Episode 11: Sex, Power, and Social Justice

October 15, 2020 by Justin Lehmiller

Sex and Psychology Podcast

Episode 11: Sex, Power, and Social Justice


There is a common tendency to think about sex as simply a person-to-person interaction. However, this view overlooks the fact that sexual identity, attraction, and behavior are all influenced by broader social and cultural systems—and these systems can have a profound impact on the way sexuality is expressed by creating power imbalances, stigma, and shame. As a result, when we talk about sex, we can’t just talk about it as if it exists in a vacuum. We need to acknowledge the systems that shape it and talk about the ways in which justice is and isn’t being served.

I’ve been itching to explore this topic on the podcast and I couldn’t think of a better guest than sex therapist Shadeen Francis, a licensed psychotherapist, media personality, and author whose work spans the domains of sex therapy, emotional intelligence, and social justice. Shadeen is committed to helping people live lives full of peace and pleasure, and her work has been featured extensively in the media.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode, including:

  • What does “social justice” mean in the context of sex therapy? Why is it important for us to talk about social justice when we talk about sex?
  • How is our approach to training sex therapists failing us when it comes to pursuing social justice, and what can we do about this?
  • What does the term “normal” really mean when it comes to sex, and why is it important for us to redefine it?
  • What is “race play” and why are some people turned on by the idea of eroticizing power differentials in the first place?
  • What happens when people’s personal or moral values are in conflict with their sexual turn-ons? How do we reduce shame and guilt over our sexual fantasies?
  • How do our political backgrounds and leanings shape our sexual fantasies and the way we feel about them?
  • How can putting social justice front and center in sex therapy help us all to lead more pleasurable and fulfilling sex lives?

To learn more about Shadeen’s work, check out her website here.


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Written by

Dr. Justin Lehmiller

Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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