Our guest today is Danielle Bezalel, a.k.a. DB. She's the creator, executive producer and host of the Sex Ed with DB Podcast. A feminist podcast bringing you all the sex ed you never got. Centering LGBTQ+ and BIPOC experts. Danielle earned a master of public health with expertise in sexuality, sexual and reproductive health at Columbia University. She graduated with a BA in film and media studies from UC Berkeley.
Watch our video interview here 👇
Listen to the podcast here👇
Danielle, can you tell our listeners/readers a little about yourself?
DB: I’m Danielle DB. She/her pronouns. I was born and raised on Long Island in New York until 15, when I moved to California. I studied at UC Berkeley as an undergrad with a degree in film and media studies with a minor in education. Later, I graduated with a Master of Public Health from Columbia, focusing on sexuality and reproductive health.
I’m the creator, executive producer and host of the Sex Ed With DB podcast - a feminist podcast bringing you all the sex that you never got through unique and entertaining storytelling, centering LGBTQ and BIPOC experts.
Can you also describe your sexual self in three words for us?
DB: Insatiable. Strong. And in-tune. Insatiable, I can get in the mood a lot and love it. Strong, I have a strong conviction and know my body pretty well to know what gives me pleasure.
You were inspired by an encounter with a rabbi in Israel to become a sex educator. Can you share a bit more about that?
DB: I met a rabbi at Jerusalem of the Bells when I was doing a gap year teaching English in Israel. He was an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, so he was more religious than most. He mentioned he had five daughters and would marry them off, facilitated by a matchmaker, when they reached the age of 17 or 18.
I was 21 then, but I remember feeling an explosion in my head because I don’t condone that. I asked questions about his daughters’ consent, what they wanted, their readiness and more, but he brushed me off. I realized at that moment that I wanted to teach sex education.
How is sex perceived in Jewish households? Is it taboo?
DB: It depends. Judaism condones queer and female rabbis. There is also a mitzvah to have sex on Shabbat and Shabbat happens once a week. So Judaism has a lot of sex-positive things baked into the religion. Like many other religions, there are extremes where misogyny and sexism are part of our beliefs, but in my experience being conservative was never part of my experience or my identity.
What do you think is the biggest challenge regarding sex education?
DB: Regarding America, do you know that only 17 American states require sex education to be medically accurate? That means 33 states don't require sex education, and everything can be taught to students without consequences; that is very harmful. 29 US states require stressing "abstinence" when teachers are teaching sex education.
In some cases, religion and culture pose a big issue for parents not to have conversations with young people about sex or teachings about agency over their bodies. People are unequipped, and if they’re not receiving this education from parents or schools, they will probably get it from porn or the internet. Kids don’t know the difference between porn and real-life sex until we educate them.
When should parents start teaching kids about sex?
DB: Age-appropriate health education starts from kindergarten through 12th grade.
When kids are in kindergarten, talk about the names of their body parts. When young people know the anatomy and terms of their anatomy, they feel able to advocate for themselves and less likely to be the victim of sexual assault. Names of the body parts are not dirty; they are just names.
When kids get up to fourth and fifth grade, start talking about the menstrual cycle.
When kids are in middle school, talk about body image, and it’ll be appropriate to start talking about romantic relationships.
When kids get up to seventh to ninth grade, we start talking about sex, STIs, STI prevention and birth.
When they get to high school, let’s discuss media and porn literacy.
When kids can be taught about early, it helps them in their entire progression of sexual wellness in life.
What is the biggest misconception about sexual wellness, and how do we start changing the narrative?
DB: We get dozens of questions from all people of all genders and who have all body parts, who say something along the lines of, “I am masturbating too much, and I am either uncomfortable about it, I feel so guilty, I feel ashamed, or I feel like I'm sinning”. People feel ashamed at how much pleasure they are feeling in their lives. This problem goes back to religion, parenting, and lack of education -- not having a conversation with our kids saying it’s normal.
We need to change the narrative by teaching that masturbation is healthy! Masturbation is like a fun trip to the bathroom that you do in private and not in front of other people. As long as it's not taking up your daily responsibilities of work or school or taking care of your kids and you're not hurting anyone, including yourself, GO TO TOWN!
There is nothing wrong with feeling good. Masturbation positively affects sleep, de-stresses you, makes you feel happier with endorphins, and relieves cramps. We need to teach young people this and not teach them that it’s gross and awkward. Most people masturbate; they just don’t talk about it.
Are you in a relationship yourself? What are your thoughts about the contribution of sexual education to relationships?
DB: I have been in a monogamous relationship with my partner for almost six years and he is wonderful.
In terms of sex education and the impact on relationships, I’m mind-blown: We're talking about healthy communication, and we're talking about pleasure. We're talking about healthy conflict. Many people with partners think that when they fight, there’s something wrong. But it’s really about how you fight. Are you respectful toward each other? Are you able to kind of come to some sort of conclusion at the end? Are you able to speak calmly to one another all the time? We should all agree that that is part of a healthy relationship. It is like navigating our differences and figuring out how to reach a consensus. If we feel self-conscious about our bodies, if we feel like we’re losing or gaining weight, if we feel like we are having mental health issues, these are all things you have to navigate. If you have a partner, keep your partner in mind to share this information, so they know how to support you.
What are your tips to kickstart the conversation about sexual wellness for people in new relationships?
DB: It depends on if you have had sex, what sex means to you and if your partner is new or not. Have an open conversation while you’re having sex or after in ways such as, “I liked it when you did x; it felt really good when you did y”. Let your partner know what you enjoyed without critiquing their performance. When the time feels right, you can also propose what you wish to see more of, such as, “I love dirty talk. Are you down to try that with me?” Offer an open conversation rather than demanding and pointing fingers at what they did wrong.
Don’t be afraid to use sex toys in the bedroom with your partner. We know roughly 75% of people with vulvas need or desire clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm. For most people, that doesn’t happen through penetrative penis-vagina sex; the clitoris needs stimulation in another way. Whether through your hands, mouth, or a toy, we must normalise sex toys in the bedroom with our partners, especially with cis men, because they need to know that it's not a competition and that they are on the same team.
In our #JustLikeYou series, we interview people from different backgrounds on sex, intimacy, and relationships. We hope these stories can help you navigate your intimate lives – We’re all #JustLikeYou. Sign up for our newsletter to get updates about our next interviews.