Rythm is the trusted destination for nontoxic intimacy essentials that enhance your sexual well-being. We are on a mission to strengthen your vagina-mind-spirit connection. For our blog series “Humans of Rythm”, we interview founders, thought leaders, and experts in the sexual wellness space and share their responses with you.
Mariah is a Latine sex educator and digital learning designer dedicated to breaking down barriers and ensuring that everyone has access to shame-free, inclusive sex education. She has worked with a variety of organizations to provide school-based comprehensive sex education to individuals of all ages and backgrounds.
She has a passion for making complex topics accessible, relatable and informed by youth to revolutionize the way sex education is delivered. Her social media presence as The Sex Ed Files allows her to accomplish just that. She is deeply committed to creating a world where everyone is valued and respected, regardless of their race, gender identity, or sexual orientation and feels that good sex education has the power to do that.
Read below to learn more about Mariah, a Liberated Libra, awakening comprehensive sex education for everyone
Where were you born, where did you grow up, and how was sex perceived in your culture/household?
I was born in the central valley in California. I am the oldest of 6 siblings and grew up an evangelical Christian that prioritized purity and purity culture. I was 11 when I learned about the importance of “purity” and remaining a virgin until marriage. What was taught to me was that if I didn’t maintain purity, I’d be committing a sexual sin and I wouldn’t be able to form a strong and healthy marriage in the future. They used guilt-inducing analogies such as a chewed up piece of gum or in my case, a flower and a piece of tape and paper to emphasize how I would be perceived by others and God if I didn’t maintain purity. From a young age I felt that my value and worth was tied up in my virginity which is why experiencing sexual assault as a child and teenager left me feeling worthless and confused. I know for me these messages created deep wounds of shame and fear, many survivors experience this. It also made me feel disconnected from my body and disconnected from sex. I could no longer give the “gift of sex” to my future husband, which is what I believed about sex for a very, very long time.
What do you wish your caregiver(s) or guardian(s) had told you about pleasure, relationships, and the female/male body when you were growing up?
The bar is on the floor, I learned nothing and instead was made to believe that a natural, human experience was a bad thing and only reserved from making babies and gifting your husband on your wedding night. My parents and their parents were also taught these things, so I don’t blame them.
What is something surprising about your industry that not many people know?
Good sex education can be life saving. Sex education is not just about what body parts go where. It’s not “intercourse education” like most people believe. Comprehensive and inclusive sex education goes beyond the basic mechanics of reproduction and addresses the broader aspects of sexual health, relationships, and identity. By providing knowledge, promoting responsible behaviors, and reducing stigma, it equips individuals with the tools to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, ultimately contributing to a healthier, safer, and more empowered population, potentially saving lives in the process.
What is the biggest challenge in starting your business/in your industry?
I’ve never started a business. Sex Ed Files is just a continuation of sex education outside of the classroom. It’s an additional resource for adults seeking to continue these conversations, or for folks who never had good sex education. It’s also a space for me to connect with other queer survivors of color.
But as a sex educator, I think one of the biggest challenges I personally face is the stigma surrounding sex and sex education. Many people still view discussions about sex as taboo or inappropriate, which can make it difficult to engage individuals in meaningful conversations about sexual health and wellness. This stigma perpetuates misinformation and harmful assumptions about the people who care about this work. For example, I am constantly being sexualized for simply talking about sex and relationships.
How do you find your rythm in connecting with your mind, your body and yourself? What wisdom can you impart on us regarding lessons you’ve learned along the way to finding your rythm?
For me it’s about having a positive and respectful attitude towards myself and others and being able to make informed and healthy choices regarding my life and sexuality. Whatever allows me to live my life to the fullest and choose my full potential with the resources, access, knowledge and support I’ve been given, which hasn’t always been a lot but enough for me to get to where I am alive. A lot of it involves honoring my boundaries and taking things one day at a time. I also like to move my body, go on walks, invest in my career and community, connect with others, read books, stay hydrated. I also feel like I am learning how to re-parent myself and love myself.
When do you feel the most empowered and alive?
When in community with people who are culturally responsive, compassionate and open to learning. And when I’m teaching which often coincides.
How would you describe your ideal partner/ what’s your type?
Well I have been in a long term partnership for over 10 years so I would say they are my type and ideal partner. Supportive, committed to self growth, committed to being vulnerable with me, curious and understanding of my childhood and trauma, interested in learning and sharing wisdom, open to adventure, culturally responsive, connected to therapy, aware of social power, racism, white supremacy and the patriarchy, an advocate for change, deep care for justice, self aware and true to themselves, comfortable with my independence, independent themselves, excited about life and the little things we can experience together. These are things that describe my partner and are absolutely things I’d look for in any person or romantic partner. These are things that make me feel safe which is especially important to me as it is the only way I feel able to connect with a person.
What are some red flags for you when dating or in a relationship?
Communication is vital in any relationship so a red flag to me is an unwillingness to discuss feelings, avoiding important conversations, or shutting down during disagreements. An unwillingness to compromise and find solutions together is another red flag. Any sort of abuse, control or crossing of my boundaries is a major red flag to me.
What can a partner do to increase intimacy for you both in and out of the bedroom/ the best way to your heart is through…?
Spend quality time with me without distractions. I love being able to engage in activities that both me and my partner enjoy and can build shared experiences. Because we are so busy, we often have to plan to spend quality time together, and I’m ok with that. I don’t think setting aside time to be together in an intentional way cheapens intimacy.
I find I am more excited about intimacy or being close with my partner sexually when there is emotional vulnerability. I want to be able to share my feelings, fears, and vulnerabilities with my partner and I want them to do the same. To me, vulnerability creates a safe space where both me and my partner can express ourselves without judgment which brings us even closer together and leaves us wanting more of that physical closeness.
I also appreciate when my partner prioritizes self-care for themselves. When they are able to take care of their own physical and emotional well-being, it can positively impact our ability to connect with each other.
Intimacy is a journey and as long as both partners are putting in the effort, there is an opportunity for connection and closeness. Every relationship is unique, so what works for me and my partner, may not work for you.
What is your favorite quote for ‘finding your rythm’ or ‘living in rythm’? This can relate to relationships, life, work and/or personal well-being.
Two quotes from Black feminist and activist bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins):
- “There can be no love without justice…abuse and neglect negate love. Care and affirmation, the opposite of abuse and humiliation, are the foundation of love. It is a testimony to the failure of loving practice that abuse is happening in the first place.”
- “When we can see ourselves as we truly are and accept ourselves, we build the necessary foundation for self-love…whether we learn how to love ourselves and others will depend on the presence of a loving environment. Self love cannot flourish in isolation.”
What is your favorite song you are jamming out to these days?
What is your favorite sexual wellness product that you can’t live without? Our definition of sexual wellness is products, tools and supplements that help enable or heighten your sexual well being.
I am always open to trying new things, but I would say sex toys are pretty consistent in my life. I think they’re an incredible tool for pleasure and for discovering what feels good. I’ve loved all external stimulation toys I’ve come across.
You can find Mariah’s work on the following platforms: