So what do you want to know about? Kink? Clits? Seducing dick? Making your own porn? Masturbating like a pro? Mastering dirty talk? If there's a topic, it's likely that sexologist, educator, author and serial-founder Marla Renee Stewart has created a rabbit hole you can forever slip down. If you're up for more, more, more, she's got a workshop, a book, event, post, platform, class lecture or coaching sesh waiting to educate you.
You can catch this mix of brains and seduction wrapped in Southern charm at Clayton State University, the Sex Down South conference she co-founded or in her library of sex ed classes on Velvet Lips where you can up your sex mastery and arsenal of skills one video at a time. And of course, you can buy her book, The Ultimate Guide to Seduction & Foreplay: Techniques and Strategies for Mind-Blowing Sex (but you have to promise to report back on how you implemented it ;).
We were lucky enough to get time on this sex guru's calendar, but it's really just an arousing intro into her ever-expanding world... enjoy.
As a leading voice in sexology and feminism, what lens do you bring to these communities that makes you proud?
Marla Renee Stewart What makes me feel proud is just helping people to be aware of what's going on in their lives and thinking about how they are navigating this world, thinking about all the identities they embody and how they are affected not only socially, but sexually. I think I'm most proud of helping to build upon this sexual liberation movement and helping people to realize like, I have the power to do what I need to do to make sure I'm right. Or to ensure that my sex life is successful, and these are the ways that I'm going to do it. I'm going to be more aware, I'm going to use these tools. I'm going to educate myself on the things that are necessary. I think that's what I'm essentially proud of, and I'm proud of all the work that I do to make that happen. I'm proud of the books that I've published, and the Sex Down South conference, and my work with my own company, Velvet Lips. Those are things that I'm proud of. And I'm also proud of changing folks' lives at the university level, too, helping them to understand better feminism, how people move through the world, and whatnot.
I love that you called it Sexual Liberation Movement because it does seem like there's a rise in acceptance and diversity of thinking and the permission to be more who you are. I don't know if you feel that's true.
Marla Renee Stewart Absolutely. What helps with that is folks, educators, folks who are in the media, social media, the people who are advancing that movement forward, it's super important. But at the same time, navigating something like social media where they want to shut down sex and sexuality, it's been challenging, but it's getting done.
You teach many workshops and sex ed classes that teach people to bring their sexy back — what’s the common thread that seems to be missing for most of us who want to thrive in the bedroom?
Marla Renee Stewart The common themes that seem to happen or that I come across, number one is, people not knowing how to do things. Not having certain sex skills or not having awareness of their body and orgasm, how it's working with their body. Folks tend to have trouble around the communication front, so how to communicate, how to initiate, how to just move past maybe the shame, stigma, hangups that they have. And this could be anything. This could be from socialization. This could be from your family, friends. It could be from religion.
"I really stress that people make a sex bucket list. I have an erotic activity bucket list. It's like, try all the things, see what makes you excited, see what doesn't, and then go from there." — Marla Renee Stewart
There's a whole lot of things that people struggle with. Communication, understanding ourselves. Another thing, like I said, I was proud of The Ultimate Guide to Seduction and Foreplay, it’s really an in-depth look about who you are as a sexual being. What do you want? How do you make it happen? And then giving you the tools to make that happen. Sometimes when I have clients, I’ll be like, well, what gets you horny? What gets you hot in the pants? And they're just like, I don't know.
If you don't understand your own desires, your own arousal, that's going to be a problem into understanding how you can get to orgasm or getting just more pleasure in your sexual life. Because guess what? If you're not having pleasure in your sex life, you're not going to want to do it. So I think it's just important for us to understand our own bodies and what's happening.
How do you uncover what you like if you're afraid to try things or you don't even know where to start?
Marla Renee Stewart Mmhmm. And it's like, sometimes people don't take the time to understand their desire arousal, or even take the time to masturbate, or really be more thoughtful when it comes to their sex lives. We live in such an instant world where we can Google information and get things quickly that oftentimes, we think we can do that with our bodies and that not necessarily the case.
Like any job or career, it takes time to be great. And I think a lot of people just don't understand it's the same with their bodies. It takes time to be great. Taking the time to learn your body, what you like, what you don't like, what your needs are, what your boundaries are, what your values are, those are the things that are going to help you navigate life better and to have successful relationships.
Such a good point. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill or become good something. What if you put 10,000 hours into your body or sex life?
Marla Renee Stewart Exactly.
What are some of your favorite ways to experiment to keep your sexual fire lit?
Marla Renee Stewart I have an erotic activity list that I think is super useful. I think it's just exploration. There's a list of several things you can do, whether that's voyeurism, exhibitionism, whether that's taking out a video camera, or going to a sex club, or making a romantic dinner, or eating off your partner, or whatever. Like in a role play, there's so many things that you can do to experiment. You can cruise a sex shop and see like, I like this, or I don't like this, or let's go to the store and see if we can find something we like. There's lots of ways that we can make our sex life more exciting, it's just a matter of doing them and being purposeful.
A lot of times people get used to doing the same thing over and over again. I really stress that people make a sex bucket list. I have an erotic activity bucket list. It's like, try all the things, see what makes you excited, see what doesn't, and then go from there. And then whatever makes you not excited, come back to it in 10 years, because maybe you'll be excited about it then. As we age, our bodies change, so things that we didn't like before, we might like now. And I think that's really important to know.
What are some of the off the radar seduction techniques that we should have in our arsenal, along with getting your book?
Marla Renee Stewart Well, I always think that you should focus on your seduction learning styles. It's super important and I actually have that class for free on my website right now. It's called the art and science of seduction. And it's basically like saying, use this seduction learning styles. You know how there's Gary Chapman's love languages. The Seduction Learning Styles is something that I've been teaching for about 15 years now. Of course, inspired by Robert Green's book, The Art of Seduction, I was like, wait a minute, there's this piece and this piece. And basically, I put it together into this sexual theory that I think is brilliant and actually is so very accurate. It's like, when I meet people, I can tell somebody right away what their seduction learning style is, and I know immediately how to connect to them based on this theory.
I'd say first and foremost, understanding that theory is important. And I just hope that it will be more widespread and that people will start connecting better. I had a client who, 40 years of marriage, and she was like, my husband doesn't listen to me. I don't know. And I said, do me a favor, do this thing to him and see if he responds. And the next time she's like, oh my God, I cannot believe it. In 40 years of marriage, he finally listened to me just from what you told me what I should do. I was like, sometimes it's just the way that you connect to people. It's sad that a lot of people don't know how, but it's so important.
That's so interesting. What I think you're also saying is that seduction techniques don't just have to be sexual.
Marla Renee Stewart Absolutely. What I'm calling the seduction learning styles, essentially, you can use on anybody. Because it's not necessarily all sexual, but it's a way of communication. So whether you're using this with your family, friends, coworkers, whatever, it is a way of connecting with other people that, where they feel heard, they feel loved and, and they feel attracted.
"I know some people are like, pleasure is the number one thing when it comes to sex. But have you had an orgasm? Orgasms are amazing. They feel wonderful. I want more." — Marla Renee Stewart
Everyone seems to be talking about splashing, but you teach how to do it with your breath, your mouth, your hands… um, your breath? Will you let us in on how to do that?
Marla Renee Stewart Erotic breathwork comes into play because when our bodies are relaxed, and they’re present, our mind is present, it's my much easier to do it. With erotic breath work, what it is, is breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. And then it's a series of breaths that you take where you're breathing in deep, and then you're also doing public floor exercises, kegel exercises, holding those. You can do this while you're masturbating, you can do this during vaginal penetration, you could even probably do this anal penetration, too, actually. Basically, it's your core muscles that are doing the squeezing. So with the breathwork, it helps you not only just the squeezing, but also being present in your body and helping those muscles. It sends a signal to your muscles, just sort of like, relax and we can get there. Because a lot of times people are under pressure, sexual pressure to perform or to orgasm, and with the erotic breathwork, it helps you to get out of your head and into your body.
Is this something that you think people could start before they actually get into foreplay? If they're just mentally preparing, can they just start the breathwork so they're a little bit more relaxed?
Marla Renee Stewart Absolutely. You can do the breath work at any time as long as you're not starting to feel lightheaded or anything.
Onto foreplay, you're a foreplay expert. We want to be. How can we stretch foreplay so it’s longer, juicier, more playful, more intimate, more boundary-stretching, more more more?
Marla Renee Stewart Well, I think it's super important that you extend your foreplay. Foreplay is mental. It's not only physical. It starts off mental. It's the psychological piece that a lot of people are missing when it comes to trying to have an abundant sexual experience. Foreplay starts outside of the bedroom. How are you connecting to your lover? Are you giving them affection? Are you giving them the small things? How are you alluding to sex every day? How are you getting body with them? One of the things that you can do is start to plant what I call sex seeds. And sex seeds are basically these things where, my lover wants to experiment with blindfolds. Well, what I'm going to do is, on their way to work, I'm going to put a blindfold in their seat. So they have to look at it or they see it when they're driving to work.
That planting is sexy. So they're like, wait a minute, a blindfold... what is going on? And with that, you're tapping into that psychological energy, you are connecting with them, you got them going. And that helps extend the foreplay because here's the thing, variety and unpredictability are the keys to sexual success. So when you are varying your play, when you are doing different things and being creative, those are the things that get people excited. Asking yourself everyday or asking yourself once a week, what are the things that you're doing to connect better with your lover? That's the way you extend foreplay. That's the way they can be excited and you can be excited to hop in bed together.
Then also, too, I talk about when you're planting sex seeds, you are planting sex seeds according to their seduction learning style. So whatever their seduction learning style is, that's how you plant a sex seed. If I'm visual, maybe I'm sending them a sexy pic. Maybe I'm putting some lingerie somewhere where they can find it. I'm helping them to invoke their imagination. Because I know visual people are really imaginative. That's how I need to tap into that.
"When we're feeling sexually abundant, when we're feeling good, those happy hormones just spread to everything, to our work, to our family, to our play, and we really become happier." — Marla Renee Stewart
You talked a little bit about having your erotic list, what are some of your go-to erotic activities that we can try on for ourselves?
Marla Renee Stewart My all time's favorites are like, go to the swingers clubs. I'm probably an outlier because I'm an extrovert. Doing something romantic like renting a hotel room for the weekend with your lover or lovers and hanging out in a jacuzzi, or go to a nudest beach or a nudest resort. Like I said, my favorite activities are to go to the sex club or go to the swingers club.
Well, I love that. But for someone who's less of an extrovert or outlier and a sex club would be a little intimidating, is there an easy way for someone to enter that world?
Marla Renee Stewart Absolutely. I think one of the first things you have to realize is that people are very sweet. There are rules and consent guidelines, and all the things. First, just be in the space. Just go into the space, you don't have to interact. You don't have to go in the back and take your clothes off. You don't have to do those things.
But what you can do is, you can go dance, you can socialize, you can eat food, you can have some drinks, you can hang out. If you're not familiar or you're like, this is my first time. Bring a friend, bring three friends or whatever, bring a crew. I think having a friend crew is fun, you could see people's personalities come out differently. Make sure you have some support when you go. But just understand that not to feel pressured into doing anything, and also making sure you feel empowered in your no.
You teach a series on race and kink… why is that so important right now?
Marla Renee Stewart Well, Luna and I created Race and Kink because of the rampant racism that was happening on set life and just the racism that was happening in the kink world and how white folks in particular were just not really trying to be responsive or being silent about it. And as you know, silence is violence when people are trying to have liberatory experiences, but coming into barriers, or coming into violence or isms.
For us, it was a way to highlight black, indigenous, people of color, just BIPOC folks, black and brown people, just highlighting them and seeing, what are they doing? How are they connecting to other black and brown people? What's happening out in the world? And so it's a beautiful way for people to get educated. And right now I'm super excited because we're now forming things to get continuing education credits so that therapists and other folks, counselors who need continuing education credits can actually learn more about what's happening racially when it comes to the kink world. That's really exciting.
I would’ve thought that the kink world would be more open...
Marla Renee Stewart You would think so. But there's so many barriers from financial accessibility... to how much leather... to dressing "properly", or even giving space to black and brown people in white-owned dungeons. A lot of these things need to be taken to consideration, I'm happy that we're doing it, because it really has opened up a lot of doors for people to understand what's happening intersectionally basically between kink and other identities.
You have such a joyful, playful, magnetic way about you — is that because of the nature of your work (ie if we get rich yummy orgasms, insanely delicious foreplay, kink, toys + more) will we be happy as fuck, too? Or is there another secret?
Marla Renee Stewart Number one, I am naturally happy, yes, but I believe I'm naturally happy because I had a family and a really great supportive system who encouraged me to not only be authentic in who I am and in all that I do, but also understood my needs as a sexual being as a young person. And I think that has helped me to develop the sense of awareness that a lot of people shove in the back of their brains or don't really bring to the forefront because either their family didn't talk about it, or they got shut down. My mom was a sex-positive parent and she was just like, when you get to be a teenager, you're going to get horny. When you get horny, you're going to want to have sex. These are the things you need to do when you have sex. This is what a UTI feels like.
My mom didn't want me to become a teenage mother like her. So I think on one hand it was precautionary, at the same time, I think it really helped me to develop a sense of sexual responsibility within myself and how I navigate that with other people. Being so upfront and open and honest about it and telling people my experiences, I think that really helps people to open up themselves and to really be authentic. I can't even tell you how many times folks have opened up to me about something because maybe something I said, or whatever, or that they just didn't realize that they had the permission to be themselves. But I am a very much naturally happy person. Probably a lot of that has to do with not watching the news.
Some people reading are juggling so much in their lives that they’re like, yeah I’d love to go to a dungeon and get spanked but I don’t have [insert challenge here]... but what’s on the other side of letting ourselves sink into our sensuality and keeping our fire stoked? How will that exploration, curiosity and play impact the rest of our world?
Marla Renee Stewart I honestly believe stronger orgasms. I know some people are like, pleasure is the number one thing when it comes to sex. But have you had an orgasm? Orgasms are amazing. They feel wonderful. I want more. I think it's really important that when we become more aware of ourselves and we keep being intentional, and we prioritize sex in our lives, that we can really expand what joy is to us. We can expand on our feelings. We can have orgasms in different ways… Be intentional about prioritizing sex in your life. A lot of times people are very stressed out, they don't prioritize sex, and then when they don't prioritize sex, sometimes they get a little grumpy, guess what? Being kind and being nice to your lover, that's also very important.
And so when you're not having sex and sometimes you're not being kind and guess what? Those top two things that keep people in long-term relationships together for a long time, that gets put on the wayside. And so then other issues come up and sometimes people start heading in the downward spiral. So It's super important to prioritize sex, when you and your lover say, we are going to have sex three times a week or once a week, whatever is your thing, you do that thing that you're intentional about prioritizing the sex in your life, I think that is important. And prioritizing intimacy, and when you prioritize intimacy the sex follows.
How does that play out for the rest of our lives? Are we better at work? Are we better in our other relationships?
Marla Renee Stewart Absolutely… there's a book, I don't know if you've read, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, he talks about sexual energy, and in psychology we talk about sublimation, but anyway, it’s how we access sexual energy. We can actually use that sexual energy in our everyday lives. When we're feeling sexually abundant, when we're feeling good, those happy hormones just spread to everything, to our work, to our family, to our play, and we really become happier. We are happier beings, and that's all due to that sublimation of sexual energy, or the use of sexual energy in different ways.
And then the last question, how long is this journey of discovering ourselves sexually-
Marla Renee Stewart My gosh, every day, every week, every month, whatever, you should always be. Look, I have studied this for more than 20 years and I still pay for educational classes of people teaching different things. I think it's an ongoing journey and I think if you think you're at the end of that journey, or you know everything there is about sex, well, then props to you. But I seriously doubt it. There's always something that we can learn. I think it's just important to prioritize your education around sex all the time.