Talking Sex Ed, Shame, & Inclusivity With Andrea Barrica, Founder of O.School
Andrea Barrica is the CEO and founder of O.school, a judgment-free media platform to learn about sexuality and pleasure. Previously, she co-founded accounting and tax platform, inDinero.com. Here, we talk to Andrea about O.school, sex education, and the importance of curriculum specifically for the LGBTQ+ community.
Before founding O.school, you founded a software company that provides financial solutions for startups. What led you from money to sex?
I never planned to work in tech, business, or finance at all. When I was 20, my freshman roommate in college Jessica Mah asked me to help her build an accounting software startup, even though my degree is in linguistics and I was planning on moving to China to become a translator. I wanted to help my friend, so I jumped into the startup world and co-founded a tech finance company, finding myself in charge of both sales and operations. She believed in me, more than I believed in myself, and it changed my whole life’s trajectory. After leaving that startup I became an entrepreneur-in-residence and a venture partner at a Silicon Valley tech incubator, where I coached and invested in entrepreneurs from around the world. It was during this fast-paced period in my life, when I was 24 and struggling with my own sexuality, that I became aware of the real lack of resources and brands between Planned Parenthood and Pornhub. I built O.school to create the sexual health information that we all should have had.
First of all, I LOVE what you are doing with O.school. I grew up going to church and my sexual education was, well, abstinence. And I’ve noticed that I still have some shame and guilt when it comes to my sex life. I get the idea that growing up in a Filipino American, Catholic family, your experience may have been similar. What advice would you give not only to women who are combating these ideas but also to parents who are navigating sex ed discussions with their kids?
Sometimes we need to unlearn old ideas before we can truly embrace new information. If you received messages about shame and guilt in your own upbringing, you can try to become aware of these biases and not pass them on to your kids subconsciously. Try to be intentionally shame-free in your comments on movies, social media, clothing, and culture. Be approachable and curious. Ask your child open-ended questions about their thoughts. “Is dating something you’ve thought about?” Be prepared that “the sex talk” isn’t a one-time thing—it’s an ongoing conversation about sexuality with your family that requires as much listening as talking. Be a curator of good content for your children. Kids soak in information from all kinds of places, recommend reliable, non-judgmental resources about sexuality and encourage your children to talk to other adults you trust.
Why was it important to you to create a curriculum that specifically targets the LGBTQ+ community and communities of color?
A lot of sex ed is focused on straight couples and ignores different ways people experience sex and sexuality. Many LGBTQ+ folks and POC have received harmful messages and misinformation about sexuality stemming from homophobia and racism. If we provide inclusive and diverse content from the start, we open up the conversation and broaden our community, which benefits everyone.
You wrote an article on censorship and sex ed which criticized Apple’s filter for blocking educational content related to sex. Do you think technology is helping or hurting (or both!) the way people today learn about their bodies and sex?
Definitely both. Online resources are helping to provide medically accurate and non-judgmental sexual information to people all over the world. At the same time, these crucial resources are censored by technology, and sometimes what is available, and not censored, contains shaming and violent messages. We don’t need new tech to solve this problem. We can do better with the technology that exists today.
At Blood + Milk, we write a lot of articles based on reader questions, many of which deal with shame, or come from heterosexual women who are very concerned with their male partner’s desire and pleasure. Obviously, this stems from a whole lot of societal issues jumbled into one question, but are there any small steps we can take, questions we can ask ourselves or our partner(s), to give women more agency and confidence when it comes to their bodies and sexuality?
The journey to desire and pleasure doesn’t start with a partner, it starts by yourself. Discover what you like when you are alone so you’ll be able to guide a partner. Get comfortable with your anatomy. Check in with your fantasies and what makes you feel desire. You may find yourself empowered by using a sex toy to explore the kinds of stimulation, speed, and pressure you like. When you know more about yourself, communicate with a partner, providing feedback and suggestions. “Hey I really liked when you did that!” and “Don’t stop. That feels great, keep doing that.” and “Can we switch positions? I have a leg cramp.”
You need to feel confident that you deserve pleasure as well. It’s okay to experience desire, have fantasies, masturbate, and ask for what you want and need from your partner.
What’s next for O.school?
There’s still a lot of taboo around talking about sex and for many, porn seems to have taken over as the first form of sex ed. O.school’s mission is to help billions of people unlearn shame, heal from sexual trauma, develop skill sets to communicate what they want and don’t want, discover new sexual desires, and most of all – own their own desires. Right now O.school is focused on creating medically accurate content that covers a wide range of topics including health, consent, gender, sexuality, dating, sex after trauma, sex and disability, and more.
Thank you, Andrea!