Friday, April 5, 2024

Season 3, Episode 7:

From Pain to Pleasure: Black Women Exploring Freedom in Sexual Health

In today’s episode, we’re talking with Dr. Shemeka Thorpe about her work with communities in creating safe spaces for Black women to share, learn, and explore sex-positive, pleasure-centered approaches to sexual health.

Season 3, Episode 7: From Pain to Pleasure - Black Women Exploring Freedom in Sexual Health

by Dr. Joyee Washington and Dr. Shemeka Thorpe

Introduction

Welcome to the Public Health Joy Podcast — the safe space for real and honest conversations about what it takes to transform public health research into life-changing solutions for our communities.

 I’m your host, Dr. Joyee, a public health researcher, PhD survivor, and entrepreneur. In today’s episode, we’re talking with Dr. Shemeka Thorpe about her work with communities in creating safe spaces for Black women to share, learn, and explore sex-positive, pleasure-centered approaches to sexual health.

 This is the joy ride you’ve been waiting for. Join us as we revolutionize public health through research done … with … for … and BY our communities. Together, let’s create our Public Health Joy!

Notes

As a community health educator, today’s guest shines a light on Black women’s sexual health by giving a voice to issues that are often faced but rarely talked about.

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe is an award-winning sexuality educator, researcher, and international speaker whose research focuses on the sexual well-being of Black women using sex-positive and pleasure-centered frameworks. She has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles, was listed by Buzzfeed as one of the Top 20 Black sexologists you should follow in 2023, and has been featured on numerous podcasts, online magazines, and blogs including Cosmo, Elite Daily, and Essence.

As you’ll discover in this episode, Dr. Thorpe aims to make research relevant to Black communities by translating sex science in meaningful and tangible ways. Join us as we discuss the importance of comprehensive sex education that includes pleasure, how sexual freedom can enable people to make better choices, why community members should be considered researchers, and some of the ways that Dr. Thorpe finds joy in her work and leads the way for those who come after her, plus so much more!


To connect with Dr. Shemeka Thorpe:

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe on LinkedIn

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe on Instagram

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe on Facebook

Dr. Shemeka Thorpe on X

For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit https://joyeewashington.com

Key Points

  • An introduction to Dr. Thorpe and her focus on sexual pleasure, pain, and freedom. [02:07]
  • Overcoming barriers to comprehensive sex education and access to contraceptives. [05:58]
  • Insight into Dr. Thorpe’s community-based participatory research on sexual health. [08:55]
  • The importance of storytelling and how sexual freedom can influence our choices. [13:25]
  • How Dr. Thorpe makes her research more relevant and accessible for everyone. [17:44]
  • Community members are researchers: why community advisory boards are essential. [19:32]
  • The systems that often prevent researchers from doing adequate community work. [27:19]
  • Why bringing joy to academia is crucial and where Dr. Thorpe finds joy in her work. [29:36]
  • How she is paving the way for the researchers that follow her. [31:03]

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TRANSCRIPT:

[INTERVIEW]

[00:01:01] Dr. JW: Welcome to another great episode of The Public Health Joy Podcast. And today we have Dr. Shemeka Thorpe, who is one of the top Black sexologists. She is an award-winning sexuality educator, researcher and international speaker. Her research focuses on the sexual well-being of Black women using sex-positive and pleasure-centered frameworks. 

 

Dr. Thorpe is out here making research relevant to Black community by translating sex science in meaningful and tangible ways. And I’m going tell you why I already love Dr. Thorpe anyway. But I’m going to love this conversation even more because I don’t know how many people know, how many listeners know, but I’m a sex researcher too. That is where I started. Particularly in my community-based participatory research world and public health world, that’s where I started. And so, that is kind of my first love when it comes to public health. And so, I’m super excited about this conversation. I’m going to turn it over to you, Dr. Thorpe, to tell us who you are, what you do, and what you got going on.

 

[00:02:14] Dr. SM: Well, hello, everyone. I’m Dr. Shemeka Thorpe. I am an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. I do sex research. I’ve been doing this for over a decade. I started out researching sexual pleasure with Black women. And somehow, I’ve ended up doing research with sexual pain. That’s been a big transition where I saw that a lot of Black women were interested in learning more about pain, having safe spaces to talk about it, and how that could also be a barrier to pleasure. And so, now I’m doing more sexual functioning work. 

 

[00:02:49] Dr. JW: And that is so interesting that there are so many different areas of sex research, right? Because a lot of people, if you’re not in the world of sex research or sex education, you may not be aware that there are these different avenues and different aspects to sex or sexuality research and sexuality education that we can discuss and talk about. 

 

And I think for me, one of the things that resonates and why sex education and sex research is so important is because I am from Mississippi. I did grow up in the South. And so, that cultural aspect of having to suppress everything. Sex is something we don’t talk about. And especially growing up in the Black church, honey, that’s a whole different thing. 

 

[00:03:37] Dr. SM: Yup. 

 

[00:03:37] Dr. JW: Right? And so, when we’re talking about pleasure, pain, and finding freedom in our bodies, how did this start for you?

 

[00:03:48] Dr. SM: I mean, similarly, I was raised in North Carolina. Still in the Bible Belt. And so, being raised in North Carolina. Being in the church, seeing a lot of teen mothers being shunned for being pregnant and no one helping them or going to school where a lot of my peers were pregnant. That kind of led me on this path. Also, my dad was a teen dad. And so, I’m just very aware that sex should not be something that’s taboo. And everyone should have comprehensive sex ed. But most people don’t. I know I didn’t, right? It was my gym teacher who taught me sex ed for like two days. 

 

I remember, he turned extremely red. Was so uncomfortable. Didn’t want to talk about it. He was just ready to go play volleyball. But that’s what kind of led me on this path and it just expanded to focusing on pleasure because I felt like we went from not having comprehensive sex ed to Black women are at risk for HIV, and then nothing else about our sex lives. And so, I knew I really wanted to focus on those other expansive things related to our sex lives beyond HIV and STI prevention.

 

[00:04:54] Dr. JW: And you mentioned the gym teacher. Well, let me tell you. I got sex education at home with my mama. She was very thorough with everything. And she gave me regular updates and sex talks at least once a year. And then when I became a teenager, it was like at least once every three months. Then, when I started bleeding, it was at least every two weeks. That’s where I got my original sex education. But when I was in high school, I went to a Catholic high school. Predominantly white high school. Do you know who gave us our sex education talk? 

 

[00:05:28] Dr. SM: Who? 

 

[00:05:29] Dr. JW: The nun.

 

[00:05:30] Dr. SM: Oh. And how was that? 

 

[00:05:32] Dr. JW: Oh, that was don’t have sex. Don’t do it. And of course, the principal was just like, “Boys are jerks.” That was kind of the extent of the sex education in school. And I was just like, “This is so different from what my mother taught me.” But I’m so glad that my mother took the time to teach me at home. And everybody doesn’t have that, right?”

 

Speaking of people who don’t have access to comprehensive sex education, our laws and our policies, especially in the South, have impacted not only the health of teens and adolescents but the community as a whole. Because when it comes to – especially in my experience, that was the first community-based participatory research project that I actually led and coordinated was on understanding policies and practices that impact adolescent sexual health in a particular county in Mississippi. And trying to bring the community together and understanding and realizing this affects all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are. What you do. If you’ve got a child or if you don’t have a child, this is impacting you in some way. And it’s hard to think about it in that way until you’re in this work. 

 

[00:06:50] Dr. SM: Mm-hmm. And I think even thinking about sex ed, it’s just even also access to contraceptives. I didn’t even have access to condoms if I wanted condoms. We didn’t have a doctor we could go to be like, “I want to be on birth control,” if I wanted to be on birth control. You had your one pediatrician in the town. I would have to drive to Raleigh. So, all of my doctors were in Raleigh. I was raised in a small town outside of Raleigh. 

 

And if you wanted condoms, you would have to go to Food Lion, which was our local grocery store. And that’s what existed. Everybody in the Food Lion just knew you and would also see that you were getting condoms. But as a high schooler, you don’t have money to buy certain things. That’s a whole barrier within itself that we know that exists as well.

 

[00:07:34] Dr. JW: And it’s something that should not be shameful. Because everybody knows it happens. Everybody knows it happens. How we get here? Somebody had to be doing something. It should not be something that is shameful or uncomfortable for us to talk about. But it is. And so, now it’s like how do we come into this space where we break these barriers and we build trust to have safe spaces to talk about not only the positives of sex, right? Or the harmful side of people who have traumatic sexual experiences, right? But being able to – as a collective, be able to address all of these different things and understand what is the path to – the domino effect, right? How one thing impacts all of these other things.

 

Even in our research, we are so connected. We’re connected to the research. And we’re so connected to the communities that we’re working within this research because we know these people, we love these people, we build trust with these people. And so, it’s really important that we tap into that in this space when we’re talking about sexual health, sexual research, sexuality research or education. 

 

My question is – I know you have done some work as well when it comes to community-based participatory research in this space. What has that looked like for you? And how has that shaped your work and shaped what you’re doing with communities? 

 

[00:09:11] Dr. SM: Yeah. Most of the community-based participatory research we did happened in the midst of COVID, which was a very interesting time. I graduated in 2020. And so, when I came to the University of Kentucky, we started doing psycho-education groups for Black women who had experience with sexual trauma. It was sex-positive, led by Black women, and we were talking about all things pleasure, barriers to sexual pleasure, how to deal with sexual anxiety, how to build a pleasure toolkit that’s fun, and pleasure mapping.

 

And so, for a lot of people, they said that it was very informational. But they also felt like this was something that they wished that they had when they were younger. We had to do it over Zoom because of COVID. But they wished they had it when they were younger. 

 

We did a good job of – we couldn’t feed people because we weren’t necessarily in person. But we love a good meal, okay? 

 

[00:10:05] Dr. JW: Oh, yeah. 

 

[00:10:06] Dr. SM: And so, we had someone actually drop off breakfast and lunch with everyone that was in the Lexington, Kentucky area. Everybody got food deliveries and things like that. And so, it just very welcoming. And we try to make it as communal as we could be even though it was on Zoom. 

 

And it was nice that we also had some mother-daughter dyads in the room as well. Unfortunately, both of them had experienced sexual trauma. But just being in that space and learning from each other. And people having a safe space to share their stories. I think that really changed my work and the work that I do because now I’m always thinking about how can we do kind of translational science? How can we take this work and now turn it into workshops that benefit the community? Or how can we take this work and then have an impact on the groups that we’re serving? 

 

For example, I just did a study with Black pelvic floor therapists. My hope is, with that research, we’ll take it and give it right back to Black pelvic floor therapists and they can talk about the things that they need. And, hopefully, they can build these communal support systems. Because we see that that’s missing in the field for them. 

 

Or I’m about to start a study with Black same-sex moms who are using assisted reproductive technologies. And so, I’m working with some organizations in Louisville and some in Atlanta. And so, the hope is that we can kind of build up these supports, these workshops. Understand the needs and make sure people have the care and support they need.

 

[00:11:35] Dr. JW: And there’s something that you said, the storytelling. The storytelling and the lived experiences of these people, these community members. And not only them but ourselves as well because as you and I have both already shared, we have our own experiences with sex education and things that make it more relevant and help us to connect with community members. 

 

And I ain’t even going to lie. I ain’t even going to hold you. You know how I prepared for this podcast episode recording? By listening to Church Girl by Beyoncé. That’s literally – because I was sitting here thinking – because I did my dissertation a couple of years ago. This is in 20 – I graduated 2022. I did it in 2021. In the midst of COVID. My dissertation was on sex education in Mississippi. Now, you can imagine trying to – that’s a whole different story for another day about how I even got through that dissertation in COVID, which is why I call myself a Ph.D. Survivor. 

 

But one of the things that I felt really came out of my dissertation was I really focused on the cultural factors that impact sex education in the South, specifically in Mississippi. And one of the things I did was an auto-ethnography. Because I needed to tap into my own story around my own experiences growing up in the South, growing up in the Black church. Seeing people be sat down. Can’t sing in the choir. Can’t participate in church activities. Can’t do stuff because the girl got pregnant. But we ain’t talking about who got her pregnant, right? Let’s be real about it. That’s what happens. And in a lot of places, that’s what still happens. 

 

And so, we have been, as Black women, as Black girls who grow into Black women, and especially for those of us who have grown up in the South and grown up in the Black church, we have not been able to find and experience what our freedom looks like in our bodies and in sexual spaces. 

 

And so, I think it’s really important for us to be able to share our stories even as researchers. Even though as researchers, we’re supposed to be disconnected from the work. Not have the bias and the garbage. All garbage, right? Being able to go through the research process and dig into my story around sexual health and sexual experiences was absolutely liberating for me. 

 

I was able to process some of the things that I do or maybe some of the thoughts that I have. Now, where did that come from? There were things I talked about dissertation I ain’t talked about with nobody. Because I had just kind of suppressed it and just said, “Oh, this is something I know happened. But, I mean, I’m not going to share it for the world to know.” But it was absolutely healing in a way. 

 

And so, back to Church Girl with Beyonce, in the song, that’s what she’s talking about. The freedom. The liberation. As church girls, we can live in our bodies and be free in our bodies. And there’s a positive in that. And that’s going to look different for everybody. It’s going to look different for everybody. But it’s important to recognize that there’s a positive freedom that lies there that maybe we have never been introduced to or have been exposed to. And that can transform the trajectory of our choices, our decisions, how we view policies, how we view public health, how we view our interactions, and everything in between.

 

[00:15:20] Dr. SM: Yeah. I think one thing too you mentioned earlier is about how these conversations shouldn’t be taboo. And I think part of that is the conversation that it’s taboo when women are talking about sex for pleasure. It’s not taboo when you’re talking about sex for procreation. And that’s the issue. And part of that is religious. That’s really church-based. But people will talk about over Thanksgiving dinner that they’re trying to have a baby. We’re talking about sex while we eating turkey, you know? 

 

But if someone was like, “Yeah, I’m having sex for pleasure,” or received someone that may be younger that is pregnant, you may assume, “Oh, they were just out here “being fast”.” And so, then, in that situation, it’s like that person was exploring pleasure and trying to figure out what was pleasurable for them. 

 

And so, with that, it’s like Black women don’t have that freedom to just explore what is pleasurable and they’re not inherently worthy of pleasure. But we are, right? We are worthy of pleasure. We should be able to talk about that freely and not just be linked to procreation and reproduction.

 

[00:16:19] Dr. JW: Mm-hmm. I honestly don’t think or don’t know if I ever been educated about sex in my past in the context of pleasure. I really don’t think I ever have. I mean, in my adult life I have explored, read, done stuff like that. But as a child and growing up, I don’t think I ever heard pleasure equated with sex and being able to understand what that looks like. What that would mean for me as a Black woman? 

 

And even when we’re talking about marriages, relationships, your partnerships, anything like that, for a lot of people, their pleasure is still suppressed. It’s still suppressed even regardless of whether you’re in a relationship or not. Is figuring out what works for you? What feels good to you? 

 

And so, being able to have that shift in mindset reminds me a lot of – in community health and public health we talk about a strength-based approach. And not that deficit approach. It’s like how can we start viewing sex and pleasure in terms of that strength-based approach and that positive mindset to better benefit our communities? And what does that conversation look like? How do we shift that narrative? 

 

In your work, you talk a lot about making research relevant. That’s your tagline. What does that look like for you in your work with communities? How do you specifically make research relevant? 

 

[00:18:00] Dr. SM: Yes. I think step one is having community advisory boards for the projects that we work on. That has been extremely helpful within the community. They are helping with any interview protocols. Developing those together. We’re developing survey questions together. Helping with recruitment. That’s extremely helpful. 

 

For me, when I’m thinking about that, that’s on the translational side. How can we take the work that we’ve done and then give it back to communities? Because I have an issue where, as academics, we’re often not graded. But tenure is. To get tenure, you have to have a certain number of publications or has to be in some top journal that no one can access. Or you have to write in a certain academic language. And it’s not benefiting anybody that I did interviews with, focus groups with, surveys, whatever. I want to make sure that people have access to the research that already exists. 

 

There’s great work out there. People can always read books, but what would it look like if we just had social media platforms where we’re giving out research information that way? That’s what I typically do on Instagram. I’ll read the article and be like, “Oh. You know what? This is an interesting fact. I need to post about this.” And give it back in that way. Or we will take the work that we’ve done and then create free workshops for the community. Or we’ll go to tabling events that may be happening in the community and share information that way.

 

[00:19:27] Dr. JW: And you brought up a few good points. Number one, the community advisory board. Having a community advisory board is essential. And they don’t need to be in a position where they’re just giving input. They need to be in a position where they are actively engaged in this research process. 

 

And there are a lot of times where, with that community advisory board, researchers really think they doing something. They’re like, “Oh, we put together a community advisory board. And we’re going to bring them together. And we’re going to ask their input on this survey.” And it’s like, “Okay, that might be a nice start.” But we need to figure out how to really get them – like you said, how do they help develop interview guides? How do they help develop research questions? 

 

Community members are researchers. That’s the distinction we need to start making. People act like community members or community advisory board members are not researchers. They are. And so, we need to treat them like they are researchers. Because maybe a degree don’t mean nothing. Okay. Especially to community members. They don’t care about your degree at all. 

 

When we’re talking about those community advisory boards, we have to be willing and ready to create equitable partnerships, collaborative partnerships with our community members, with those community advisory boards. And I can remember when I was doing my project, we had – and this is what I mean by it touches everyone on our community advisory boards about adolescent sexual health. We had parents, of course. We had adolescents themselves. Because they need to be at the table. We had of course mental health professionals, healthcare professionals, educators. We had law enforcement at the table. 

 

And let me tell you, I was responsible for trying to get law enforcement officials to participate in this community-based participatory research project. When I tell you it was like walking into a lion’s den. They ain’t want to have nothing to do with me. They were like, “We don’t know you. We don’t trust you. We don’t like you. Why are you here?” 

 

And it was really hard to break that barrier and try to build that relationship with them. But once I was able to break it and get in there and then we could start having conversations. Then we could start getting involved in the work and getting engaged in the work together. Because most people will probably think, “Law enforcement? What do they have to do with adolescent sexual health?” 

 

Well, when you have a juvenile detention center, law enforcement involved in a juvenile detention center and you have adolescents in the detention center who may have had varying experiences or whatever that could impact what is happening in their lives, law enforcement needs to be a part of the conversation. It’s being able to see beyond just forming a community advisory board and checking off the checklist. It’s real work.

 

[00:22:37] Dr. SM: It is. And they’ll start leaving if they know that’s like, “Oh, you just got me here because you need me for this checklist. I’m out.”

 

[00:22:46] Dr. JW: They will leave. And then the other thing that you said was about access to resources. Because like you said, in academia, research is sitting in a journal. And who’s reading it? More researchers. To do what? Citing some other paper. To do what? Get that little alert on Google Scholar or wherever that your work has been cited. And then what’s happening with the community? Nothing is happening. 

 

And so, being able to be creative and be innovative. How do we get this information that’s sitting in these journals? How do we get this information out to community members is critical. And we have to start thinking about what do they have access to? Just like podcasts, right? Podcasts are relatively accessible to folks. Or social media, Instagram. What are the channels that people are using and how can we leverage that to share information to implement actual solutions? Because that’d be the thing to get me. I’m like you get all this money, you do all this research. And you know what the solution is. But, apparently, we can’t get it. 

 

[00:23:59] Dr. SM: Because you need to get another grant so you could write more about the solution.

 

[00:24:03] Dr. JW: Right. To get more citations. Because why? 

 

[00:24:08] Dr. SM: Yeah. No. It’s terrible. It’s just an ongoing cycle. And I know when you were talking about like mistrust with police officers, one thing that I thought about was here. Something that we always have to break is, within Black communities, it’s like this institutional trauma that has happened within living in Lexington, Kentucky. A lot of them have had bad experiences at UK Hospital. 

 

And so, when they see that you work at UK, it’s like, “Oh. Well, do you work at the hospital? Because this happened to me at the hospital.” And so, that’s a barrier of people not wanting to participate in research or be involved on community advisory boards. Because like, “No. Y’all treated me bad.” And I didn’t do it. The people before me or people in healthcare may have done it. And so, it’s just being mindful of how we’re treating community members and how we leave people. How are you leaving – if you are affiliated with a healthcare and there’s a healthcare at a university, knowing that that has an impact. I don’t think people often connect that. 

 

And so, even though when I work with some researchers, they’re like, “Oh, I didn’t even know that was an issue in the Black community here.” But you do research with Black people.

 

[00:25:21] Dr. JW: You should have done your research. 

 

[00:25:23] Dr. SM: Right? Have you not been out there? Or has it just been your graduate students? Who is out there that you didn’t know that that was an issue?” 

 

[00:25:31] Dr. JW: And it’s really being able to take that time. And that’s the other thing. People are so into the research, and the funding, and I got to get this done. And like you mentioned, I got to get tenure. I got to do this. And I’m like, “Y’all don’t understand.” When you’re working with community, it takes time. And you have to be willing to invest that time regardless if the funders say you got a 2-year project, or a 3-year project, or whatever, it’s going to take longer than that.

 

And especially if you don’t already have that trust, if you don’t already have that engagement. This is not a lab bench. You can’t just run the experiment, run the study, and it works out how you need it to work out and you have a controlled environment. That’s not how it works. Because, number one, this ain’t no experiment. Number two, this is not a controlled environment. Number three, you’re dealing with real people who have real lives. Who don’t care nothing about what you doing unless it’s going to be relevant to them and give them an actual solution to the immediate thing that they facing right now? Get your head out the clouds. I know y’all in the Ivory Tower. But come on down where the real people at. 

 

[00:26:45] Dr. JW: They just be up there looking around.

 

[00:26:49] Dr. SM: Up there like Rapunzel or something.

 

[00:26:51] Dr. JW: Right.

 

[00:26:52] Dr. SM: Get it together. And I say this – and if you’re in academia and you had that mindset, I say this out of love. 

 

[00:27:00] Dr. SM: Yeah. I mean, I know people with that mindset in academia. 

 

[00:27:03] Dr. JW: Come on down the clouds. This ain’t Rapunzel. It ain’t none of that. It’s so crazy. Because you would think that, by now, people would kind of know that, especially in academia. As much as we talk about community-engaged research, or community-based research, or working with communities. But a lot of folks, they just don’t know.

 

[00:27:30] Dr. SM: Yeah. And they’re operating in oppressive systems. I think it’s hard that even if they do know, there’s nothing there to support them in doing that work. They could be out here doing the work. And it’s like, “Okay. Well, you didn’t get tenure. Because you don’t have a certain number of publications.” But I was doing community-based work and I was building connections with the community. And I was out here doing things that were meaningful that had nothing to do with research. Because it was important for me to show up for people and show up for the communities that I’m going to be working with. And so, I think sometimes it’s hard to navigate those systems if they don’t have supports for people that do community-based research. 

 

[00:28:07] Dr. JW: And that, like you said, those supports are super important. Because when you are looking at academia and the oppressive system that it lies in, I mean, it’s like where is the room for growth? Where is the room for evolution? Because we’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the past 20, 30, 40, 50, 100 years. Whatever. And it’s like if we want to do something different, we got to be able to move different.

 

And I know academia got all the red tape, right? All the different processes and systems. And all the different stuff you got to go through. A whole bunch of hoops you got to go through. But we have to start thinking about what does this look like to do things different to not just support community? But how do we support the people working? The academics who are working with communities? Especially in the sexual health space. 

 

Because sexual health, it’s already kind of difficult as it is depending on what you’re doing and what communities you’re working with. It’s already hard. And then to have to go through what you have to go through with the academic institution to try to make it happen just puts up even more of those barriers. It’s like how can we make it less oppressive? 

 

Preferably no oppression. Preferably. But we don’t – baby steps. Let’s try to get it less oppressive than what it is. And how do we turn this into a more joyful experience? And not joyful just for community members but also joyful for the academics who may work with them, or the practitioners, or the professionals, public health professionals who work with them, and in the academic institution? Everybody can have joy. It ain’t limited. But we got to work to break these oppressive systems down. With that said, I do have one question for you, which is what brings you joy in your work? 

 

[00:30:11] Dr. SM: I think it’s two things. I think one thing that brings me joy is when Black women tell me that they feel seen. When other Black women are like, “I feel seen in your work.” Or, “You know what? I was going through this.” I heard someone, several people that were like, “I was going through this. I didn’t know I needed to see a pelvic floor therapist. Because this was a conversation that you were having on Instagram, I reached out to one. I didn’t even know what they were like.” To me, that’s what brings me joy. 

 

I think another thing that brings me joy is graduate students who are like, “I cited your work when someone asked me why was important to focus on Black women.” The fact that people are even asking that question is wild to me. Why should you just do research? Or why should you just study Black women? And why are Black women important in public health without a comparison group to white women? That’s wild. 

 

But the fact that students come up to me and are like, “I cited your work to defend like why I should just focus on Black women.” Or, “Finally, I have some pleasure-focused work on Black women that I can cite.” That’s what’s important to me. And that’s what brings me joy. Because I didn’t have that when I was writing my dissertation. It was very few people that were doing empirical research on Black women and sex positivity. And so, I just want to make sure I’m leaving something for the people that come behind me.

 

[00:31:34] Dr. JW: Yes. And being able to pave that way for folks, especially in the work that we’re doing when it’s people who haven’t been doing the work in the way that we’re doing it. And so, we become the trailblazers, and the pioneers and the folks who are doing this work in paving the way. And you’re right. It’s amazing for people to say I feel seen, or I feel heard, or I really feel like I’m valued. I’m valued in this space. And so, that is incredible. 

 

If people want to learn more, if they want to reach out to you, how do they get in touch?

 

[00:32:16] Dr. SM: Yeah. My website is drshemeka.com. And you can find me on Instagram and Facebook @DrShemeka. 

 

[00:32:23] Dr. JW: Awesome. Well, I thank you so much for joining us on this episode. And it has been certainly a pleasure. No pun intended. But it’s been a pleasure to have you. And this is going to wrap up another episode of the Public Health Joy podcast.

 

[OUTRO]

 

[00:32:44] Dr. JW: I am so grateful for this time we got to spend together. If you enjoyed this episode, I need you to subscribe, rate and leave a review. For more information on transforming public health research into positive community impact, visit www.joyeewashington.com. This is where research meets relationship. And I’ll see you next time on the Public Health Joy podcast.

 

[END]

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