A Conversation with SUE JOHANSON

By Tyler Malone

July 2011

The smoldering Summer hit New York last month, and we here at PMc Magazine published our Hot Issue to coincide with a number of June heatwaves. So how could we turn up the heat even further for our readers this month? Well, we decided the only way to go from hot to hotter was to move from June’s Hot Issue to July’s Sex Issue. Sex, the only thing hotter than heat.

Now, if you’re going to have a Sex Issue, and you’re going to talk sex, you better get the queen of talking sex to do it with you. Otherwise what’s the point, right? So that is precisely what we here at PMc Magazine did. We got Sue Johanson from the classic late night Oxygen sex ed TV show, Talk Sex with Sue Johanson, on the phone for a rare interview. I wanted to find out what she has been up to since retiring from radio and television, hear her talk about “bum sex” and the like, and also see if I could somehow manage to ask a question or two that she, in her long and successful career, had never been asked before.

She was waiting by the phone for me to call, getting ready to go out by the lake–she lives on the beautiful Lake Simcoe, just above Toronto. As she answered the phone, I could tell she wanted to be outside on such a nice Summer day, so the conversation started off slow and I was worried it might not be as fun or funny an interview as I had assumed it would be, but as soon as I hit the record button and we started talking sex she was fully animated, telling jokes and being the Sue Johanson we all know and love. The lake could wait a half hour, she was performing again, teaching again, talking sex again. And there is obviously nothing she loves to do more. She was made for this. One thing that I was lucky enough to discover in our phone chat, that I hope comes across here, is the fact that though she was no doubt sweet, adorable and hilarious on television, she is those things ten-fold when you actually get a one-on-one with her. I couldn’t have had a better, more laugh-filled conversation with a sweeter lady–especially not one that mentions bestiality. And after all these years, she’s just as much of a pistol as she always was, maybe even more so.

Tyler Malone: I know one thing that American audiences want to know is what you have been up to since the end of the show Talk Sex with Sue Johanson?

Sue Johanson: Sue Johanson has been very busy teaching sex and sexuality. I teach at just about every college and university in Canada, just one presentation. It is my attempt to fill in all the gaps or at least some of the gaps that were left by the sex education that they didn’t get at school. So I will talk about things that they wouldn’t talk about in school, like blowjobs, giving head, going down. I will talk about homosexuality, I will talk about the myth of orgasm (the whole idea that a female must have an orgasm every time she has sex–not going to happen), and I will talk about using effective birth control, I will talk about masturbation. So it’s a presentation I do at universities, very well attended, sometimes anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 kids. And then they get a chance to write out questions on a “Dear Sue” question card.

TM: Oh, that’s good.

SJ: Yeah, because they won’t put up their hands and say: “My boyfriend shoots too fast!”

TM: [Laughing] Right.

SJ: But if they write it out anonymously, then I can say: “Don’t they all!”

[Both of us laugh.]

And so I do it that way. So it’s about two and a half hours–my presentation. The kids are wonderful, and I love doing it. So that’s what I do, and then I’m off all summer, you see…

TM: Very nice, so now you get to hang out by the lake.

SJ: I am by the lake, yup.

TM: So what do you think is one of the biggest misconceptions about sex?

SJ: Umm, that…let me see: how should I word it so that it sounds like I know what I’m talking about?

Let’s say it this way: The misconception that the sex you have at 18 is going to be the same as the sex you have when you are 58. You know, the whole idea that you’re going to have this ever-ready penis, and that she is going to have bodacious ta-tas for life.

TM: Right.

SJ: Wrong!

TM: So, on your radio show or TV show, what was one of the weirdest questions you were ever asked?

SJ: Well, one of the funniest ones that just cracked me up was from a little old lady. She was 80 years of age. Her husband had died years ago and now she had a new boyfriend. She wanted to know–and these are her words–”how do I give a blowjob, I have false teeth?!?!”

[Once again, we're both laughing, as happens a number of times throughout the interview.]

And I mean I had never had that question before.

TM: Yeah, that’s a good one!

SJ: And so I said: “Hmmm, okay, what you do is you have your teeth in and you kiss his penis and suck and you lick and you blow and then…you turn the lights out. With the lights off, you take your teeth out, give him a blowjob, and then put your teeth back in, turn the lights back on, and you did good lady!”

TM: You seem pretty uninhibited and open-minded, like you could talk about anything, toothless blowjobs just being one of many of those things others would perhaps shy away from discussing, and I think that is part of your charm and why you’ve been so successful. It seems like nothing is taboo with you. Was there anything that was off limits that you wouldn’t talk about on air?

SJ: Yes, we would not talk about bestiality, necrophism (sex with dead bodies), and yeah, things like that. Now I will talk about abortion–I am pro-choice!–and I’ll talk about almost anything else, but just things that are really abnormal I won’t talk about. I will talk about S&M and all the rest of that stuff, that’s no problem. But I won’t talk about bestiality, or yeah…[she trails off...]

TM: So we’ve covered what you won’t talk about, but what is one of your favorite topics to talk about? Or your favorite sex word you get to say?

SJ: Yes.

TM: Yes? I like that. That’s a good word.

SJ: Yes, that’s my favorite word.

TM: So I think part of your charm is, as I’ve said, that you’re uninhibited and open-minded, but I think also some of that charm comes from the fact that you’re this adorable older lady so I think you can say things–especially on American TV–that I think if it were said by someone else people might be embarrassed or offended and might not be as apt to tune in. Would you agree with that statement?

SJ: Yes, there is no doubt that the reason I am able to get away with murder–and I’m not kidding, I DO–is because I am older. If I was a cute, young chicky-poo, with huge boobs, and I said the things that I say, people would take it as titillating, and that is not the idea. So I am mature, older–I’ve been around the block a few times. I am a nurse, so I know a lot. And nothing embarrassed me. Nothing phases me. So it’s much easier to do it under those circumstances. I have kids too, so I know how teenagers think. Been there, done that.

TM: Exactly. Well, I know a common question you got on Talk Sex was “What’s the best way to spice up a boring sex life?” So that’s a question I want to put to you, even though I’m sure you’ve answered it a million times: What are some of the best ways to spice things up in the bedroom?

SJ: Um, first and foremost: HAVE FUN! So you have to think of fun things to do. Think: Have you ever dressed up as a doctor? Have you ever dressed up like a nun? Have you ever dressed up like a prostitute? And had fun?

Have you ever had sex in the nude in the dark crawling around on all fours on the floor? Now, have you ever done that, Tyler?

TM: I can’t say that I have.

SJ: See, that might be fun, you know. You just turn out all the lights, pitch black, and crawl around barebutt naked on the floor.

TM: That could be fun. That could spice things up. Now I know one thing that you’ve often brought up as a way to spice things up is to bring toys into the equation. What are some of the best sex toys you can recommend?

SJ: Well, there are a lot of sex toys–and they keep coming out with new ones. But my recommendation for sex toys is to start out and buy small and buy cheap and buy silent ones. I tell students, buy quiet ones, especially if you live in residence. You don’t want the whole dorm saying: “Oh my god, she’s at it again!”

TM: Are there certain sex acts or sex toys that you don’t recommend–that are either pretty big on the market or that a lot of people do or use, but that you think are probably not the healthiest or best things to do?

SJ: Oh yes: the double-ended vibrators. You know the ones that go…well, there’s one specific one that is out that just terrifies me: one end goes into her rectum, one end goes into her vagina and one end goes into his rectum. Now that scares me. That really scares me. And let’s not get our ends mixed up because then you’ve got…oh yeah…you know it, I don’t wanna go there…

That is another topic that is controversial, nobody will talk about it in school. You watch Dr. Oz or you watch Dr. Phil or any of those shows, they will never talk about bum sex, anal sex. And yet, you know, our kids are doing it–whether we like it or not.

TM: I think that’s what a lot of people like about your show and what sets you apart is that you talk about the things that are happening, whether they are PC to talk about or not. Things that are happening need to be talked about, even if they are taboo…

SJ: Absolutely! I’ve gotten to this stage, to this point, where I know where it’s at. When kids write to me questions: “How do I talk my girlfriend into letting me have bum sex?” When 1/10th of the questions I get today are about bum sex, then I know we’ve got a problem. And that’s the way it’s been. One in every ten questions from both males and females are about anal sex. Now if that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, nothing will…

TM: Do you think that’s because…well, obviously part of that is because anal sex is becoming more popular and, I guess, accepted as standard practice, but don’t you think it is also that people are asking those questions more now because it is the one thing that is still taboo, so they feel the need to ask more questions about it because it’s one of the few things they have trouble finding actual good information about?

SJ: You’re right. You’re absolutely right. It’s the last taboo. The main taboo used to be getting a blowjob, but now, hey, they do that on the first date. So now the taboo is–and well a guy thinks he has scored big if he gets it–bum sex.

TM: That definitely is how it is seen these days, for sure.

SJ: But that scares me if they’re not practicing safer sex. And you’ll notice I say safer sex because there’s no such thing as safe sex. Safe sex is no sex or sex all by yourself. One or the other. But that really scares me, the prevalence of bum sex, yeah…

TM: So you’re from Canada obviously, but you’ve had shows for both the Canadian audience and the American audience, so how would you characterize the difference in how Canadians and Americans look at sex?

SJ: I don’t see too much of a difference. The only place I see a tremendous difference is in the level of sex education. Americans have, unfortunately, allowed the Religious Right to dictate what can and can’t be taught. And boards of education and principals and schools and teachers are reluctant to take it any further. So while Canadian kids don’t get tremendous sex education, they get much better sex education than Americans. When I started doing the American show, with American calls only, I noticed a tremendous difference. I had to go back almost all the way to anatomy and physiology and basically start all over again.

TM: I think in America sex ed has sadly become a political issue rather than an educational issue which I think is the wrong way to go about it.

SJ: Definitely. And it is so unfair to expect parents to do it because…well…could you talk to your mother about orgasm?

TM: Right, that’s the last person you want to talk to about it…

SJ: Absolutely. And I love my kids very, very much, but talking to them when they were young teenagers, they would look at you like: “Mother, did you do that?!?” And what do you say to them: “Yes, I did, I do, regularly.”

TM: Speaking of that, what do your kids and grandkids think about your show and your fame and just what you do in general?

SJ: They don’t pay any attention. Now I’ve done it for so long. I taught them in their schools. I would get books for kids, and I can read a book that’s for a kid, but I’m an adult, so it doesn’t work. So I’d give the books to my kids, and then my grandchildren, and tell them to read it and tell me what it was like. So they got good sex education. My grandkids’ mother was very open to it because she knew that if they didn’t do it, I was gonna do it, and god knows what they’d learn from their grandmother.

TM: So you mentioned earlier that over your career the prevalence of anal sex has grown, but what else has changed over the course of your career from your nurse and clinic days and into your radio and television career? Have views on sex changed a lot over that time?

SJ: Oh yes! Females should become, and have been becoming, much more assertive about condom use. I’m finding that many females now are saying: “No condom, no sex!” That simple. If they don’t have a condom they just give him a blowjob and send him on his way. It really has changed.

Females now are going on the pill, they’re getting good methods of birth control. Unfortunately, they don’t always take the pills as prescribed, or they forget to take pills, and then they get pregnant, but generally females are becoming more assertive, more in control, more able to lay down the law, more protective of themselves.

TM: Do you think we’ve become more open-minded about talking about sex? Or less open-minded?

SJ: Less. Because you see no young female wants to say to her boyfriend: “Oh touch me here! Oh man that feels really good!” She wants to play innocent and sweet, and pure as the driven snow. She’s not supposed to know what feels good. And he’s gonna look at her and say: “Where the hell did you learn that?”

TM: Okay. Here’s a fun question that if it crosses the line feel free to not answer, but you’re so open to anything, I figured I might as well ask: What celebrity would be in your sex fantasy?

SJ: Hmmm…gee whiz. In all my years, and all my interviews, I have never been asked that…whew…

TM: I wanted to ask something you’d never been asked, so–

SJ: I’d have to say George Clooney–

TM: He’s a good-looking gentleman.

SJ: He is, and he is not too young, but not old. He has got a mischievous look about him, just a little bit of the imp–bad boy–that appeals to me.

TM: Okay, I know you have to get going to the lake, so for the last question let me just ask: If you hadn’t gone into this career, what do you think you’d be doing?

SJ: Oh my god! Oh dear! That is another really good question! What would I do?

I would do something–because I’m a bit of trouble-maker–I would probably do something political.

I was a nurse, so I would probably do something along the lines of pushing for Planned Parenthood. If I hadn’t been running a clinic, that’s what I would have been doing. So it would have been much along the same lines, and it would have been controversial, and it would have been something outspoken. Yeah, I think that is pretty much what I would have done.

TM: Very nice. Well, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to me, I greatly appreciate it.

SJ: Thank you very much for the interview. You’ve done a good job, you really have. And I hope they appreciate your talent over there at PMc Magazine.

TM: Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say. You’re as sweet, adorable and hilarious as you always were on tv. Have a great time at the lake today.

SJ: Will do.

Sue Johanson is a sex educator and radio/tv personality, best known in America for hosting the show Talk Sex with Sue Johanson, which aired on the Oxygen channel from 2002 to 2008. Though she has retired from tv and radio, she still gives talks to college-age students around Canada, where she is from, and where her career began.


Talk Sex with Sue Johanson

Sue Johanson interviewed by Tyler Malone

Written by Tyler Malone

Photography by David Leyes / Courtesy of Sue Johanson

Design by Marie Havens


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Sue Johanson, “Talk Sex” Screenshots

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Sue Johanson, Photography by David Leyes / Courtesy of Sue Johanson

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