Call of the Wild

Applications are being accepted now for San Francisco Sex Information's fall 2006 training session for sex educators, beginning in October. The rigorous 65-hour process has trained some of the Bay Area's leading sex authors/experts, including Susie Bright, Carol Queen, and Isadora Alman, and provides more education on human sexuality than most medical students get, according to the SFSI Web site (www.sfsi.org). But the cornerstone of the 34-year-old nonprofit organization (and perhaps the best place to learn about sex and the city) is its volunteer-operated switchboard, which anyone can call to ask for nonjudgmental information about sexual issues.

"It's an unusually quiet Wednesday," observes Phoebe, one of two educators operating the switchboard last week. "Usually, what happens is, people do what they're going to do on Saturday and Sunday. On Monday they sober up and realize what they might have done. Tuesday, they think about it, and Wednesday, they call us."

The calls over the next two hours are fairly commonplace, including requests for information about female contraception and questions about how to achieve orgasm with penis-vagina intercourse. The operators say that their top calls these days are about premature ejaculation, anal sex, STDs, and pregnancy, though they're equipped to handle issues as specific as erotic sound play (it's not what you think).

It may be unsurprising that SFSI has more than its share of callers who abuse the hotline for inappropriate purposes. This unpleasant reality plagues nonprofit telephone lines of all natures. Lonely people simply search for a number at which they might reach another human being. Fortunately, the group's operators are trained in how to shut down a call without making the dialer feel ashamed. And they can usually ferret out whether the intentions are pure.

Phoebe describes one male caller who was breathing heavily. "I said to him, 'You sound like you're having trouble breathing there.' He said, 'I'm on an oxygen tank.'

"I'm glad I asked," she sighs.

Turns out that dispensing advice about sex requires more than knowing where to stick certain things.

 
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