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My Journey as a Sexologist: Carine Abou Dahab's, B.A. Sexology

Carine Abou Dahab, a passionate human and a dedicated sexologist with over a decade of experience in sexual health, shares her profound journey in an insightful interview with Habibi Plz....

Carine Abou Dahab, a passionate human and a dedicated sexologist with over a decade of experience in sexual health, shares her profound journey in an insightful interview with Habibi Plz. Raised in a family of immigrants, her exploration of sexual health was met with silence and fear. Despite this, and perhaps because of it, Carine's curiosity led her to study sexology, delving beyond the basics to comprehend the intricate aspects of human identity, emotions, and societal norms. Carine's approach is driven by a deep sense of empathy and a desire to promote understanding in the realm of sexual and relational health. Delve deeper into Carine’s insights below and the invaluable contributions she brings to the field.

So, what exactly does sexology entail?

To me, sexology isn't just about learning the basics of how our bodies work and how babies are made. It's more profound than those simple explanations. Sexology is about diving deep into your own body, feelings, and identity.  In other words, how does one navigate life, mind, body, and soul within the society they live in and the cultural values they choose to uphold.

I come from a family of immigrants, and in our household, talking about sexual health was always met with fear, silence and secrecy. It was a topic nobody wanted to discuss openly, especially when life altering events happened to me. When I was 9 years old, I experienced sexual abuse, but it was never to be spoken about. Then later when I got my period, I was given a 5-minute tutorial on how to put a menstrual pad on and was told a few years after that tampon should never be worn with no explanation as to why. I had too many questions that I couldn’t find the answers to – why is there blood coming out of my vulva? What’s so evil about a tampon? What do you mean I’ll find out after I’m married? (FYI, I’m 39 years old and have never been married. I’m technically still waiting lol). So many questions, and the answers were about how nice girls don’t ask questions…ever. It was considered rude to be curious. Basically, I got the message to shut up and be pretty. I was punished for my curiosity as a child and my need to understand what happened to me. It was my parents’ discomfort, lack of communication skills and clumsy way to protect me that shamed me in thousands of ways. In my story, I now understand that it is not their fault. They reacted in ways that were familiar to them because they didn’t have the knowledge to properly address my questions. This is only one layer of my onion. Don’t worry, my therapist is helping me unpack all those layers. Nevertheless, this layer is all too common for many of us. 

Growing up, the silence only made my internal curiosity grow about human sexuality. It felt natural to study it further. It has helped me realize how some romantic relationships were abusive at the time. I learned that I know nothing about the human condition other than being human. The connections I can make today with nearly all aspects of life in relation to sexual health is astounding; it goes beyond the basics and embraces the complexities of being human.

In today's world, we often focus on gender and pronouns when it comes to sexuality. Nevertheless, it's important not to forget the bigger picture. It saddens me to see that in Canada, where we have the privilege to openly discuss sexual health, many people overlook it and miss out on an opportunity to learn. Or the least to have a reflective dialogue about ourselves, our knowledge and what it is that scares AND reassures us about sexual and relational health. 

In the last 10 years, I’ve given sexual health workshops to approximately 15 000 teenagers. I've come across kids facing really harsh life conditions and realities, such as abuse (in and outside of the home), negligence of their primary needs (food, shelter, etc.), and many living with mental health difficulties and deep-rooted traumas. It's heartbreaking to think that in our privileged Canadian society, we argue about pronouns and refuse to give children this simple safety that we all have the power to give. There are other urgent life-threatening circumstances we can redirect our energy towards and help out with.

This is not to say that pronouns are not important because they are, and this is highlighted by the alarming statistics of suicides, emphasizing their crucial role in mental health. We owe ourselves and everyone a safe healthcare system that recognizes all of us. But how can we promise that, when our healthcare system is in shambles. Which leads to people leaving our public institutions to seek private ones because working 40 hours a week is not sustainable anymore to simply live. For those who can’t afford the private route, they now have to wait 6-12 months minimum for any health or social services which puts them at risk of many other complications. Protests are to bring light and support to the realities of the minority, not against it. No one's rights are infringed when it comes to one human asking to be called by their chosen name and correct pronoun.

You might wonder if I, a cis-hetero woman, fully understand all the complexities of different identities. I admit I don't have all the answers, but I'm here to support anyone who needs it. I am also aware of some of my privileges when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation. Even in a shambled health institution, a health worker will not misgender me. The lack of understanding and inclusive training (sexual and cultural diversity) can create trauma and anguish about the adequacy of our health & social services. Although being a woman does have its challenges in the medical system, one does not discredit the other. My humanity must come first because I recognize the feelings of pain and suffering even if it’s not rooted from the same realities. When a person is at risk of harming themselves, and if pronoun use is a step closer to keeping them alive, then I do it. It’s not about me. It’s about showing a fellow human a kind and loving space where they can simply be themselves.

In other parts of the world there are people struggling to get basic things like food and shelter. Education is not always accessible. We're lucky to be able to think about these advanced ideas, and we need to use our knowledge to help uplift each other, not bring each other down. I had to and still am facing all my biases, my -phobias & -isms (homophobia, transphobia, racism, my internalized -isms…) to make a conscious choice to learn, unlearn and relearn. No one grows up knowing anything and everyone grows up with intergenerational traumas, biases, fear and so on. In the era of technology, we have access to so much information, that it’s not difficult to take a moment to search and listen to the other realities far from our own experiences. Even if it makes us reevaluate everything we thought we knew. When talking to someone, I come from a place of child-like curiosity and love for my fellow human. That is my baseline.

As for the protests and law modifications around sexual health rights and education, I can understand why people are concerned. Learning is not only important, it’s essential. In my home province of Quebec, there have been problems with sex education, and there seems to be fear-mongering around sex-ed. We need to teach people about relationships, trauma and essential life skills such as, communication, boundaries, condom use, etc. Imposing with no dialogue creates fear and powerlessness. And this powerlessness is disarming for many people. Nevertheless, this sentiment creates vulnerability. And vulnerability can be beautiful and create a bonding moment between individuals. A solution is to create learning spaces that are intersectional, intergenerational, diverse, positive and inclusive not only for parents AND children, but for everyone else who is a living human being. With tools that can help navigate this, we can achieve part of our communal objective of having safe spaces for emotionally healthy children. They are our future after all.

Furthermore, we need to build understanding and comprehensive tools to support newly arrived people to navigate the values, the rights and responsibilities of their new country. They come from places where life is different, and they deserve our support and understanding. In my own life experience, it took my mother 3 years to accept that I’m a sexual health specialist. She had to make her own process to understand what it means, and as she’s still learning to understand the scope of it, she accepts it. This brings me to one of my long-term goals, which is to get involved not only with new arrivals (immigrants, refugees, work visas… ) and the new generations, but the BIPOC community as well. Every day I learn and practice to give new and inclusive approaches when it comes to sexual and relational health. Many skills taught in learning institutions omit to be inclusive of the BIPOC communities and realities. The savior complex is highly present in therapy work. This needs to change. The power is with the individual and, if present, the community surrounding them.  They have their own beautiful tools. It’s unlearning the misconceptions of part of their cultures and history that can make it difficult, understandably so. It takes time, but it can be done.

The ongoing protests and changes in laws can be scary for many. People are often afraid of what they don't understand. We need to have honest conversations about complicated topics. It's not just about pronouns; it's about living together peacefully and especially in solidarity. We also need the support of our government leaders to stand behind the collective essential. For example, hiring sexologists, sexual health professionals or even activists to assist and give objective and inclusive information about the topic – it might reduce the confusion, the fear and the anger surrounding sex education programs. I dream of sensitizing professionals (judges, doctors, accountants, dentists, hairdressers…) about sexual & relational health so they can understand the importance of how their support and awareness can be beneficial to their clients and community. We need to stop gatekeeping and care for one another.

While I may not have all the answers, I'm lucky to have access to resources and people who can teach me and work alongside me. I may not face the same challenges as the people I help, but I stand by their side. It's a tough journey, but it's necessary.

In the end, it's all about building a better and more inclusive society. We need to recognize the good and bad in our own cultures and learn from each other. In my position, I choose part of the community aspect that my Egyptian ancestry gives me, but I’m navigating to include individualistic care for me that the Québec culture has. We're all in this together, and together, we can make a difference. 


With love,

Carine A.Dahab

The human sexpert


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