Apparently, hundreds of millions of people think you can.
According to a recent New York Times piece, “The sex and relationships commentators who arose in the self-help boom of the 1980s emphasized their expert status. But while Dr. Ruth, Dr. Laura and Dr. Drew telegraphed their academic credentials in their names, modern sex-ed stars make an asset of their amateurism. Eileen Kelly, the 20-year-old Instagram-famous founder of the sex blog and forum Birds&Bees, self-effacingly refers to herself as “a random girl from Seattle.” The British sex-ed YouTuber Hannah Witton calls herself a “self-taught expert,” and her lack of credentials is part of her message.
“You don’t have to be a doctor to be involved in sex education,” Ms. Witton said. “It’s sex. It should be accessible to everyone. There shouldn’t be any barriers to talking about it.”
There’s a part of me that bristles that 20-year-olds are teaching the equivalent of sex-ed classes on the Internet. Who are they? What have they done? What do they know? These are, indeed, reasonable questions. At the same time, if they don’t delve into giving medical advice and don’t claim to have credentials that they don’t, I see no harm in it.
One of the cool things about the internet is that anyone can become an expert if his/her message is compelling enough to the masses.
In fact, I see a lot of help for people who are curious about a VERY popular topic, but unlikely to admit it to friends, look for a sex therapist, or pay for assistance. Kind of like dating coaching, just a bit more risque.
Frankly, it’s not that different than my own story; declaring myself America’s Leading Dating Expert back in 2004 despite my lack of credentials, and helping thousands of women along the way. I never pretended to be anyone other than a guy with a lot of experience, an innate sense of fairness, and the ability to see both sides of an issue, and, thirteen years later, I feel I’ve grown into my self-declared expertise.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some downsides to relying on an amateur with an opinion and a camera.
This new breed’s desire to entertain, however, can allow room for myths to slip in. In a video that delivers a rollicking guide to lesbian sex, Ms. Scarcella playfully informs her audience that you can spot a lesbian by the relative length of her pointer and ring fingers. (You can’t.) Some sexual stunts seem better at capturing clicks than making points…
“These videos mean that more people can have access to information about sex, and they get to choose who they’re comfortable getting it from,” said Debby Herbenick, an associate professor of public health at Indiana University. “Sex is still pretty stigmatized, so that can be really lovely.” On the other hand, she said, “the information is not necessarily accurate.”
Ultimately, the only thing that matters is not the credentials of the advice giver, but rather that you get the help you need to be a happy, fulfilled person.
One of the cool things about the internet is that anyone can become an expert if his/her message is compelling enough to the masses. If you can educate and entertain – and people enjoy your work and are willing to pay you for it – you’re a lucky person indeed.
However, one should remain skeptical of anything you read on the internet, this site included. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is not the credentials of the advice giver, but rather that you get the help you need to be a happy, fulfilled person.
Your thoughts below on self-styled experts and gurus are greatly appreciated.