- Words Notion Staff
Ev’Yan Whitney talks ‘Sensual Self’, eradicating sexual shame, and 2023 manifestations.
Ev’Yan Whitney is an author and host known for founding the sexually liberating podcast and book, ‘Sensual Self’. Working on a journey of guiding others to find their self-confidence through sexual liberation, Ev’Yan continues to eradicate the negative stigma that surrounds it. Offering both reassurance and resources, they continue to provide the essentials their younger self failed to receive when going through teenage adolescence.
Throughout the author’s work, Ev’Yan prompts the importance of having safe spaces for open conversations about sexual expression. Amplifying the need to change how society views these discussions, they are building the groundwork for a new perspective on these ‘tough’ conversations.
As a Black, queer, non-binary person, Ev’Yan is eager to inspire the next generation with a healthier outlook on sexuality. Having recently put on a virtual ‘Somatic Movement Workshop’, throughout this process the author emphasized on their Instagram that this event would consist of “dancing, breathing, feeling, and sharing with each other”.
Building on the physical and spiritual connection we have with our inner selves, Ev’Yan prompts the importance of listening to your body and recognising each of its needs. Throughout their work the true depth of their message becomes clear. We spoke to Ev’Yan about the meaning behind their coined term ‘sexuality doula’, the founding of their book and 2023 manifestations.
For people who might not have come across the term, what is a sexuality doula?
As a sexuality doula, I am a guide and companion for folks who are in a space of questioning their sexual selves and want to bring healing, liberation, and curiosity into their desires, shame, identity, and trauma. In my work, I offer resources, education, somatic practices, and thoughtful questions that get folks into unpacking what is getting in the way of them feeling sexually free. I help them imagine new expressions of their sexuality that are safe, easeful, and pleasurable for them. I take a holistic approach where I don’t just look at people’s sex lives and the way they’re having sex, I’m looking at the relationship they have with their body, gender, mental health, pleasure, and upbringing — so really looking at them as a whole being with nuance and thinking about how all of those things impact, inform and inhibit what they truly want. In my experience, having that holistic view really helps folks experience lasting transformation in their sexual/sensual lives.
You’re also an author, facilitator, and sensualist, and your work and practices take many forms – do you have a favourite element of what you do?
I love every aspect of the work I do. I feel really lucky that I’ve created a career that allows me to express myself and help folks in a variety of ways and mediums. But if I had to choose which is my favourite, I’m loving what I’ve been exploring lately around somatics and sensuality. Not just because it’s been a lot of fun for me but because it’s so fascinating the more I dig into the body as a whole, intelligent being and learn from the inherent wisdom it holds — both within myself and the people I work with. I always get really jazzed when I watch a client who has identified as being a disconnected, turned-off being come into their bodies in real-time. The way their whole body lights up and comes alive and begins revealing all of these desires and pleasure potential is always such a beautiful thing to witness.
What motivates you to continue to help and guide people in their own journeys?
I’m motivated by the magic that lives in our ability to heal and transform ourselves. I’m motivated by the radical power that is actualized when we choose to create ourselves, our pleasures, our desires, and our softnesses, in our image. I’m motivated by the neverending adventure that is self-realization. I really enjoy doing what I do. There’s always more to learn, more to uncover, more for me to learn and uncover within myself. In a lot of ways, I keep doing this work because it feels like I have to—not just for others but for myself.
Do you ever encounter people’s misconceptions of your work?
Yes. A lot of people hear the word “doula” and think I’m in a physical room as people are having sex, which I would not be opposed to happening if that’s the direction my work took; that sounds quite fun, to be honest. But no, I’m not in anybody’s bedroom while they’re having sex. The work that I do happens outside of a sexual space, fully clothed.
I’ll add that using “doula” within my work was a deliberate choice because I wanted to distinguish what I do and how I hold space for/with people from the way a sex coach or sex therapist might work, which I am neither. Doulas of all flavours — birth, death, abortion — create spaces of safety, learning, guidance, and possibility for the people they work with who are usually in a place of transition in their lives. As a sexuality doula, I am a gentle guide, resource, and advocate for folks as they move from shame and uncertainty within their sexual lives into authentic expression. We do a lot of talking in our work but also a lot of moving, ritual, and feeling along the way.
Your podcast Sensual Self tackles an incredible range of topics around sexual expression, and features such interesting guests – do you feel like your podcast helps you connect with a wider audience? And how do you choose your guests?
This is probably going to sound bad, but when I created my podcast, (back in the day it was called The Sexually Liberated Woman and has been changed to Sensual Self) I wasn’t interested in reaching a wide audience, and I’m still not. I continue to do my podcast because I really want to have these conversations and I’m often in a place of wondering about my sensual self, my gender and my relationship with other people. It just so happens that a lot of people are having the same questions or curiosities at the time. So reaching more people isn’t my primary focus. I want to create juicy conversations with people I love and admire that may or may not be in the limelight for the sake of creating discussions that are interesting and healing. All the guests I have on my show are people who I either know personally or I’ve been a fan of, and it’s often such a privilege to get to pick their brains and hear them speak on topics that are swimming in my mind at the time.
With that said, it’s been really important to me that I create an experience for people who listen to the show that has them feeling like they’re taking a big, nourishing inhale. With a pacing and tempo that invites them to pause and feel more of themselves, that encourages them to open their minds and use their bodies to embody what we’re diving into that day. I think that comes across really well and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from listeners that ‘Sensual Self’ is a balm for them amidst all the other podcasts they listen to.
How can we all take steps to understand and liberate our sexualities better?
First by questioning everything you know and have been taught about sex, pleasure, and your own body. Thinking about all the narratives you’ve been given (and are still being given) about sexuality, sexiness, and sexual liberation and checking in with yourself about what feels resonant and true for you. Our culture is one that often tells us who we should be, what we should experience, and how we should feel, and if we don’t look like that, our experience becomes pathologized and invalidated. I see this a lot with folks on the ace (asexuality) spectrum. They’ve been given these messages all their lives that there is one right way to desire, one right way to do sexuality, and because that hasn’t been their experience they’ve spent a lot of their lives feeling like they have to be someone they’re not sexually.
I really relate to this as someone also on the ace spectrum and pro as “faking it til I make it” when it comes to sexual expression. So I want to offer folks the invitation to explore their sexual selves outside of social norms, outside of what they’ve been told is the “right” or “most liberating” way to be sexual. Question who it was that made those rules and to who does it serve to have those rules in place. Question what might become available to you if you decided to allow yourself to be, have, feel, and desire the way you want to. Think about the stories you’ve been given about sex, bodies, gender norms, and pleasure and notice which ones don’t fit you anymore (or maybe never did). And then begin to think about what becomes possible when you let those stories go and allow yourself to write narratives about your sensual/sexual self that align with your unique experience of the world, with the ways you actually want to feel.
Could you tell us about the idea that “Sensuality transcends sexuality”? Is that something we could be enacted in our own lives?
A lot of us have gotten this message that sensuality is just another word for sexuality and that if you’re being sensual, you’re being sexual. But that’s not the whole truth. Sensuality is its own experience, its own practice that doesn’t have a lot to do with sex. Sensuality is about being in your body, in your senses, and doing things that encourage nonsexual pleasure in you. People come to me and want to have the best, most pleasurable experiences in sex but they have little understanding or connection to what feels like an enthusiastic yes in their bodies outside of a sexual context. The practice of sensuality can offer people a deeper connection with their bodies, senses, and pleasure and remind folks that they have access to this at all times, not just in the bedroom. Sensuality transcends sexuality in the sense that sensuality can tap us into feeling ourselves, uncovering our wants, and prioritizing our pleasure, and that becomes not just something we experience during sex but an entire standard of living that asks us to never settle for anything less than feeling good and connected to ourselves. We are so powerful when we have that connection and we’re also better attuned to the people, places, experiences, and decisions that we need to make that are in alignment with our holy wants and worth.
Something I love about your discussions is the focus on self-love, and the idea of an enriching sexual relationship not necessarily needing another person’s involvement. Considering the extent of your output, and all the deeply personal nature of your work with others, how do you take steps to conserve your own self and being?
Thank you for asking this! This is something I’m constantly in practice with I appreciate whenever I’m reminded to center in my self-care and preservation. Boundaries are very important in this work; I’d actually say they’re crucial. When I got started in 2011, I had terrible boundaries and was constantly overextending myself, which I now attribute to being a chronic caretaker. These days, I have a much better sense of what I need to do to take care of myself so that I can take care of others. I do a lot of somatic practices throughout the day – feeling into my body, recognising ts needs, and giving myself moments to soften into myself; prioritizing pleasure practices that have me tapping into what feels good in my body and allowing my body to be nourished by that. I’ve also been exploring something that I call ‘intentional dissociation’ which entails me mindfully choosing to check out and into something else so that I can get a break from the stressors of the world. Watching trashy reality television is my particular go-to for intentional dissociation. I know that dissociating gets a bad rep but sometimes we need to disconnect from ourselves because being in our bodies is too hard. When I check out mindfully, I do it from a place of awareness and choice rather than in an automatic response to feeling overextended.
Your book, also called Sensual Self, is a self-guided journal. How did your journey as an author begin, did you always want to write a book? And how did land on the self-guided structure?
I’ve been writing and keeping journals since I was six years old and I started writing my first novel when I was about eight. So writing has been in my blood and the main way that I express myself and remember my dignity in this world. I was really jazzed to write Sensual Self because it was an actual dream come true and it was a lot of fun to make.
It was really important to me to take a journal-style approach to this because I really wanted people to discover their sensuality and pleasure potential on their own terms. The practice of sensuality and embodiment isn’t something that you can experience with your mind or intellect; it’s meant to be felt through the body. I wanted to give people prompts and exercises they could do to really uncover their own unique sensual selves, essentially giving them the space to be curious and exploratory about their emotions, feelings, sensations, and desires. That’s one of the biggest philosophies in my work: the idea that people are the experts of their own experience and that guides like ‘Sensual Self’ can help them tap into the wisdom of their bodies and the voice of their pleasure.
What are you proudest of about the creation of your book?
I’m honestly proud that it exists in the physical realm. Most of my career has been spent online and in digital spaces, so to have something that people can actually hold in their hands and might even become a keepsake for them through the years means a lot to me.
You’ve had some pretty big achievements this year, but is there anything you’re manifesting for the new one?
I am manifesting rest and ease, the idea of working softer not harder, and staying connected to the wisdom of my body along the way.