Shan Boodram is a Black woman sexologist, author, and new mom who has become many people's go-to guru for all things intimacy, including mine. After almost not pursuing a career in sex education as a result of her skeptical family, Boodram now offers advice on everything from masturbation, to how to get out of the friend zone, to the best way to communicate with your partner about your sexual desires to more than 600,000 subscribers on YouTube, more than 400,000 followers on Instagram, and a sold-out virtual class. Oh, and she's also K-Y's new intimacy educator. Previously the host of shows Sexology With Shan Boodram on Quibi and Make Up or Break Up on Facebook Live, Boodram has successfully built a relatable, safe community around sex, relationships, and intimacy.
Boodram wants to shatter the cocoons of people's sexual shame in order to help push them to express their sexiest, most confident, and most courageous selves. Along with debasing the idea that embracing your sexual desires is taboo, Boodram is working toward another important goal of opening up the industry of intimacy education to include more diverse voices, something she passionately shared with POPSUGAR. "My hope is the legacy that I leave behind is more people, more women of color, and more Black women who feel confident enough to call themselves experts in this space and share their perspectives," she said. "Diversity doesn't mean one more, it means many more."
A reliable sex educator for many, Boodram is especially inspiring young Black women to take charge of their own sexual journeys, whether they have one partner, have multiple partners, or are virgins riding solo. In an unfiltered, open conversation, POPSUGAR spoke with Boodram about sex, imposter syndrome, and defying expectations.
POPSUGAR: So excited to talk with you! To start, can you first talk about how you started your YouTube channel, which I am obsessed with? How did your interest in sexology begin?
Shan Boodram: I was 19 years old, and I had seven sexual experiences. None of them were positive. I never had an orgasm and part of me just thought either sex is this negative place like my family had told me, or I was just interacting with it in an irresponsible way. I gave myself the benefit of self-educating and learning all that I could, and at the time, the people I had to look up to were older white women. While they had great information, it wasn't accessible to people who looked like me, and the knowledge was packaged in a tantalizing way.
The fiction book The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah was a book I read over and over in my early 20s, and that informed a lot of my understanding about sex. I just thought, how do I make the idea of sex education sexy? How do I make it accessible so someone like me would gravitate toward the information but not be embarrassed if they were caught reading it? After that moment, I put out a book called Laid in 2009, but I got intimidated by negativity and the fear that my parents had about me pursuing this career full-time and back-pedaled. When I turned 28, I thought about what brought me joy and purpose, and it was talking about sex, so I restarted my YouTube channel back in 2015, and I never looked back.
PS: I'm so glad that you didn't! With all the people you have interacted with and the community you have built around intimacy, what have they taught you about sex?
SB: A million things! My number one educator is my audience. I'm continuously partnering with brands like K-Y, who have been around since the 1900s and have so much knowledge in this space. I'm constantly putting myself around smarter people who have been doing this for a long time. In terms of my audience, someone may send me a DM and ask about sexual dysfunction, sex slang, or a new style of monogamy I have never heard before. It's me getting questions and googling it and people sharing their experiences with me at live speaking events where I have these "aha" moments that I wouldn't have had without them.
PS: That's so important! So in your opinion what is it that you do as a sexologist? What are some of the ideas you promote to your audience about sex?
SB: I believe everybody has a form of expertise. There's a kind of knowledge called tacit knowledge, which is knowledge that you can't put into words but you know it exists. I think a lot of people have a ton of tacit knowledge in this space, because, for example, you may not know exactly what you are doing to orgasm, but you have figured out through trials and experimentation what works well for you. It may be uncomfortable to call themselves experts because they haven't been to school for this or know the correct terms, but they actually know intuitively a lot about themselves.
I think my job is to empower people to think, "No, I do have jurisdiction in this space, I do have knowledge, I do know what I'm talking about." When you have that confidence, you are actually more empowered to go out there and get the sex life that you want and communicate to your partners what kind of sex you want.
PS: What would you say to young people right now, especially young women, about their sexual journey? As a 21-year-old, I found your channel and it normalized all my awkward feelings about sex, debasing the stereotypes about how women should feel about sex.
SB: I want to quote K-Y's campaign because I think it answers this question perfectly: "Sex care is self-care." It's about giving yourself the benefit of exploring what's right for you and feeling empowered to act on it. Self-care is such a unique experience, but when it comes to sexuality, we tend to have this one-size-fits-all approach. I want people to break free from that and realize there are many different ways to have an incredible sex life, and when you do, it contributes to your whole life wellness. Young women can't answer the question about what's incredible for them without being free to explore, ask questions, and experiment.
PS: As a Black woman, can you talk about the adversities you have faced as a sexologist in this space? I saw a video where you and your sister talked about topics like colorism and racism during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.
SB: I have severe imposter syndrome that I don't think will ever go away, because I'm not welcome in a lot of spaces. Sometimes when I'm invited I'm met with criticism and skepticism, like, "She doesn't know what she's talking about." Since I've experienced that energy, I've learned to utilize my imposter syndrome to my advantage. Since I know people are going to push me and go the extra mile to see if I'm worthy of listening to, I never have the luxury of just winging it.
On the other hand, there's a spectrum to discrimination, as I'm not a representation for most Black women. We need more Black women who are unambiguous to have just as much popularity, but I hope that I can create more of a path for people. My hope is the legacy that I leave behind is more people, more women of color, and more Black women who feel confident enough to call themselves experts in this space and share their perspectives. Diversity doesn't mean one more, it means many more.