Speaker Spotlight: Hernando Chaves

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Feb 202013
Hernando Chaves

How do you see yourself as a catalyst for change?

Being a catalyst for change is something that each and everyone one if us aspires to be in the field of sexology. We all do it in our own unique ways. Whether it’s with one person in private or touching the lives of thousands via social media, we all are catalysts for change. For myself, I am a catalyst for change because I put myself in places that can benefit from sex positive perspective. I volunteer for a research organization (The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality – SSSS) even though I am not a researcher. Working to help create conferences and bring in sexuality speakers to help educate professionals helps plant seeds for change in others. I also work as a sex therapist at a clinic that focuses on sexual addiction, even though I do not believe in sex addiction. We collaborate, share ideas and influence, and find the grey areas of agreement; a dialogue that is desperately needed rather than the continued polarization of two opposing belief systems. I help organize a monthly luncheon in LA that brings sex positive people together. It’s not only about speakers or networking, but about support. We all can benefit from a sexual recharge with friends and colleagues from time to time. I also make efforts to mentor those starting out on their journey in the sexology field. I was fortunate enough to have people guide me and I think it’s our responsibility to pay it forward. Our field is too small to thrive without mentorship and support for those starting out on their sexology journey.

Who or what was a catalyst for you?

My mentors were inspirations and catalysts for me: Dr. Winston Wilde for erotic community-focused sex therapy, Dr. Janice Epp for human sexuality education training, and Dr. Ava Cadell for media work and public speaking. Each of these mentors helped challenge me, offer advice, push me, provide guidance and give me the tools and skills to grow. I think we all need mentors to inspire and demand more from us than we demand from ourselves. I hope I can do the same for others. Another catalyst for me was my perverted psyche. While I tend to keep a lot of it inside my head or with sex partners, it definitely reinforces my love for this work. Do what you love right?

What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges or concerns facing us in the field of sexuality right now?

There are so many challenges and concerns; I don’t know where to start. Human reproductive rights, challenges to free speech such Measure B in CA or pornography obscenity laws, the orientation and sexual identity civil rights movements, and the opposition to youth comprehensive sex education are just a few of the important topics that motivate me to continue being a catalyst. I’m most passionate about youth comprehensive sex education in the US. If approximately 1/3 of US teens do not receive sex ed and about 1/3 get abstinence only sex ed, that means about 67% of teens are getting screwed with nothing or garbage filled with fear and misinformation. How are we supposed to navigate sexual changes if we as a public aren’t equipped with the basic tools to understand them? All sexuality issues are extremely important and if we could become a country of sexually educated youngsters, it would have a positive snowball effect on other sexuality issues we encounter as adults. Can you imagine what this country would be like if we had access as youths and adolescents on information on sexual health, being gay, kinky, porn-literate, sexual decision making skills, and debunking sexuality myths used to control people? Probably a little more like the people of the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, or Denmark with more progressive views on sexuality.

Another challenge is our political system and politicians. Before getting into the field of sexology, I didn’t follow politics. It wasn’t on my radar. Today, I find its imperative to stay on top of sociosexual topics within politics. Our biggest political challenge is the people representing us aren’t very knowledgeable or invested in sexuality issues or change. We are going to need more advocates, senators, representatives, etc. within the political structure to represent our sexuality interests. While there is hope for this support with the recent election wins from gay, lesbian, and bisexual politicians, we also have the prominent display of ignorance this last election year by some politicians with flawed perspectives on basic anatomy, human reproduction, how conception occurs coupled by a moralistic faith-based controlling thought process that supersedes the importance of personal choice and freedoms

What do you feel are some of the most important/valuable positive changes that have been made in the world of sexuality in the past year?

Say what you will about 50 Shades, its opening doors. People are getting curious, asking questions, even experimenting with the lighter side of kink and reflecting on their own psychosexual arousal. It may not be the perfect manuscript most knowledgeable kinksters envisioned as the catalyst to bringing BDSM to the mainstream, but we have to deal with whatever is thrown our way. The way I see it, the 50 Shades book series is out for the world to read. As sex educators, we should use this opportunity to educate, mythbust, and build on its popularity.

Another important and positive change is the shift in opinion on gay marriage over the last decade. While there is still a lot of work to be done, it’s incredible that we now have 9 US states with laws that support same sex marriage. England just approved same sex marriage for the country. President Obama used the word gay for the first time in a Presidential State of the Union Address. We are in the midst of radical civil rights change. I just hope our Supreme Court is equally progressive and modern in their upcoming court decisions on same sex marriage.

Why do you feel it is important to bring the topic of your session, Male Circumcision: A Humanist Perspective on the Removal of Foreskin, to CatalystCon East?

I think male circumcision is an important topic in sexology that needs more discussion. Most people are not well-versed with the research, concepts, and arguments. It’s become a normative part of our culture and I think it’s important to raise awareness on the practice. I hope the session will do just that. If the male foreskin is homologous (homo=same; ologous=structure) to the female clitoral hood, what would be our response if about 1 million US newborn girls each year had their clitoral hoods removed?

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