Meet Janell Yik: Staten Island native, Chinese, Puerto Rican, and Panamanian student of Women's Studies and Gender and Sexuality at the College of Staten Island. She is the Sexology Workshop Coordinator at Please NYC, and is fun, fierce, and unapologetic.
Womanly Mag: What two words that you associate with your sexology journey?
Janell Yik: Liberation and frustration. I've gotten to enjoy so much more of myself, and my career helps me teach other people how to reach that, too. It is a very gratifying, liberating experience. However, sexuality is still very taboo. It is both stifled and devalued, and constantly under attack by both political and religious conservatives, and even those who have never experienced sexual satisfaction. Experiencing people's resistance to something which I have found so freeing has been frustrating. There have been times I've doubted my career choice, but then I remember orgasms [laughter], and the responsibility I feel to help people have better experiences with sex education. I help them learn not only how to adequately protect themselves, but how to see outside of the societal boundaries surrounding relationships and sexuality.
WM: How many women of color do you see in your field?
JY: Not many, to be honest. Intersectionality is something that is relatively new. We've been excluded in so many fields of study, and I constantly see the proof in my textbooks - I am almost never represented. Thankfully, I've become more exposed to women of color in my field. One of them being Bianca [Laureano], who wrote an article about the need for more WoC in the sex field.
WM: What advice do you give women who want to get into sex studies?
JY: I encourage everyone to get into the field. It is so important for us to change the way we educate ourselves, and our children, about sex. Start with Google, so much information is at the tip of your fingers. You can get certifications to be a sex educator, or you can start by getting your Bachelor's degree in sexuality, or gender studies. People don't realize how much education goes into sexology. We are responsible for studying anthropology, sociology, psychology, anatomy, and so many more fields of study.
WM: How is feminism a part of sexology?
JY: I think feminism is different for everybody. The biggest lesson I've learned is I don't need someone else's approval to feel sexy, that I don't have to feel guilty for enjoying my sexiness. Women already have to deal with so many insignificant dilemmas on a daily basis: "Should I wear this? What will people think if I do? Will people's reaction to me on the street get worse?" The reality is that other people's opinions shouldn't affect us, and that the danger we face on the street is going to exist regardless of what we wear. So for me, in the context of sexuality, to be comfortable with your sexual autonomy, and that of others is to be feminist.
WM: The maternal figures in our lives tend to hold a huge influence on how we see sexuality. How did your mother react to your career choice?
JY: I grew up with a Chinese and Puerto Rican mother, who was often conflicted with her own upbringing: battling between her more conservative side and her Caribbean openness. Growing up she was the "cool mom" to my friends, but the strict one to me, and this continued throughout my life. At first she did not understand my decision to pursue a degree in Gender and Sexuality. But as soon as I said the word "doctorate," her perspective changed. It went from my daughter wants to be a sexologist, to my daughter is going to be a doctor. I corrected her and said "sex doctor," but we all end up holding on to what makes sense to us. Growing up, I didn't have a lot of women around to speak with about sex, which is why I find it so necessary to speak about it now.
WM: Okay, then let's talk about the fun stuff! What advice would you give someone trying to incorporate sex toys into their relationship(s)?
JY: Obviously, communication is key. Play around with the idea before you actually start playing with the toy. If they are hesitant, ask why. Talk about it thoroughly. I encourage going shopping for the toys together. Intimidation has a way of getting in the way of a lot of beautiful experiences. If they feel intimidated by the toy, give your partner lots of reassurance. Just be open, honest, and patient. Once you start playing again, with curiosity and an open mind, you'll be surprised what your partner may say yes to. Safe spaces aren't always guaranteed in intimacy, even with consent, so first and foremost, make sure you both feel comfortable and safe.
WM: What tricks do you recommend to engage a cis male in more sex play?
JY: It's hard to get past ingrained ideas of what should be pleasurable to men. I always recommend starting with ball play. Then to keep going lower, inch by inch. (This can be scary to hetero men who guard their balls, and anything below that with their lives.) Consent is important on all ends, so if you want to start exploring new sensations, it's important that you do it at a pace that is comfortable for both of you. After some ball play, preferably with your mouth, keep licking further down. When you get to the area between the balls and the anus, the perineum, stay there for a while and alternate where you lick.
The next thing I would learn is prostate massages. Start with external massages on the perineum with two fingers, mix it up a little. Then slowly make your way to the anus. Remember to use a lot of lube, and to be gentle. I recommend you watch videos that demonstrate these massages, as well as describe what the prostate should feel like to you. Prostate stimulation allows men to experience multiple types of orgasms, so it's a shame that some men can be so adamant about staying away from anal play.
WM: Any recommended toys?
JY: Toys for cis men include prostate massagers (internal), fleshlights (masturbators), cock rings, tenga eggs - massagers (cheap, easy, & fun), and anal beads (for all genders). For trans men there is actually a new toy called buck off, which serves almost as a suction cup for the vagina. This way, when masturbating trans men don't have to physically come into contact with genitals they don't feel connected to, and instead can stroke the way they would with a penis. Remember: not all men have penises.
Toys for cis women that are included in the short promo video are:
Steel butt plug
Nipple and clit clamps
The lily (the lavender one) external massager
The moka (the blue one) g-spot vibrator with a head designed specifically to reach it.
The tiani (the pink one for couples)- remote controlled couple's massager, vibrates internally and externally at the same time. fun in public & with light sub/dom play!
The ina wave (the purple one) internal and external vibrator with "come hither" movements mimicking a lovers fingers
The glass ones are staple favorites because they are hard, durable, and so easy to clean. (ive included a link to toys for trans women but found out quickly that there aren't many options).
Ina wave, waves hello. :)
Do's & Dont's with Toys
Silicone: Don't use silicone lubes with silicone toys. use water based or hybrid which is water and silicone based.
Online: If you're going to order toys online i would recommend buying glass or steel because you can clean them easily and well. also, when you order silicone or rubber online it may be difficult to see whether or not the toy is actually made of that material which makes it harder to clean.
Don't use vibrators as anal toys. keep vibrators as vibrators and anal toys for anal play. if you want to use your dildo as an anal toy, that may work because you can boil it if it is silicone. its better to keep things separate though.
Put a condom over your toys when you use them.
I only buy glass, steel, or silicone.
Glass will help you squirt faster and don't sleep on that curve.
(rubber can breakdown and is porous which can trap bacteria).
Boil your toys to clean them unless they are rubber or battery operated. that is the best way to clean them. washing is simply washing the surface of the toys.
Have fun, be safe, explore and have conversations with each other. No, this does not mean you are obligated to teach anyone anything, people have google and you have discernment BUT intergenerational conversations are necessary, especially in these areas where so many of our mothers didn't get a chance to explore. You will be surprised with how much you learn from one another.
Tags: art, photography