It is an unfortunate but quite common experience for sex coaches marketing themselves online to encounter people who put forward sexual advances without any intention of being coached. Of course, online predators are commonplace everywhere—and the world of sex coaching is no different.
But it can get tricky as sexuality professionals to decipher various messages, emails, and DMs—to trust our gut and establish boundaries with potential clients. Does working with a mostly male population group make you more vulnerable? How do you set boundaries and protect yourself from online harassment?
During a Fabulous Fridays Live on Facebook, SCU Student Ambassador Amanda Vee sat down with BOSC Co-Founder Sarah Martin to discuss this topic. Their conversation was filled with insights and creative ideas for all sex coaches to consider.
We’ve selected some highlights to share with you below. Check out these short video clips, followed by the slightly-edited transcript below each clip. Enjoy!
Online Harassment When You Have a Mostly Male Audience
Amanda: “I wanna work with all men, but in this example, I do want to work with cis het men and I am a female-identifying sex coach. I am hesitant on putting my job description in my dating profile because of all the unsolicited feedback that I really don’t want. It’s making me pump the brakes a little bit as far as getting into this demographic because I want to market myself to men, but I don’t wanna burn out from getting all of that unsolicited feedback. What are your thoughts on that? How do we prevent that?”
Sarah: “So in general, I try not to paint with broad strokes just because there is more nuance there. The vast majority of men are not online looking to harass people working in sexuality or other therapeutic fields. (Cause guess what, this doesn’t just happen to sex coaches or other sexological professionals. It happens to pretty vanilla therapists too. Anybody who’s out there serving as a helping professional and has these processes for new client contact can wind up vulnerable, as can content creators. You only need to look at the comments on YouTube to go, ‘oh wow, there is a certain subset of the population out here that enjoys harassing people.’)
For me, some of this comes down to beginning initially with a reframe that this isn’t so much a man thing (even though many of the people doing it are men) as much as it is a ‘welcome to the internet thing.’ When there is this veil of semi-autonomy in a number of contexts, sometimes people like to go out and do things like ‘trolling,’ which is doing things to deliberately try and make people feel uncomfortable or elicit an emotional response from them for the purposes of entertainment. So I want to just say that specifically marketing to men in no way is any sort of guarantee that you’re gonna receive more harassment.”
Practicing Boundaries to Avoid Online Harassment
Amanda: “I know that we don’t need social media in order to thrive in this industry. But for those of us who do use social media as our main source of marketing, we have DMs. It’s harder to safeguard those. It’s harder to keep that boundary hard and fast, no pun intended. I feel like perhaps I’m putting myself at risk here simply by inviting people to come into my DMs. That already feels a little bit like I’m making myself vulnerable. Is there anything we can do about that?”
Sarah: “What we’re talking about overall, in a big way, is this topic of boundaries and the more practiced we become at setting boundaries in all areas of our life. So this goes for your professional life as well as your personal life because in both cases, you know you can exercise that muscle there, but the more boundaried you are, that’s part of how you can reduce contact like this.
And for a couple of reasons, part of it is the inner game. When you are boundaried and grounded and in integrity, it’s kind of like people pick up on that. Bullies are far less likely to try to prey on people who are grounded and boundaried than they are people who are not, right?
We’ve all had this experience; think about it in different contexts, because I know it can be really charged and it can feel extra vulnerable in this space where we operate, right? Because we are working with such a deep part of what it means to be human, what it means to be who we are as individuals…that amps up the feeling of vulnerability that we often have here. So thinking about how bullies show up in other contexts can help to reason with this a little bit and go, “Ah, yeah, that’s true.”
I’ll just speak about myself personally because that was my journey when I was a lot younger. I was pretty severely bullied. And I can see with hindsight that part of why is that I’d moved ahead a grade at school. I was suddenly the youngest kid in the class…instantly vulnerable in that way. And I didn’t have boundaries much when I was a kid. I always wanted to people-please.
That made me a prime target. Similarly here, when we don’t have boundaries in our business, then it’s like, “oh you can just contact me any which way.” Or maybe you don’t have boundaries around pricing yet because you really wanna get those first clients in. So maybe you say your price, but then you find yourself immediately discounting that as soon as it has left your mouth. Those are all signs of wobbly or not-yet-existent boundaries.
So in this question here, okay, so you wanna market on social media, fine, you can still set a boundary about how people can contact you if they wanna do more. A very simple filter you could do is if you make a post and you want people to respond to that post ‘cause they’re interested in working with you or having a call or having a chat in the DMs, tell them to message you with a code word.
Because I tell you what, a lot of harassers don’t read. So if you get a message that’s just “hey” or “hi” or a waving hand and you’ve just made a post where you’ve said to people, “DM me the word ‘cupid,’” (that’s one I used once)一that will tell you immediately who read and who didn’t read your caption. Or it doesn’t even have to be in your caption. This could be in a carousel and just have it be on one of the slides or “if you want my free guide to this, DM me,” whatever. But that’s all.
That’s another thing, charging for a discovery call or having an application. It’s a tiny hurdle where you’re asking for a minimal investment of either time or energy or money before you’re also returning that, right? So I would encourage you, Amanda, specifically thinking about social media一if that is the primary way you’re going to interact with your ideal clients, if that’s where they spend their time一then how can you boundary that?”
The Work is a Journey
Amanda: “So thank you so much. Sarah, What is your biggest takeaway of today’s talk?”
Sarah: “And I think my takeaway is that it’s so important as helping professionals generally, not just as sex coaches, but we’re talking here today to sex coaches, to invest time in this boundary work. Spend some time thinking about your boundaries and practice: boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. That’s the takeaway. And I think I might wanna revisit a couple of things because I have gotten a little bit lax in some of my own communication boundaries recently.
It’s the work of a lifetime. This is a journey. And it’s not like there’s an end point where it’s like, “yes, I now have all the perfect boundaries and nothing is ever gonna happen again.” But we know this, right? We’re sex coaches and we understand that boundary work is an ongoing negotiation between ourselves and the world. So I’m feeling inspired to do a bit of that myself. How about you Amanda? What are you taking away?”
Amanda: “Yeah your defining it as boundaries was so interesting to me because that is obviously now what this is all about. And yet it didn’t occur to me that way when I was thinking about the topic. That is the answer. Boundaries really are going to be the thing that allows us to work safely and feel secure.
So I think you’re right, boundaries are not necessarily brick walls that stay where they are forever. We can create boundaries that we intend to move as we become more comfortable in this career. So yeah, having a boundary and honoring it for where it is today doesn’t mean that it can’t move in the moment and be moved periodically.”
If you enjoyed this insightful discussion, make sure to follow the Sex Coach U Facebook page where you’ll get notified to participate in future Fabulous Friday events!