With her wire-rim glasses and grandmotherly demeanour, Sue Johanson seemed an unlikely candidate to be Canadian TV’s foremost sex guru.
But her straight talk about anal, oral and solo sex earned her call-in advice shows a loyal following, first on the radio and later on both Canadian and American TV.
Director Lisa Rideout, who made a documentary last year about Johanson, confirmed Thursday Johanson died at age 93.
People delighted in calling in to “The Sunday Night Sex Show” and its American counterpart “Talk Sex with Sue Johanson” with questions about obscure acts and fetishes in hopes of shocking the matronly nurse, her daughter Jane Johanson said in an interview before the launch of the documentary “Sex with Sue.”
“She was brilliant. She never reacted in a way that was judgmental or disgusted,” Jane Johanson said. “Sometimes she would laugh, or her eyes might lift up in wide-open surprise, but it was lovely that she treated everybody with respect. Their questions were valid, regardless, across the board, doesn’t matter what your fetish or interests might be.”
But all that titillation was in service of a grander mission: destigmatizing sex.
Johanson was of the opinion that informed sex was safe sex.
She spread that message broadly, writing three books on sexuality and touring around Canada to give talks at schools.
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.
In 1974, she started travelling to schools across Ontario to offer sex education and the radio show hit Toronto airwaves a decade later.
After the American version of her show started airing, she became a favourite on the American late-night talk show circuit.
During an appearance on David Letterman’s “The Late Show,” Johanson charmed the host while discussing the anatomy of female pleasure.
”What people don’t realize is that penis size does not matter, because the top two-thirds of the vagina has no nerve endings, there’s nobody home up there,” she said to a roar of audience approval.
In response, Letterman told “Late Show” band leader Paul Shaffer, also a Canadian, not to be embarrassed.
Now, a new generation of sex educators have taken up residence online instead of on TV, said Rideout, who directed the 2022 documentary.
Many of them, she said, were directly inspired by Johanson.
“Her legacy lives on today,” Rideout said.