Cheylsea Federle loves smashing sexual shame. She’s excited about challenging sexual misinformation — and wants you to be, too.
As the education and training coordinator for the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (CSPH), Federle is an integral part of carrying out the Pawtucket-based non-profit’s core mission of advancing culturally inclusive, medically accurate and pleasure-informed sexuality education, therapy and professional training.
In her role, Federle must tap into seeming dualities. To college students, the largest demographic the CSPH serves, she’s the face of the organization through her work with the Sex Study College Tour. (The educational workshops have served 60,000 students across 75 colleges and universities since the CSPH began offering them in 2010.) Yet it’s the face of an organization that, by its nature, may need to act as a confidante to those seeking its resources.
Alicia Gauvin, executive director at the CSPH, says, “She has this positivity you don’t always find in people. We discuss incredibly sensitive topics and it’s critical to be able to work with someone who can build a rapport. She’s warm and an engaging educator.”
Gauvin says the CSPH strives to create workshop topics that are relevant and of interest to the students they are reaching through educational opportunities like the Sex Study College Tour. Topics include consent (“Getting Wordy and Talking Dirty”), pleasure focus (“Lube, Vibrators, Sex Toys… Oh My!”) and advocacy, among others. The organization also offers workshops on non-toxic masculinity.
While education has always been at the heart of the CSPH, the educator and training coordinator position is relatively new to the organization and Federle is the first to hold it. “A lot of our reputation is built on education,” Gauvin says. “And Cheylsea has a history with organizations and teaching.”
Federle was hired for the position in November 2018. Previously, she worked with the CSPH as an intern and volunteer before moving to Budapest to pursue a master’s degree in gender studies at the Central European University.
While Federle’s day-to-day responsibilities at the CSPH vary, and she balances the part-time position with her work as a prevention educator New Hope, she says that teaching is her favorite part of the job.
“Most sex education in this country doesn’t cover much beyond STI and pregnancy prevention, which is important, but there is so much more to sexuality,” Federle says. “One of my favorite things to teach about is orgasms. There are so many misconceptions around orgasm, which create a lot of pressure to have them. Plenty of people struggle with reaching orgasm and that’s okay! Reaching climax does not always need to be the goal and not all orgasms are going to be earth shattering.”
By sharing information and resources, Federle hopes to depressurize the bedroom “so that people can have healthy and pleasurable sex lives with less shame,” she explains. “It’s my hope to be able to bring more education to the community to increase access to sex education that is pleasure-centered, trauma-informed, consent-driven, inclusive and medically accurate. The sex education we all deserve!”