Inquisitive, beloved Canadian sex educator Sue Johanson dies aged 93 | Canada

Sex educator Sue Johanson, who once declared that “horny is a beautiful thing,” has died at the age of 93 after more than two decades of giving frank advice to audiences in Canada and the US.

Johanson gained an international audience with her plainspoken guidance to Canadians on her radio and TV programme Sunday Night Sex Show – and then Americans on her Talk Sex programme.

She died in a long-term care home in Thornhill, Ontario.

Lisa Rideout, the director of a 2022 documentary on Johanson titled Sex With Sue, confirmed her death on Thursday. Paying tribute in a post on Instagram, Rideout called Johanson “an incredible, unstoppable force” who “paved the way for how we talk about sex and sexuality today”.

Johanson’s curly grey hair, wire-rimmed glasses and pragmatic wardrobe were a jarring contrast to her blunt, sometimes playful and often explicit takes on sexuality.

“She was a giant, and had such a positive impact on the lives of so many people,” wrote prominent sex advice columnist Dan Savage on Twitter.

Johanson was venerated as a forthright educator who filled gaping voids left by the absence of sex ed curricula at schools across Canada and the US.

She began her career as a nurse, opening a pioneering birth control clinic at her daughter’s Toronto high school in 1970, just a year after birth control became legal in Canada (and 18 years before abortion was legalised). She opened the clinic because she felt there was a lack of access to contraception in the area.

Not long after, she began travelling around Ontario to deliver sex education to students across the province. In the early 1980s, she took her mission to the airwaves, debuting her Sunday Night Sex Show on Toronto radio station Q107.

It wasn’t long before she became a well-loved Canadian sex icon for her open-minded and inquisitive approach to all things sex – including fetishes, gay sex, anal sex and other aspects of sexuality. Her television programme often featured dildos and a variety of other sex toys.

In 2022, her daughter Jane Johanson told Global News that growing up was fairly normal – until she entered high school. “She was just a mom. But once I became a teenager and she opened up the Don Mills birth control clinic for teenagers, that was it – the roof blew off,” she said.

“I don’t think I’ve run into anyone who hasn’t said that Sue has changed their view of sexuality and what they did to enhance their sexual life,” she added.

Johanson’s Canadian TV programme went national in 1996 and ended in 2005. Talk Sex, the US version of her TV show, meanwhile, ran from 2002 to 2008.

She did not dial it back as she grew older. If anything, her takes on sex became spicier with age.

In a 2006 appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, she made the host and actor Ray Romano visibly uncomfortable when she said, “Men are convinced that to be a good lover they’ve got to have this humongous penis with an erection that is so rigid you can strike matches on it,” as she made illustrative gestures with her hands.

“I’m lucky I make a lot of money,” Romano answered.

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