Bianca Laureano Forges New Pleasure Frontiers
She's an award-winning educator, sexologist, author and disability activist who understands pleasure in all the best ways.
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Hi Bianca, and welcome to the Womancake interview! How is your workday going?
It’s going really great. I love having a flexible schedule, I get to wake up and tell myself, “I can do whatever I want!”. It feels really good to finally be living in a place where that's my reality.
That’s good to hear. You’re an award-winning educator, you’re an acclaimed sexologist, you have an extensive background in disability justice, racial justice, racial equity, and human health and wellness, and you have an incredible book that's coming out, which we'll get to in a bit. When you look out at the current landscape of public health in America, what are you most inspired by, and what is most concerning to you?
I think I'm probably most inspired by young people and their activism around gun violence and the world that they really want to live in, at least in this country. These young people are like, “We need a particular level of regulation and care,” which is great to witness and not have to be a mentor for them, not to be anything more than just supporting their efforts. I think that [gun violence] is a public health issue, and I learned that from abortion providers. It's always shocking to me how many of us are in this field and not learning from the work of abortion providers, and how they really are leading the way on safety and care in so many ways.
I think the thing that really makes me pause and consider what world are we really building for these people to come into and grow into, is around disability, but also with long COVID and the impact that long COVID is having on people's bodies and minds at every single age group. That's going to be its new frontier, but it's also something that we kind of knew was coming down the pipeline with limited resources and support in our communities. So it's going to be a hard period, but we know it's here and there are ways to support people and really doula them into navigating the systems that they're gonna have to navigate as disabled and immunocompromised people.
I love the way you put that. You also have a background as a doula, correct?
Yeah, I do abortion doula support. It started out focusing on people who are going into clinics, but now it's really shifted to people who are using medication abortion with pills. So it's more text based support, more peer support in that capacity.
So you must be as excited as I am that the very first OTC birth control pill was recently approved by the FDA!
Oh, absolutely. It's gonna really change the way that people are able to plan their lives in such a particular way. It's a success for us to celebrate!
I know that you have an extraordinary book that was released in July. Will you talk about its purpose and what makes it so unique?
Absolutely. The book is called, “The People's Book of Human Sexuality: Expanding the Sexology Archive” [use the code AFL02 for 20% off]. It was a book that I had been thinking about and knew that our field needed, but I was one of those people that never thought of myself as a writer. I just never thought of a book proposal, or how you build relationships with editors. Then an editor at a publisher reached out to me and asked, “You’ve published these articles and these chapters in our book, why don't you have your own book?” And I was like, that's a great question, why don't I? It took me a while to pull it together, but I was really like, what does our field need? As soon as we thought about emergent and also more seasoned sexuality professionals, I realized I wanted to offer something that welcomed in people who rarely ever get support, or invitations to publish, but who have been doing the work for at least a decade, and have so much brilliance and knowledge to share.
I also wanted it to be a collaborative text so it's not just me. 15 of us pulled it together and decided to do it during a pandemic. It really fills in the gaps of what remains when we think about textbooks. I know when I was being trained back in 1996, it was a very standard way of teaching, very linear very, “This is the body, this is how it works, this is how it doesn't work.” Nothing about feelings. Not a lot about consent, or building relationships. I really want it to be something that's going to replace [those] textbooks. So this text has three different sections. It starts with safety and care, it then goes into our bodies and minds, and then it wraps up with some interviews. [Some] people also built their own chapter through the interviews, because it was just not accessible for them to write in a really academic way.
And then we have lesson plans that accompany the first two sections, because we know that people who don't know or understand our work fully need some guidance on how to teach the work that we do. And also how to push ourselves to think more fully about the archive that we want to build, and how currently the archive in the US is very color-free, very disability-free, very feminist-free in many ways. People always want to cite the same research and that's just not the world that we live in anymore.
So I'm really excited. It's so many brilliant people who are doing the work, some that you've already interviewed for Womancake like Jessica Badonski, and welcoming in perspectives like hers. She's a nurse, she's been offering care for at least 30 years, and nobody's asked her to write about it! So that's some really beautiful, thoughtful offerings, from community members in that capacity.
Fantastic! And what level of development would you say it's designed for?
It's really designed for people who are at any point in their lives. So someone's like, “I want to do this [kind of education work], but I'm 18 and just figuring out if I want to go to college or not.” It's a great book to have at the library. I'm a big fan of public libraries, get your library to have [the book] available. But it's also for people who have been in the field for over 20 years, like myself, and who really have never sat down and talked with a nurse practitioner who's now doing work around menopause, and who has raised three children, and all the things that like Jessica brings to the space. We also have younger writers who cover North America, people in Canada, the US and Mexico, so learning from them how things are different across the borders, while also still in this continent is interesting. We have intersex activists who are challenging the medical industrial complex when it comes to forced cosmetic surgery for infants, because of the [gender] binary being challenged. So it's a really beautiful gift. And I learned from it every time I read a chapter.
As a Gen X person I would have welcomed a book like that when I was a teenager, it would have been a game-changer for me and my peers, and I can imagine that it would be helpful to Gen X parents! The theme of our quarterly issue is “guilty pleasure”. Do you have a philosophy on the subject and some guilty pleasures that you could share with us?
My philosophy with guilty pleasures is that it's pleasure, whatever adjective we put in front of it, and I'm really into being guided by the pleasures that are emergent for us. I have a lot of guilty pleasures, I think the most common one is that I love horror films. It's not that I like being scared, I’m more into the thrill and the mysticism and the creativity, but also the control that I get to have and practice as a viewer to turn something off, or to mute the sound, or to talk back at the screen, or decide I would make a different decision. So there's a lot of practicing autonomy in those horrific scenarios, thinking about the horrors of the world that we're navigating, and also reminding ourselves that there's other kinds of horrors that we don't always care about.
I usually think about what sense I really need to activate when it comes to like, treats. So for me, sometimes it's asking my partner for a foot massage. Sometimes it's like a really good stretch. But if it's a sensation of taste or flavor, I'm a big fan of chocolate and peanut butter. And I also love mint, and I also love truffle. I love Reese's peanut butter cups. I like the Toblerone with the crunchy little pop. My mom loved the Godiva chocolate, so if I'm really looking for some decadent treat [it’s] those.
How does wisdom manifest at this stage of your life?
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