We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Ashley Townes and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Ashley, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
As a sexuality educator and researcher, I think most people assume that we might be more sexually active or that we engage in a more diverse range of sexual behaviors than everyone else. The truth is, sexuality educators and researchers enter this field for a variety of reasons. For me, I wanted to change the way we think and talk about sex. I think it is important that we remove the discomfort, the assumptions, the shame, and the guilt that is often associated with talking about sex and sexual health.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Currently, I wear a few professional hats. By day, I am a Researcher. By night (or weekend), I write blogs for the “The Buzz” created by Pure Romance, provide sexuality education workshops, and contribute to media inquiries related to my research. I have worked for various local, state, and federal public health entities and have taught sexuality education for over a decade. I am most proud of my most recent publication in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy entitled, “Partnered Sexual Behaviors, Pleasure, and Orgasms at Last Sexual Encounter: Findings from a US Probability Sample of Black Women Ages 18 to 92 Years.” This paper provides sex-positive data about Black women and their partnered sexual experiences across seven age groups. These results provide a foundation to improve societal knowledge and dispel stereotypes about Black women’s sexuality. The journey to where I am today hasn’t been easy but I am a firm believer that timing is everything. I started in this field as a Peer Educator while I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree. I learned quickly that I was able to build a rapport with people of diverse backgrounds and that I naturally enjoyed teaching. I didn’t know it at the time but these two things would be the drivers that made me excel in my work experiences (e.g., Disease Intervention Specialist and Community Health Educator). After working for a few years post-Master’s degree, I felt that my impact was small and decided to go back to school for a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. I wanted to expand my work in sexuality education and do more research to answer tough questions about Black sexuality. I am most interested in exploring sexuality from a historical perspective to really understand why discussing sexuality remains taboo in the Black community. I also am interested in understanding and changing the structural barriers that prevent Black women from receiving adequate sexual and reproductive healthcare. This has become my brand and it is my goal to make sexual health and sexuality conversations more comfortable. I aim to inspire, motivate, and encourage Black women to have sexuality conversations with their peers, partners, and providers.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Fun Fact: My best friend actually just visited Atlanta! We had such a great time exploring the area – with our masks, of course. A few places we visited included a walk on the Beltline, Ponce City Market, and the Pub on Ponce (Side note: If you like wine or beer, try the flutes at the Pub on Ponce they are such a great deal!). We also visited BQE and Harold’s Chicken for some great Sunday Funday vibes. There are so many great things to do here from checking out the museums, having a picnic in Piedmont Park, or even catching a game. I prefer football and basketball, however, Atlanta has many options regardless of your interests.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
First, I would like to acknowledge that none of my success would be possible without my relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus. In addition, I dedicate my success story to my family and close friends; their love, support, and encouragement has kept me grounded and has inspired me to go after all of my goals unapologetically.
Linkedin: Ashley Townes