist?”

advertisement

The answer, according to Barrica, comes down to terms of service, and the people behind the technology, many of them cis white men.

“You can’t use major platforms because the broad terms of service will flag you—and that means talking about sex and paying for sexual-related education,” she says. “If you are paying for a class that involves holding a vulva puppet, it will be deemed ‘obscene.’ And there hasn’t been a place to distribute. You can’t sell sex ed classes on Facebook or Google. You’ll get denied.”

Further, if you tried talking about it, trolls would come out in full force. Informed by these barriers, Barrica set out to create a platform to solve all of these problems with the absence of harassment at its center.

“Part of what makes us unique is that we get to start this way,” she says. “Once you have millions of users like the platforms out there already, it is hard to change course.”

The New Sex Ed Market

Sites in the same realm as O.school include OMGYes.com, Make Love Not Porn and Scarleteen, all of which focus on pleasure education (Scarleteen differs from the others in that it has a teen focus with additional discussions around sexual health and issues facing minorities). And while O.school does offer some pleasure-focused classes, it’s attention on trauma, shame, minority communities, lack of nudity, and live streaming make it especially unique. Its biggest competitors, according to Barrica, are in-person workshops.

Wendy Petties [Photo: courtesy of Wendy Petties]
Wendy Petties, a pleasure professional and the New York City-based founder of Good Girls Do!, a pleasure-focused consultancy, has been working as a sexual educator for more than 25 years and has never seen anything like O.school.

advertisement

“This is something new and innovative,” she says. “Sex educators come in the form of people like Dr. Ruth who are old and white, or porn stars. Women want to figure out ways to be more open and connected to their bodies, especially as many of us feel insecure and unsteady. If we can help counteract that, I think it’s wonderful.”

Palmisano agrees, saying she rarely meets a person who has had comprehensive sexual education. Instead, she meets individuals who’ve had a sex ed class in high school and are now struggling as adults.

“The lack of sex ed leaves us grossly underprepared to have relationships and be sexual beings in the world,” she says. “For so many of us, sexual information comes from family, friends, and the media, which can be toxic, misogynistic and hetero-sexist. We all deserve so much more to help us navigate our sexual lives.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misclassified the focus of the site Scarleteen