One by one, Celeste Holbrook drew crisply folded note cards from a bag on her desk. Moments before, she asked students in Santiago Piñón’s “Introduction to Christian Ethics” class at Texas Christian University to write her a question, any question, they had about sex. 

Alternately, she said, they could jot down a favorite Bible verse, sex joke or anatomical sketch. 

“I got a really great picture of a penis and a vulva that I’m not going to show you guys,” she said, opening a card. “I don’t know who drew it, but it’s really lovely. And I love it. Thank you.”

Holbrook is a sex educator in Fort Worth. She has a Ph.D. in health education from Texas Woman’s University, an education business and a demeanor that both disarms and defies. Her purpose, she said, is to help people feel better in their bodies, and she does so by offering adults the sex education they didn’t get in school. 

“(My dream is) that I leave this world helping people feel more pleasure and more comfortable in their bodies than when I got here,” she said. “I mean, literally, if that was it, like, ‘Man, she helped me feel better.’ If that’s all that I did in this world, I’d be so happy.”

Holbrook is careful to mention she’s not a therapist or clinician, and she works only with adults. As an educator, she emphasizes sex as a pathway for pleasure rather than reproduction. After a season marked by the pandemic, she said, people can benefit from that lens. 

“I think it’s time to kind of reclaim pleasure as something that’s healing, something that is connective, something that is certainly positive, and away from this idea of pleasure being selfish or hedonistic,” she said. “If we can learn how to access pleasure through sex — this very vulnerable, very raw, organic part of our life — we can access pleasure in other ways more easily.”

‘Sex education saved me and my relationship’

Holbrook begins her lectures with her own story: She grew up Christian in a small Texas town and waited to have sex until marriage. Her first time, on her wedding day, brimmed with pain — a trend that continued through her first year of marriage. 

When she sought help from a gynecologist, his prescription was direct: Get pregnant. Childbirth would help relax her vagina, he reasoned. 

Holbrook balked. 

“I needed somebody who could hold my hand and say, ‘I see that you’re feeling shame, I see that you’re feeling resentment, I see that you do not have enough sex education. And all of those feelings are valid,’” she said. 

The moment became a juncture for her career. Back then, Holbrook had been pursuing her Ph.D. in health education and teaching college classes. She pivoted to focus on sex education. In the past decade, she said she’s met with hundreds of couples and taught hundreds of hours of classes. 

“When I tell you that sex education saved me and my relationship, I am not being bombastic,” she told the TCU students. “It actually did save my relationship. And so that’s why I’m so passionate about sex education, now, 16 years later, still married to that same lovely man.”

The anecdote serves as an offering. Holbrook hopes her own vulnerability will welcome others’, she told the Fort Worth Report. 

“I’ll give you this (story) to show you that I’m OK, I’m a trusted person,” she said. “Establishing trust and relationship is showing up regularly … (and) talking about the hard stuff in a way that feels shame-free.”

Here’s how to get in touch with Holbrook:

Phone: (682) 207-1047

‘I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine’

Lessening the grip of shame is a central tenet in Holbrook’s curriculum. She helps people do so through a theoretical framework she calls the Sexual Hierarchy of Needs. 

Like psychologist Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy, Holbrook’s theory begins with the tangible. 

The first level centers anatomy. “You really need to know about your own body in order to experience pleasure,” she said. The next levels address increasingly abstract needs: safety and consent, a sense of love or belonging, feelings of pleasure and, finally, liberation. 

“Liberation looks like defining pleasure for yourself,” Holbrook said. The experience can take many forms: abstinence, monogamy, multiple partners or some other lifestyle. “It could be any of those things, as long as they are yours and not solely defined by outside systems, people or trends.”

Celeste Holbrook teaches people about sex through a theoretical framework she calls the Sexual Hierarchy of Needs. (Alexis Allison | Fort Worth Report)

Piñón, with TCU, invited Holbrook to teach about Song of Solomon, a book of love poetry in the Old Testament. Two lovers narrate, and in their discourse Holbrook found a Biblical model for sexual liberation. 

“We don’t look to the Bible for best practice (when it comes to) good sex. A lot of times we hear about the Bible as a description of what we shouldn’t be doing,” she told the class. “So what I did was, I looked through the Bible, and I thought, there has to be some sort of description of good sex in here somewhere, and I found it in the Song of Solomon.”

Holbrook overlaid the Sexual Hierarchy of Needs on the text, pointing out how each level corresponds with a passage. She highlighted Song of Solomon 6:3: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

Even this well-known verse, she said, signals belonging.

‘Your needs are OK’

Holbrook’s model is brilliant, said Rosanne Hauck, a Realtor in Fort Worth who worked with Holbrook one-on-one for nearly two years. Hauck initially sought the educator’s help in 2019, when she wanted to better understand and improve her connection to sex. 

Hauck, who’s also a professional violinist, said she grew up learning to perform, and that performance mentality fed into how she thought about intimacy. Domestic and spiritual abuse provided further trauma. 

Holbrook helped her ask better questions about what she did and did not want. She helped her discover pleasure. “One, you have needs,” Hauck remembers learning. “Two, your needs are OK, and, three, you can speak about them.”

The exploration of need coincided with a drawing of boundaries, Hauck said. Holbrook helped her lean into what she could safely enjoy. 

“I can expand and I can throw myself out to the sexual world, but there are things that are also going to be a risk healthwise,” Hauck said. “Liberation doesn’t mean an avoidance of healthy choices.” 

Holbrook’s pleasure-focus felt especially apropos. For Hauck, reproduction wasn’t an option: She’d had a hysterectomy and two adopted children.

In the TCU classroom, Holbrook explained her approach. When people have sex, she said, they mostly do it for reasons beyond reproduction. An oft-cited study from 2007 outlined nearly 250 reasons people have sex. Furthermore, she said, not everyone who has sex or wants to have sex can bear a child. 

Hauck witnessed this complexity during one of Holbrook’s pleasure education courses, in which she teaches small groups how to increase their and their partner’s enjoyment of sex. A woman who looked to be in her 70s attended, and she shared that her husband signed her up for the class. 

As they aged, the woman explained, their experience of and communication surrounding sex changed. The couple wanted new ways to engage each other.

For Hauck, the exchange was beautiful and candid. 

“As we age,” Hauck said, “and as we have disability and we have accidents and other things, sex is a part of that. And that should evolve with us.”

‘Her reach is going to be vast’

When Holbrook asked the TCU students to submit a question, she ensured each person wrote something on a card. The process allowed people anonymity, and under its protection they opened like a flower. 

They asked about morality, anatomy and communication. One person asked about porn: Is it healthy? Another, sex education: When should children learn it? A third, sexual ethics: If a guy refuses to wear a condom, should he pay for Plan B? 

For more than 30 minutes, Holbrook answered every question she drew. As the class period came to a close, she thanked the students for their curiosity. “I love all of you,” she said. “I hope you have a wonderful day and great sex for the rest of your life.”

College students are Holbrook’s youngest proteges. Most of her clients are between 30 and 80, and her criteria is wide: “Anybody who’s having sex or wants to be having sex.”

Her work doesn’t get much pushback, she said, but when it does, the criticism stems from both sides of the political spectrum. Some people think she doesn’t advocate for abstinence enough; others, that she’s not inclusive enough. More frustrating, she said, is the digital harassment she receives from men. “It’s really sad,” she said, “and makes me want to do this work even more.”

Holbrook hopes the lessons she teaches adults pass to their children, and she advocates for more sex education in the home. 

“I’d much rather teach parents how to talk to their own kids, because that’s really who the kid is going to listen to the most, right?” she said. “And that’s really my goal: to help empower parents to do that work with their own kids.”

Hauck’s children are 18 and 10. She talks to them about sex, about relationships, about red flags and consent. Her go-to method for the latter is a British video that substitutes tea for sex. 

YouTube video

She’s thankful for the guidance she received from Holbrook. She feels lucky to know her. She knows Holbrook’s stage will only expand from here. 

“We’re lucky that she’s local for us now, because there’s going to be a day where I think she’s international, or at least national,” Hauck said. “Her reach is going to be vast. She has the potential, and I think she’s headed in the direction of someone who is going to change the conversation about sex in America.”

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at or via Twitter.

Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....