The scoop on sexologist Logan Levkoff
After finishing a blueberry muffin, Logan Levkoff daintily dabs her face with a napkin. She then reaches into her Louis Vuitton handbag and pulls out a slew of condoms.
"You never know when someone's going to need them," she explains.
For any other happily married woman, carrying around a handful of condoms in her purse would probably raise some eyebrows. But this is typical behavior for Levkoff, a sexologist and sexuality educator.
In addition to condoms, Levkoff also carries a message of enforcing a positive and candid outlook on sexuality through a comprehensive education-sex education in schools continues to be a highly contested issue.
Earlier last year, Mathematica Policy Research Inc., an objective research organization, released results from a Congressionally-funded study regarding abstinence-only education. According to their reports, teenagers that receive abstinence-only sex education are not less likely to have sex.
Despite this study, Congress continues to fund abstinence-only sex education programs. In fact, the federal government pours $177 million every year on abstinence-only education, according to Guttmacher Institute. There has yet to be any funding for comprehensive sexuality education.
The arena is fierce, but Levkoff remains a confident competitor. She frequently appears on morning talk shows, like "Good Morning America," to speak as a relationship expert. She consistently contributes to iVillage, an online Web site for women. She is a sex columnist for POZ Magazine and Maximum Fitness. She is also the online sex advice expert for MarieClaire.com
In October 2007, Levkoff released her first book "Third Base Ain't What it Used to Be," which encourages parents to talk candidly with their children about sexuality.
After the book's release, Tim Graham, a blogger for Newsbuster.org, referred to Levkoff as the "blond hottie favoring sex among children." In an interview with a radio station in Philadelphia, Levkoff has also been described as provocative and sexy, particularly in the image on her Web site. The photo, set in a bedroom, features Levkoff who straddles a leather chair. Aside from the way she sits, there is nothing provocative about the photo. She wears a simple pair of jeans and a blouse, buttoned up to her neck, with a tie. To Levkoff, this is nothing more than a beautiful picture.
"I deal with sexuality for a living. Yes, I'm a mother. Yes, I'm a writer. But I'm also a sexual being, so you're never going to be able to take that part," Levkoff says. "That is always a part of who I am. If you interpret it as sexy, that's fine."
But, Levkoff is much more than a "blond hottie." She earned her title. She received her masters of science in human sexuality education from the University of Pennsylvania and her certification as a sex educator from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).
The world of sexology is divided into therapists, educators and researchers. Anyone who deals with sexuality in a professional way with academic experience is in the world of sexology, says Levkoff.
While Levkoff now focuses primarily on the educational aspect, it was at Jericho High School, in Jericho, N.Y., that she got her first taste of what would later become her life's work.
A loud, outspoken student, Levkoff possessed strong opinions and was not afraid to share them with the world.
"I was the girl in school who had the 'Support Vaginal Pride' sticker on her loose leaf. You know, to show everyone I was pro-choice," Levkoff recalls.
Going to high school from 1990-1994, in the midst of the HIV and AIDS epidemic, Levkoff had to be loud. At this time, HIV and AIDS were finally recognized as indiscriminant viruses that could potentially affect anyone. This brought sex, a previously taboo subject, out of the shadows.
"All the parents were talking to their kids about sex. Maybe they weren't giving the best, overall information, but everyone was telling their kids, 'If you ever have sex use a condom.' There was always that message no matter what...because it was a life or death issue," Levkoff says.
Levkoff became one of the first groups of students at her high school to participate in an HIV and AIDS education program. Essentially, this was her foot in the door, but Levkoff never expected sexual education to translate into her professional career.
At the University of Pennsylvania, Levkoff's loud voice continued to grow. She found herself asking more and more questions.
"I think at the time where I was going to college and my friends and I were trying to figure out who we were, we found ourselves, bright, sophisticated, really smart women making really silly decisions when it came to sex. By that I don't even mean not using a condom. It was from an emotional perspective," Levkoff remembers. "I just don't think we knew enough about what it meant to be a woman and to feel empowered by our sexuality and to feel good about our bodies. That was such a big part of it."
When she started to look for answers and information, Levkoff realized that not a lot of people were talking about sexuality issues. "Dr. Ruth" Westheimer, a pioneer in the field of sex advice, was speaking out about issues; however, Levkoff felt that there was no one specific to her generation that could truly understand the issues she and her peers faced. Rather than wait around, Levkoff decided to fill this generational gap herself.
Levkoff wrote the first, at least to her knowledge, campus sex advice column called "Ask Mistress Lola." Her topics ranged from female masturbation to HIV and AIDS. Although she wrote the column anonymously, her identity eventually became obvious.
"It was pretty liberating because people I did not know would come up to me on the street and ask me questions. I guess it was then that I realized that for whatever reason, I had an ability to make people feel comfortable talking about sex," Levkoff reveals.
Rather than pursuing law or banking, professions that Levkoff viewed as far more safe, Levkoff embraced her gift. She enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania graduate program for human sexuality education and continued on her journey.
As a female who speaks openly about sex, Levkoff cannot recall any incident in which her gender worked against her. Certainly she understands that people may view her as just a pretty face, as Graham did in his blog, but she knows she is made of more substance.
"I think what becomes tricky, however, is being in the world of sexuality how you represent yourself obviously can be interpreted six thousand ways," Levkoff says. It comes with the territory.
Apart from her image, there are other assumptions that Levkoff must deal with. When she first began, people sometimes thought that she was a sex surrogate, having sex with people for a living. Often people forget that Levkoff is an educator and not a therapist. People frequently misperceive her character.
"Just because you write about it [sex] doesn't mean you're swinging from the chandeliers," laughs Levkoff.
Married for the past seven years, the once loud Levkoff now keeps intimate aspects of her life private. Her husband is very accepting of her profession. They've known each other for so long, that it has become a big and natural part of his life as well. Levkoff even credits her profession as part of what drew them together; though she feels that if she had waited until later in life to get married, it might have been more difficult.
The couple has one son, Maverick, who is nearly three years old. They made the decision to raise him with an understanding of equality and respect, and, of course, the correct terminology for body parts. Levkoff admits that it can be a bit shocking to hear her son say that girls have vulvas, but she can't imagine raising him any other way, claiming it would be foreign.
"I full-well know that as my son approaches adolescence, I could either be the coolest mom out there or I could be the most embarrassing parent to have," Levkoff says. "I'm really hoping that I'm the cool parent, but you know, he might want to hide me from all his friends. For now, it's OK though."
The same candidness with which she teaches her son, Levkoff also tries to translate in the classroom. Aside from her book and the various media she contributes to, Levkoff designs and teaches sexuality education at various private schools in Manhattan. She teaches children ranging in age from 9 to 18 years old. It is easy enough for her to reach her own son, but other people's children can be challenging.
"My fear has always been that sex and sexuality, at least in our culture today, is a really dirty word. It's a dirty concept and dirty in a lascivious, sleazy, sadly positive way, where it becomes this trashy thing or just negative and unhealthy, which is so not true," Levkoff says.
In the classroom, Levkoff's biggest challenge is getting students to put aside their assumptions and actually listen to what she has to say. With the media force-feeding sex down everyone's throats, it is no easy task. The fact that primetime television airs advertisements for products like Viagra and genital herpes medication, but not advertisements for condoms is a huge problem to Levkoff.
However, the media is not always bad. While people criticize shows like "Sex and the City" for being too racy, Levkoff does see some beneficial aspects of the show.
"The nice thing about 'Sex and the City' is that it allowed women to be candid about their sexual desires and fantasies and just to have fun as women friends. Women are often categorized as catty and bitchy and here was a group of friends that weren't like that--that kind of were this modern day sisterhood movement," Levkoff says.
Levkoff is often compared to a present-day Carrie Bradshaw and while she sees how it can be an easy association to make, there is a huge difference between the two. In her book, Levkoff does not write about her own sex life. Rather, she urges a candid conversation about sex between parents and their children.
"I doubt Carrie Bradshaw would ever write a parenting book," Levkoff says.
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