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Post: Sue Johanson, Canada’s favourite sex educator, dead at 93 – National



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Sue Johanson, Canada’s most beloved and celebrated sex educator, has died. She was 93.

Johanson rose to fame first in Canada with her call-in radio and television programs, both titled Sunday Night Sex Show. A U.S. spinoff followed, called Talk Sex With Sue Johanson.

Click to play video: 'New Doc Explores Life and Work of Sex Educator Sue Johanson'

New Doc Explores Life and Work of Sex Educator Sue Johanson

According to reports, Johanson died in a long-term care facility in Thornhill, Ont., surrounded by family.

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Chances are if you grew up between the late 1980s and early 2000s, you’re familiar with Johanson.

Through her programs, she taught many Canadians how to have safe sex and, also, how to enjoy it. No topic was too tough or taboo for Johanson, and fans found her no-limits style refreshing and funny.

Johanson would wade into conversations, sometimes to the network’s chagrin, about anal and gay sex, fetishes and sexual issues in the queer community, all of which were often considered taboo topics when her show was on the air.

Adding to her appeal and propelling her to stardom was Johanson’s straightforward, no-frills approach to awkward sex talk paired with her grandmotherly looks and razor-sharp sense of humour. (She “DGAF” before the acronym even became a thing.)

What started out as a small and sometimes controversial radio program eventually skyrocketed Johanson to international fame. She made appearances on Arsenio Hall, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien’s late-night talk shows. She was a recurring guest on the beloved Canadian Degrassi TV franchise. And she travelled across the country, appearing as a guest speaker at countless college and university events.

Johanson made her name in Canada and the United States talking about sex on the radio and TV, but she got her start by setting up a birth control clinic in a Toronto high school in 1970.

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In 1974, she started travelling to schools across Ontario to offer sex education and the radio show hit Toronto airwaves a decade later.

Last fall, Johanson was the subject of a feature-length documentary, titled Sex with Sue, which took a peek into how her decades-long career helped shape the way we talk about sex and sexuality today.

The documentary was a collaboration between Johanson’s daughter, Jane, and Canadian director Lisa Rideout, which came together after Jane began capturing conversations with her mother on video in 2016 as a way to preserve some of her memories.

“I grew up with the Sunday Night Sex Show and Sue being my main source of education,” Rideout explained to Global News at the time, adding that she eventually ended up emailing Sue’s outdated website, but didn’t think anyone would write back. “But it just so happened that Jane was making a film and she needed someone. So we like to think the universe brought us together to make the film.”

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Rideout said that while making the documentary, she was surprised to learn just how much people still need sex educators, despite the overwhelming amount of sex content online.

“I thought that today everyone can just Google whatever they want to, they don’t necessarily need these voices. But I learned that people still need people to answer their questions and really assure them that they’re OK in their sexual desires.”

Sue Johanson, now 92, is living a quiet and simple life and enjoying her retirement.

Sue Johanson, pictured in a still frame from the documentary, was living a quiet and simple life and enjoying her retirement before her death.

Courtesy / W Network

Jane told Global News that her mother’s decision to put her show to bed came in 2008 when she realized two things: that her energy was beginning to dwindle, and also that the rise of the internet, including the world of online dating and pornography, was beginning to outpace her knowledge and understanding of many sex topics.

“I think she’s very happy to have stepped out of the limelight so that she can finally rest after the whirlwind marathon that she was on,” Jane said at the time.

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Many of the documentary’s laugh-out-loud moments come from reflections by the crew who worked alongside Johanson on Sunday Night Sex Show. They recount how Johanson would offer sex toys to them, urging them to try them out and report back their findings.

She would spin those crew reviews into a Consumer Reports-style segment at the end of every television broadcast, dipping into her black tote bag covered in flames to pull out dildos, vibrators and anal beads of every style and size.

“She just wanted to talk about sex and make people laugh,” said Jane. “She might have been famous, but she didn’t care. She enjoyed meeting new people. That was it. It’s pretty simple, really.”

with a file from The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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