Amos Sanasi is a sexologist, sex coach and educator who specializes in human sexuality and educates people about sex. As a sex coach, Sanasi improves the lives of her clients by helping them reconcile issues about their sexual experiences. In a religious conservative society like Nigeria where open conversations on sex and sexuality are frowned upon, Sanasi has built a brand doing precisely that.
Often on social media, her posts drive conversations on sexual health and wellness, sexually transmitted infections, pleasure anatomy, emotions, response, communication and more. Her mission is to enlighten, debunk widespread sexual misconception and misinformation, and broaden the scope of sex education in Nigeria and Africa, where discussions on the subject are limited by design.
In this interview, we talk about what it’s like being a sex educator in Nigeria, how she makes money, and what it takes to become a certified sexologist or sex educator.
What does being a sexologist mean? What does it entail?
Being a sexologist simply means that you are seeing sex beyond the medical aspect. Sex is often viewed from the medical perspective but in reality, almost everything affects it. Religion, culture, and the environment affects sex but only a few talk about it. Hence sexology was carved out to study sex from these different perspectives. Sex is more than the penis in the vagina. Some of our sexual decisions are influenced by society or by our mental health. This is why sexology exists.
I’m curious, what is people’s reaction when you tell them you are a sexologist?
When I initially started on this path, it was quite tiring explaining what I do to people. A lot of people thought I was a pimp. And as much as I tried to explain my work, there was still a lot of confusion, people started to think that I was a sex surrogate. So I started telling them I am a sex educator that deals with issues beyond the biological or medical aspect of sex and people understood that better.
Was this something you went to school, studied, and earned a certificate for?
Yes, it is. Although, I like to point out that one does not need a certificate to be a sex educator, but to become a sexologist or sex therapist, a certification is required. There’s a certification to become a sex educator, but it is not compulsory that one gets it to become one. If you studied medicine or anything related to health, you can be a sex educator.
However, I wanted to start out professionally so that I’ll be different. My first degree was demography and social statistics, and although we were taught reproductive and sexual health, it was just the bit required to learn about population. I had to get a post-graduate diploma in sexology and psychosexual counselling. I am looking forward to getting a master’s degree in that field and certification in sex consultancy because that is what I want to do eventually. And hopefully open ways for other people interested in this career path, because we need a lot of sex educators in Africa because people’s understanding of sex is frightening.
So once I become a consultant, it’d be easy to host seminars to teach people how to go about becoming sex educators. Currently, only South Africa offers courses in sex education. Other options to study sex are abroad, outside Africa, and not everyone can afford that. I hope, in time, other African universities would offer courses on sexology.
So there’s no university in Nigeria offering a course in sexology or sex education?
No, there isn’t. There’s just that university in South Africa. And I think they ran into some issues two years ago and had to transfer their students abroad. There are schools in the United States that offer courses on sexology but they are quite expensive. I studied at the Sexology Institute India and it was quite expensive as well. So the options are quite limited, that explains why there isn’t a lot of people choosing this career. But I hope things change and get better with time.
Why does it cost so much to become a sexologist or sex educator? Any takes?
I think the demand for sex educators is quite high; a lot of people want to learn about and understand sex, so I guess it’s the simple economics of demand and supply where schools are saying, “there’s an increase in demand, so let’s increase tuition”. I also think it’s a way to filter out people as the carrying capacity would not be enough.
I think another reason for the high cost of tuition is because sexology requires a lot of work and consequently, longer study time. I was researching how to go about my Masters recently and I saw a school in Australia that offers that but it was for four years. Nobody wants to spend four years doing a Masters. So the workload is definitely a factor affecting the cost of tuition in that field. There’s also the fact that the course requires different professionals for the different aspects it entails; psychologists, psychoanalysts, tantric sexologist, business experts, therapists… they all have a place in sexology. Having these different professionals teach a course is definitely going to cost a lot of money.
What made you choose this career path?
I chose this path for a lot of reasons. However, I didn’t start out a sex educator. I started out a s a sex counsellor and sex coach. But I noticed during sessions that a lot of things people come to me for are things they can solve on their own or as a couple if they’re sexual literate.
I also observed that what is making the rounds as sex education in Africa is limited to just the medical aspect of sex. We have heard the “use a condom to prevent sexually transmitted infections” lecture since we were kids. And so many other lectures along that line, including, “keep your virginity as it’s your value as a person or a gift to give to your partner”.
People want to hear and learn other things besides these. There are other issues to be addressed. People want to know why they zone out during sex, sometimes. People want to know why body image affects sex or why they should get sex therapy. People also want to know why it’s important to call out their abusers. These conversations are missing from sex education in this part of the world.
And I was also tired of seeing unqualified people teach about sex. Religious teachers and leaders should not be teaching about sex. Some pastors tell their female congregants, “sex is your duty as a wife so you should always say yes to your husband whenever he wants it.” And at the end of the day, you realize that a lot of people are having sex disconnectedly. I figured a lot of things will change for the better if people are educated about sex, so I decided to follow the path.
Also, I was abused as a child. I became pregnant, had a miscarriage, and it was quite a difficult time. During that period, I needed counselling but all I got was the usual, “It’s your fault… Forgive and move on.” Forgiveness is not easy. Abuse victims need help. A lot of them cannot afford therapy or counselling. But knowing there’s a platform where they can get verified information and referrals to agencies that offer pro bono service goes a long way. And that is one of the reasons I do what I do.
What services do you offer?
I am a sex educator and sex coach. I stopped offering counselling services because I wanted to focus on sexual literacy. I wanted to focus on something that would offer value to a lot of people. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people could not afford the services I offered as a sex therapist and I noticed most of the things they came to me for can easily be solved if they were sexually literate. Hence I chose this niche because it puts me in a position to solve a lot of challenges.
I teach sex education on public platforms and I also hold private sessions because some people want to learn about sex privately or a particular topic on sex. I am currently working on a sex education platform where one can simply go online, make payments, and watch prerecorded lectures by sex educators in different parts of the world.
I think that’s a great idea. What has it been like so far in your career?
I have been doing this for two years now and starting was the hardest part. When I started, almost everyone thought I was into Kayan Mata sales. I had to do a lot of explaining to let people know that was not my line of business. I had to find a way to differentiate myself and to let people understand that I did not just wake up one morning and decided to start posting random information about sex. I got a degree to do this. I gave people reasons to see why sex education is necessary.
One time, I talked about premature orgasms and a lot of people said it was impossible. I had to delete the post and make it interactive. I asked, “Was there ever a time you had an orgasm when you wanted more sex?” People answered yes. And it dawned on many that it is actually possible. So I just find ways to communicate in languages that people understand or would understand. Once people saw that, once they could relate with some of the scenarios or examples I put up, they started to pay more attention, engage, and use my services.
From your experience, are Nigerians more open to discussing sex or is it just a matter of a small demographic open to discussing sex on Twitter (social media)?
We are about 200 million people living in this country, and Twitter is just a small part of it. I won’t say we do not talk about sex, we do. But we do not do it the right way. All the cliché information I mentioned earlier about keeping one’s virginity until marriage or telling teenage girls that they’d become pregnant if boys touched their breasts, these are discussions on sex, but they are not the right discussions. The sort of sex education we are given leaves no room for questions or interactions.
However, there are a lot of sex-positive doctors on Twitter that interact with people. These doctors, medical professionals, and sex educators have created a positive space where people are open to interacting about sex without shame or judgement. That is why people are open to discussing sex online. But offline, particularly in schools, students do not have this sort of opportunity or safe space for them to discuss sex. They’d rather go online and try to get their answers from watching porn.
I believe we need to make sex education more interactive and create a positive space for people to openly talk about sex and exchange information and ideas.
What is the biggest obstacle to sexual literacy in Nigeria and Africa? I know misinformation is a huge obstacle but I don’t know if it is the biggest.
Restrictions. There are auto restrictions even on social media. For example, I can’t even post a cartoon image of the uterus or any reproductive organ. My account got deleted at 17k followers two years ago because I posted a cartoon of the uterus. These restrictions exist even on WhatsApp. If you consistently post about sex with a business line or account, you’ll get blocked. Same thing on Facebook. So far, Twitter is the only platform where you can discuss sex freely and even upload videos, but your account can get suspended if you are reported. There’s that and there’s also the fact that a large number of the African population have no access to the internet or social media.
In Nigeria, sex education is not taught in schools. And we see NGO’s that are taking up the responsibility to teach sex ed in schools being frustrated. The government actively kicks against sex education in schools. My friend had her MSc project cancelled because she was proposing sex education should be added to school curriculums. In countries like the UK, although sex ed is restricted in the media, it is taught in schools by registered professional. But it is different in Africa where we are faced with multiple restrictions by the media and the government.
Even sexual health providers are not exempt from these restrictions. In 2018, the government invaded a sexual health clinic, accused them of conducting abortions, took all the case files of patients, and shut down the clinic. Sometimes you visit a sexual health clinic and you see a strange person lurking at the entrance, recording god knows what with their phones to see if abortion is being carried out in the clinic.
The sad part of these policies and restrictions is that they intensify the problem. The fact that abortion is illegal in Nigeria does not mean that the practice does not exist. So make it legal (so it can be done in safe environments by qualified professionals). We also need to stop teaching only abstinence. The average age a person begins to have sex in Nigeria is 11, yet we are teaching 16-year-olds abstinence. The logic is, teaching teenagers the use of contraceptives is giving them a license to have sex but that is flawed reasoning.
There are instances where people are raped and they do not know the next best step to take. Instead of rape victims to go to health centres immediately after to give evidence and get treated, they go into hiding because they are not sexually literate [or because they have been misinformed about sex all their lives]. So restrictions and misinformation are the biggest challenges for me and a host of other sexuality professionals, but it is more the former than the latter. Misinformation can be tackled, but active restrictions by the government and media are quite frustrating.
As a sexologist and sex educator in Nigeria, what is one thing you’ve found eye-opening and surprising?
The first surprise is actually positive; I was quite shocked at how much people wanted to learn about sex and how open they wanted to be about it if they are provided with a safe space to do that. The second surprise would be having pastors, clerics and religious institutions attack you to say teaching sex education is wrong. The third is another positive surprise; a friend of mine asked me to teach sex education at her church. I informed them beforehand that my teaching is all-encompassing and not abstinence-based, and they said they were okay with that. And it made quite happy and hopeful; if a church would permit sex education that is not strictly on abstinence, then there’s hope for sexual literacy in Nigeria. It was a good experience because they were actually happy to have me there.
Tell me, how do you make money from being a sexologist? How do you price your one-on-one sessions with clients?
I want therapy and coaching sessions to be affordable for everyone. I have a payment plan for coaching sessions; clients choose plans that they can afford. Sometimes, I pitch ideas and write for sex-positive organizations because there’s a dearth of black sex education content. I also consult for some sexual health brands and create content for people who run sexual health stores. I also get paid to speak at conferences, and currently, I work with a sexual wellness brand – Find My Method – as a sex columnist.
How does one go about becoming a sex educator or sex coach?
First, I think it’s important to decide on a niche; what area of sex or sexuality do you want to focus on? Do you want to be a sex therapist, counsellor, coach, or educator? Even in sex education, you have to choose a niche; do you want to focus on consent, pleasure, or abuse prevention and management? When you decide on an area of interest, the next thing is to find experts in your chosen niche and reach out to them for guidance.
For example, if someone reaches out to me to say he or she is interested in being a sex educator, the first thing I’d ask is whether or not they can afford a degree. If they cannot, I’d advise them to get a certification first, coupled with continuous learning. I’d also refer them to people who run book clubs and coach people. And further, advise them to join online sex-ed communities.
That’s all from my end. Any last words?
I’d like to tell people interested in this career path to go into it because they want to make a difference, help and educate people, and not necessarily for money. I understand that money is important, but it shouldn’t be your number one priority. The truth is, people can tell when you’re in it for the money. If you are not passionate about it, it is better you invest in someone who is rather than launch a brand or business yourself.
Note: The conversation in this article was edited for length and clarity. However, you can listen to the complete interview on our podcast channel.