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‘Nerd’ Is Not a Dirty Word… Or Is It?

Sep. 2, 2010
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I am a self-described nerd. By this I mean that I've always been a little weird, a little quirky, not saying or doing the right thing at the right time. I think that "weird, quirky and not quite right" often illustrates how people feel about their sex lives, especially since we don't have many chances to talk honestly about sexuality. We would benefit from embracing our inner nerd and accepting the fact that sex can sometimes be awkward, our desires not socially acceptable, and that we all learn about sex by fumbling our way along at first.

Therefore, when I read a column a few years ago in Time Out Chicago about a class called "Flirting for Nerds" led by sex educator Rebecca Steinmetz, I felt I had a soul sister in the big city to the south. I finally met Rebecca earlier this year and am happy to say that she will be bringing her class to Milwaukee on Sept. 10. In advance of her workshop, I asked her a few questions.

Laura (LAS): The term "nerd" could be considered derogatory by some people. Why did you choose to call the class "Flirting for Nerds"?

Rebecca (RS): I take a poll at the beginning of every workshop, and I've found that, on average, half the audience doesn't self-identify as a nerd. But everyone has that awkward or unselfconscious part of themselves that I think resonates with the term “nerd.” The name of the workshop came about quickly and just stuck. A co-worker and I were at Early to Bed [the feminist sex toy store in Chicago where Rebecca works] and chatted about a friend of ours who was pretty awkward when it came to the dating scene. My co-worker suggested our friend could use some time in Early to Bed for some confidence and one of our workshops for some added skills. She said, "Wouldn't it be great if we did a dating class? We could call it ‘Flirting for Nerds.’" Seconds later a customer who overheard us interjected, "If you had a class like that, I would definitely go!" And “Flirting for Nerds” was born.

LAS: What types of people have attended the class in the past?

RS: I've had people of all ages, races, genders and sexual orientations attend the class whenever I present in the store. But I get a lot of requests to present for student organizations at universities, so I'd say the early-20s crowd has been my primary audience. My favorites are students who attended the workshop the previous year and attend the workshop again (just in case they missed anything)!

LAS: What's your favorite thing about teaching the class?

RS: The "aha!" moments that people have when something we're talking about helps them address a flirting situation they're currently in.

LAS: What's the most important thing that you think someone will take away from the class?

RS: To own their nerdiness!

I echo Rebecca's last statement: Own your nerdiness. Everyone sometimes feels shy, everyone has embarrassing dating or sex moments, and unless you put yourself out there and take a chance, you will never be able to boldly go where no nerd has gone before.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them to laura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side.


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