Caitlin Chow-Ise ’23 does not call herself a “sexfluencer.” Nevertheless, her sex-positivity account on Instagram, @thes3xtalk, has gained over 1,400 followers in less than four months. Via @thes3xtalk, Chow-Ise demonstrates how to put on a condom or use a dental dam, reviews sex toys and shares her artwork and infographics with the Lewis & Clark community and beyond.
Long before LC, Chow-Ise discovered a passion for sex education. Her dream career of choice in elementary school? A gynecologist.
“I loved my health and family classes,” she said. “I loved talking about sex, and I was the girl who gave out pads and condoms to anybody who needed them.”
Last semester, Chow-Ise’s gender studies class reignited her interest in the sex-positive online space. When the semester concluded, Chow-Ise missed having an outlet to talk about sex and decided to start her own account. But Chow-Ise did not expect @thes3xtalk to reach so many people.
Sometimes, Chow-Ise worries about belonging in the sex-positive community as an undergraduate student who is still learning.
“I think there’s definitely a lot of imposter syndrome,” Chow-Ise said. “I am connected with a lot of other sexuality professionals in this space, and I am an 18-year-old college student.”
Chow-Ise characterizes the sex-positive corner of Instagram as welcoming. She has attended forums hosted by other educators, such as the Womxn of Color Summit and Luna Matatas’ class with She Bop.
“Something that is really cool about this space is that it’s not only Ph.D.-holding doctors,” she said. “It’s also sex workers and people who are posting memes about sex.”
Each sex educator’s varied life experiences shape their content. Chow-Ise says her identity as a mixed-race, abled, bisexual and economically disadvantaged person in academia influences @thes3xtalk.
“It is nice to have the ability to create my own space informed by my own identities,” she said.
Chow-Ise plans to work with LC students through partnerships with student groups such as the Asian Student Union (ASU).
Last Thursday, Nov. 5, Chow-Ise hosted an online event titled “Pleasure is Power in Asian-Identifying Folx” in partnership with the ASU. She intentionally chose a subject matter different from racial fetishization and stereotyping.
“I’d rather talk about happiness and fun,” she said. “I want people to feel like they can experience pleasure, and that it’s okay to do that, and that it’s encouraged to do that.”
LC organizations can make similar inquiries about co-hosting sex-positive events with @thes3xtalk by contacting Chow-Ise at email@example.com.
On Oct. 28, Chow-Ise hosted a virtual “sex toy talk” open to the LC community and beyond. Currently, she is planning another talk for late November or early December.
Chow-Ise is also a member of Advocates for Youth and helps distribute condoms on campus as part of the group’s condom collective.
“The thing that has brought me the most joy so far is being able to be in this campus (representative) program,” Chow-Ise said. “There’s about twenty of us, and we’re all trying to bring sex-positive messages to our campuses.”
Advocates for Youth also organizes Zoom meetings about access to birth control, protest training and LGBTQ+ support.
According to Chow-Ise, being responsible for a sex positivity platform on the Internet comes with challenges.
“There’s a lot of fear of being canceled, or saying something wrong,” Chow-Ise said.
She recognizes that she will make mistakes, especially in an online space that prioritizes honesty and vulnerability. In her first post on Instagram, she wrote, “I hope that you will correct me graciously.” Similarly, Chow-Ise encourages the LC community to practice grace with themselves.
“Talking about sex is awesome and important, but it looks totally different for everybody,” she said. “I think that it’s important for anybody reading this to center their own self in their journey through life.”
Chow-Ise would like to be a part of that journey as LC students search for confidential advice about sex.
“If you have questions or need help with (sexual health and exploring pleasure), you can come to me because I won’t ever bring it up out in public,” she said.
Rather than a “sexfluencer,” Chow-Ise said, “I am a resource.”