By: Sabrielle Lezeau
Sabrielle is the creator of illrotic - "a platform I created to have a cool, non-judgmental space to speak about our sex lives. As a black woman I wasn't raised to embrace my sexuality and now I'm unlearning those things and loving all aspects of sex and I want all black people, women, everyone to feel this liberated". We sat down with Sabrielle to learn more about the woman behind this amazing platform, and how she became interested in this space in the first place!
The Sensualist: Generally speaking, what was your childhood like? Where did you grow up?
Sabrielle: My childhood was great! My parents are immigrants from Haiti, came over in their 20s and my sister and I are their pride and joy.
I was born in Brooklyn, NY raised in Philadelphia, PA. I grew up surrounded by my family, I have a lot of cousins, and we all lived within a few miles of each other. This instilled the idea that family is everything in me.
TS: What family dynamics influenced how sex treated in your family? What were the conversations like around those topics? Was sexuality/exploration/curiosity encouraged or discouraged?
S: My parents are Haitian and there seems to be no wiggle room in ways to be raised in our culture. They are known to be strict and religious, although my parents were more relaxed than others, they raised me to be a woman that got her education, married and had children because that’s all they knew.
As an adult I can see they just never knew any other way but we don’t have to abide by these make believe rules. I was always torn because I love my mom so much and want to be just like her in many ways because she’s strong, fun and beautiful but could never fully subscribe to the typical woman role they wanted for me.
I am very much assertive and independent, submissive when I want to be. My mom gave me a hard time when it came to my love of sneakers versus sandals and short hair versus long hair but she let me have my way in the end.
My younger sister and I were raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools so that was another layer of sexual repression! They pounded abstinence and the lord in our heads everyday.
My understanding of sexuality really didn’t come til I started watching porn when I was young my older cousins just turned it on and although I didn’t truly understand the actions I did understand that something intimate was going on.
There were no insightful conversations about sex in my house, I only heard about it from my parents when I was 15-16, my mom said in more or less words - DO NOT have sex or you will get pregnant and ruin your life and disappoint your parents.
My dad on the other hand said to wait to have sex once I am old enough to face the consequences, because there are lots of consequences; and that women have virtues that we shouldn't just give to anyone. Neither conversation helped me understand sex fully, they scared me but didn’t stop me from being curious. lol
Sex conversations were not a thing, but I’m sure I could have asked my parents questions..that was just the last thing on my mind! I talked to my friends or snuck more porn to feed my curiosity.
Then I finally had sex at 16! Sexual curiosities and exploration was definitely not encouraged, I wish it was. I know I would raise my children to be sex positive.
TS: At what time in your life, and why, did you find yourself more curious to learn about sex, sensuality, your body, women's empowerment?
S: My curiosity about my body started when I was very young, maybe around 7-8 yrs old. I would touch myself and notice what felt good. I got more into sex and sensuality in my twenties; I had my own apartment, purchased sex toys, watched porn for pointers.
Women's empowerment started around the same time when I realized I was always the friend talking about sex but my girlfriends wouldn’t be as brave share… I asked why? Those conversations made me see very clearly that most women are not raised to embrace their sexuality and be proud of their bodies and their sexual choices. I wanted us to rebel and have the conversation and share our sexual experiences. Once we did we noticed we all had similar concerns and stories.
TS: You’ve lived in several different locations/countries- do you find that people are more open to talking about sex and empowerment in certain places or not?
S: From my experience I noticed black men and white people always seemed the most comfortable talking about sex.
As I got older and living in NYC began to meet more women who found their voices and spoke openly about sex and empowerment. I knew I wanted to be like that. So I would say age and gender make people more open to sex and empowerment.'
TS: How did the idea of illrotic come about? What was the motivation behind starting it?
S: illrotic came about when my curiosities sparked in my twenties and I noticed my other girlfriends were shy or embarrassed when it came to sex. I wanted to make a comfortable, fun platform to talk about our sex lives. I love sex and Iove discussing it, learning, hearing different perspectives etc.
illrotic started off as written pieces. I’d write on specific topics such as anal play, dirty talk or sex in public or erotica pieces based on sexual moments I had.
Then it turned into a podcast; I had a co-host named Kino one of my long time friends, I loved him because we always discussed our sex lives and he never judged me or treated me differently.
Now illrotic is an Instagram Live show that comes on every Wednesday 10pm EST; former Stimulus TV show on Twitch, and I will continue the podcast as well.
I feel the illrotic Lives have been my most successful outlet because my followers get to see me as well as hear me and be a part of the conversation instead of just hearing what I have to say. I really enjoy the dialogues that happen with guests that come in and within the comment section.
My next steps: I want to heal through illrotic and I believe that healing will be in the form of open dialogue, sharing, connecting, laughing, crying all of the above. So I would love illrotic to turn into physical events where people can come together to discuss different topics. I'll bring experts and guest speakers and everyone will know this is the space for sexual exploration, learning, connecting/sharing and fun!
I am professionally an event producer and artist manager when I am not working on illrotic. I worked in corporate fashion retail for years before this.
TS: How has being a black female in the sexual empowerment arena inspired/motivated/challenged you generally? And any specific stories that you’d like to share around that conversation?
S: Being a Black woman in the sexual empowerment world is motivating! When I started illrotic I didn’t hear or see many people that look or sound like me in podcasts. So it was motivating to get that lane going, and as I’ve grown with illrotic I am seeing more Black women speaking, teaching and encouraging sex which makes me so happy!
Some of my challenges were my own self doubt. At first I didn’t know if people even wanted to hear me talk about sex. I wasn’t raunchy or a sex educator but I do my research and make the conversation fun!
Another challenge is finding erotic pages with diverse content. I love erotic art and photos but it’s been a struggle to find Black representation. I have intentionally sought them out and continue to post them. Black bodies are sexy, our skin is beautiful and our energy is powerful.
TS: What are ways that brands and companies in the sex wellness industries can get more in touch with their underrepresented communities (BIPOC, non-binary gender identities, queer, etc.) and make those people feel more safe when they do represent them?
S: Brands/companies can get in touch with underrepresented communities by actually getting in touch with them! Everyone wants a platform to represent their communities but it needs to be done in the correct way. Never bring these people into your brand or company because it’s trendy with no intention of being consistent. We can see right through that and it’s disgusting.
In light of everything thats been going on the best thing to come out it will be when they truly reform the idea of policing. And the awareness and accountability that brands and companies have been taking. I just pray that it continues and grows.
Ways to make sure you're hiring accordingly is to make sure applicants and interviews are diverse. Make sure the job opportunity is put out there so all people can see it and have the opportunity to apply. Make sure your company IS diverse, if I see a job and go research the company and it’s a sea of white faces it can be discouraging.
How to make sure people are safe when representing them... I think that comes with being genuine and intentional with it. Take accountability and say you haven’t always been the most diverse but we want to grow and fix it, then put that person or people in position to have a say at your brand/company.
TS: Has being in a long-term partnership changed your ideals or perceptions of what sexuality/sensuality means to you?
S: Being in a long-term relationship has changed my perception of sexuality/sensuality, it has shown me more about sensuality and how important energy is when it comes to sex.
TS: If you could talk to yourself as a little girl, as a teenager, as a young adult- what advice would you give her/them knowing where your life has taken you?
S: Advice to my younger self would be - You’re beautiful! Stay curious, embrace your sexuality and be confident. I’d also stress to love your body!
You can find Sabrielle's work here:
Photos by Justin Rosenberg