In these current times, we’ve been hearing the importance of amplifying melanated voices.

What we haven’t been discussing is, why this representation of melanated (or Black, Indigenous, People of Color) voices matters. Historically, marginalized and oppressed groups and their voices have not been represented in mainstream research or conversations about sex, sexuality, or sexual health care. Instead, black and brown bodies have been misrepresented, hypersexualized, physically abused, and medically mistreated. Race, gender, and sexual orientation have often been controlled with the paradigm of privilege rather than liberty.

Many Americans celebrated Juneteenth and the 4th of July and we will celebrate these for years to come. The key underpinning in both celebrations is freedom – from ideals, politics, and structural systems that bound the ways in which we live. If we have a goal of sexual liberation, we ought to push for representation within the field of sexuality. This representation must include individuals who do not subscribe to the typical (or majority) groups providing sexual information. By this, let me be clear, we need more men and transgender women of color in the field. We need more folk who do not subscribe or conform to heteronormativity or monogamy. We need more individuals who support and respect inclusiveness, justice, and transformative sexuality education.

Ashley Townes

Ashley Townes

PhD, MPH, Epidemiologist at Centers for Disease Control
Dr. Ashley Townes (she/her/hers), is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended Walnut Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati, where she received both her Bachelors and Master of Public Health degrees. She received her doctorate degree in Health Behavior and Epidemiology from Indiana University.

Dr. Townes has experience working as a Community Health Educator and Disease Intervention Specialist in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas. She has worked on several initiatives related to the dissemination of national HIV prevention and care campaign materials tailored for African Americans, Hispanic/Latinx, and transgender women of color. Dr. Townes has taught collegiate-level Human Sexuality courses, served as an Epidemiologist at the Ohio Department of Health, and currently works as an ORISE Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention’s Epidemiology Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, GA.

Ashley’s research background includes work on the sexual experiences of African American/Black women accessing health information and utilizing sexual health services. In 2018, she received grant funding from the Patty Brisben Foundation for Women’s Sexual Health to translate sexual health research data into educational materials. Her career interests are aimed at providing quality sexual education and working towards health equity.