COLUMBIA — To Sue Johanson, sex is just as much about loving yourself as it is about loving someone else.
Johanson, a 77-year-old Canadian sex educator, spoke Thursday evening to a packed auditorium in Jesse Hall about all things related to sexual health. Johanson, the host of nationally-syndicated “Talk Sex with Sue Johanson,” was in Columbia during her first American tour.
With the face of a sweet grandmother and vocabulary of a sailor, Johanson said she wants to educate college students about sex because she dislikes dealing with overbearing parents of minors.
“I was teaching in high schools,” she said. “I got tired of parents being concerned and upset about in-depth sexual education. I can’t cope with parents anymore.”
Johanson recently told the public her age, when she was a guest on the Conan O’Brian show two weeks ago. Johanson said she previously withheld her age because some people assume that older people don’t know about or have sex.
“Sex and aging are synonymous,” she said. “They go hand in hand.”
Johanson peppered what might otherwise be a dry, educational speaking engagement with colorful words and suggestive body language.
When discussing the importance of communication between partners, Johanson said, “You may be reluctant to take his hand and put it where you want it, or take his head and put it where you want it.”
Her topic-appropriate gestures drew the crowd’s raucous cheers.
A considerable amount of time was devoted to debunking common sex myths, such as “bigger is better” and the lure of the simultaneous orgasm.
Johanson and sex therapist Marty Klein stressed self-respect and a sense of self-worth as crucial components to great sex.
“The real thing that makes sex work is when people are comfortable with their own bodies,” Johanson said. “It’s not a matter of technique. It’s a matter of self-acceptance.”
On aggressive partners, Klein said, “I always wonder why you try to force someone to do something in bed that they don’t want to do, especially if they’re willing to do other stuff.” At this, the audience cheered wildly.
Johanson and Klein answered a series of anonymous questions written on note cards that had passed through the crowd to the stage. They also gave instructional advice on contraceptives.
“Put a condom on like pantyhose, not socks,” Klein said. In the crowd were students, couples, groups of friends and fans of Sue Johanson.
James Arth and Emily Johnson, 21, said they thought the show would be an economical and entertaining way to spend Valentine’s Day.
Pat Holt, a retired Columbia woman who audits a class at MU, watches Talk Sex with Sue Johanson at home. “I saw the ad on the bulletin board and I just had to see her,” she said. “It’s interesting. ... There’s a whole world out there that is different from when I was young.”
Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report.