Rythm on a mission to make you feel good both in and out of the bedroom through safer intimacy essentials. In this series we explore humans who have found their rhythm to share their learnings. 

Up next we have Shadeen Francis, a fellow Gemini, sex therapist  and licensed marriage and family therapist. Her clinical work focuses on demystifying pleasure, building emotional intelligence, and the intersection between sexual wellness and social justice. Shadeen is a sought-after speaker who has been featured on national media platforms like ABC, NBC, FOX and the New York Times, as well as sharing clinical insights with recognized brands like Cosmopolitan, Playboy, Essence, and Tinder, among others. 

Where were you born, where did you grow up, and how was sex (the act) perceived in your culture/household?

I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Toronto. Sex was a taboo subject – so much so that if actors kissed on-screen there was palpable tension in the room. If the kiss lasted more than a few seconds, one of my parents would joke “close your eyes!” and if it started escalating, the channel would almost certainly be changed. Culturally, sex belonged to lewd jokes and innuendos amongst the elders.

What value do you see Rythm offering the world?

I believe that the world is built on the strength of relationships. Being able to share and connect people to resources that support their wellbeing is a liberatory act, and in the space of sexual wellness, being able to intervene on the rampant misinformation, ineffective products, and toxic chemicals is meaningful. I am excited to be a part of Rythm’s growth!

What is your profession and why did you choose to pursue it?

I am a psychotherapist, more specifically a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). I am also a board-certified sex therapist, meaning I am uniquely qualified to support folks through the challenges they may face in their sexual lives, whether that be in their orientation, their desires, their partnered experiences, 

What about your industry surprised you when you were first getting started? What is something about your industry that might surprise those who are not in your line of work?

I was surprised how much taboo and stigma sex therapists face. Coming into the industry with little knowledge about the political controversies around sex in the United States, it was shocking to face barriers in marketing, and on social media.

What are some fun facts about your space that you can share with us?

Despite how much time we spend in relationship to others, most therapists identify as introverts – myself included!

How did you and your partner meet and what was your decision making process for deciding that he was the one?

As true nerds, my husband and I met in the library! Seriously! This was back in undergrad, at a time when neither of us were thinking about being in a long-term committed partnership. I’m not a subscriber to narratives of “the one”, but if there was such a thing, I don’t know that we could get much closer. We had a sweet and easy friendship that blossomed into romance and then life-building. Our evolution has been iterative and natural. To not be together would have been a more active decision.

How do you find your rythm in connecting with your mind, your body and yourself?

I find my rhythm in the quiet, but especially in the silence that I protect after vibrant conversations with others. I am grateful to be surrounded by reflective, vulnerable, creative people – folks I am regularly inspired by. Seeing the world in new ways and then getting to settle into myself and integrate helps me connect to myself more deeply. I have also learned how important movement and writing are to this process for me. Moving helps me feel into the wisdom of my body in real time. As a person with chronic pain, this is not always comfortable, but it has changed the salience of the message I get when I am alone. And writing has been so helpful for me to push myself to really interrogate my thought patterns and bear witness to my emotions with grace.

When do you feel the most empowered and alive?

I feel the most empowered and live when I am surrounded by the immensity of nature: the ocean, the mountains, the desert, the night sky when it is filled with stars. 

What are some red flags for you when dating or in a relationship?

Some common red flags to watch for as you date are failure to take accountability for behavior, leading with criticism, dishonesty, inflexibility or rigidity when it comes to making decisions, disinterest in your feelings and desires, and holding an expectation that you will know that they think or feel without communicating it to you clearly (as a request that you can decline or negotiate, not a demand). 

What is the best piece of relationship advice you have received or would like to give for couples to go the distance?

 Surprisingly, I never received much relationship advice (or at least not much useful commentary). I am a believer that love alone is not enough to make a successful relationship, nor is marriage the peak of intimacy. A meaningful relationship commitment you make to another person is a choice you make each day to be kind, vulnerable, and to collaborate to create lives you both feel fulfilled by. Rather than measuring by titles or timelines, measure your relationship by the depth of your connection.

What is the main issues, concerns that couples come to you with?

 Couples all use the same euphemism to describe almost all concerns: bad communication. This could mean they are fighting constantly after an affair, it could mean one person has shut down after an emotional wound, it could mean they are guarded and don’t speak, it could mean they are fearful of conflict and so aren’t talking about matters of the heart. Truly it could be anything. Mostly what this means to me, in practice, is that their conflict has kept them from feeling intimately connected, and they are seeking support to find a way back together.

What is your favorite quote for ‘finding your rythm’ or ‘living in rythm’?

  “Can we speak in flowers? it will be easier for me to understand.” ― Nayyirah Waheed

What’s your go-to song to get in the mood?

I don’t have a singular go-to song, but I love music with a strong, rhythmic baseline – something that encourages you to move your waist to the beat. I love 90s R&B, some trap and indie hip-hop, and pretty much everything Frank Ocean has put out. Obviously.

What is your favorite sexual wellness product that you can’t live without?

The Almost Naked Lube by Good Clean Love and the Baci by (the now defunct) Lora di Carlo. Don’t worry, I have backups.