Cindy Pierce

Cindy Pierce, a sexual educator and comedic storyteller, was the speaker at Wednesday’s “Let’s Talk About It” virtual event. (Courtesy photo)

The San Miguel Communities that Care Coalition, in partnership with Tri-County Health Network, held a Zoom event with Cindy Pierce Wednesday night. Pierce — who is a social sexuality educator, comedian, storyteller and author — hosted the “Let’s Talk About It” virtual event, as the hour-and-a-half Zoom was a “conversation about social media and party culture through the lens of comedic storytelling,” according to a news release.

Pierce is one of the few people who can successfully combine sex education and comedy to connect with people of all ages. She often speaks to specific age groups, including middle school, high school, college students, as well as parents and educators. The Wednesday event was recommended for adults and children ages 12 and up.

“I weave stories into any and all points I make in my presentations and for people of all ages and groupings,” Pierce said. “My research is ongoing and informed by recent studies, new work in my realms of topics and what is most relevant for the young people with whom I work.”

There were over 50 attendees on the Zoom conversation. High schoolers, middle schoolers and parents alike logged in at 6 p.m. One parent attended with their 13-year-old and watched the talk together.

One of the keys to Pierce’s success is her comedy-driven storytelling and open personality. Seth Berg, a Telluride local and Pierce’s close friend, recalled when he first met Pierce in the 1980s at Burke Mountain Academy, a college preparatory school in Vermont. Berg was a school director, and Pierce was a teacher and coach. In their off time, Pierce would tell hilarious sexual stories and keep the faculty laughing.

“In that decade, few people had the nerve to share their personal misadventures. This blatant honesty was especially rare in mixed company and was completely hilarious,” Berg said. “At parties, everyone was captivated by her and encouraged Cindy to become a stand-up comedian. She combined this talent with sex-ed and created the perfect career for an unabashed storyteller.”

Years ago, becoming a sexual educator and comedian was not on Pierce’s radar. She and her husband, Bruce, were busy running an inn and raising three kids. It wasn’t until she spent a few days in Colorado with some old ski racing friends who encouraged her to start sharing her stories and doing some stand-up that Pierce began to take the thought of telling her stories to a broader audience

seriously. Her first stand-up show was in the living room of their family-operated inn.

Not long after, she started speaking to college students about sexual well-being, which evolved into adding talks for middle and high school students. Pierce found young people to be more receptive and open to hearing her talks, especially when humor is involved.

“Many young people are so desperate for answers that a random old lady who seems to be willing to discuss just anything with humor and comfort is a reliable place to put themselves out there. They feel heard, understood, and get answers and a list of additional resources,” Pierce said.

Jesse James McTigue, who was a student at Burke Mountain Academy when Pierce and Berg were there, remembered Pierce as “energetic and funny.” As a teenager at the time, Pierce’s stories resonated with McTigue.

“She was always very comfortable talking about issues around sex that were totally age-appropriate and empowering for both teenage boys and girls,” said Mctigue. “A lot of her message was around communicating with your partner, which is awkward as a teenager, so she tried to normalize the conversation.”

Wednesday's Zoom event featured the importance of having conversations about hookup culture, the party scene, how to help kids develop healthy sexuality in a porn-driven world, and how best to go about and promote social courage within young people.

Berg believes people are more open to listening to what Pierce has to say because she “prides herself on being an average American woman.”

“It would be uncomfortable if a supermodel spoke to us about the prevalence of pornography, but Cindy can do this naturally because she's just like one of our neighbors,” Berg said.

Many of Pierce’s discussion topics were directed towards helping parents guide their teenagers or young adults through the convoluted waters of sexual education and the party scene. However, despite the focused direction, all attendees, no matter the age, could relate to and take in Pierce’s talking points.

This ability to reach across all ages and audiences is partly due to Pierce’s engaging and animated movements during her talks.

“She speaks with her whole body and has wild arms. It’s almost like she is acting out what she is saying,” McTigue said.

Before the pandemic, Pierce was an in-person speaker, but now she primarily presents online via Zoom. Pierce, who has been giving talks for over 17 years, doesn’t let the screen hinder her animated movements and strong connection with the viewers.

“I like having a gallery of faces right there with me,” Pierce said. “If they want to space out, be on their phone, be anonymous or do other things, they turn off their camera, which is fine. There are always enough faces to gauge their engagement.”

According to Pierce, the best part of presenting on Zoom is that she doesn’t have to “wear lady shoes.” Instead, she can present in sweatpants and flip-flops.

“Even deodorant is optional,” Pierce said.

Even though she wasn’t physically in Telluride during Wednesday’s event, Pierce has connections with town, as her older sister used to live in Telluride.

“A lot of what she taught me while we skied every day and danced every night for a week in this little town became the seeds to the work I do now,” Pierce said.

In addition to her talks, Pierce has poured the information and experience she has gained into writing. She is the author of “Sexploitation: Helping Kids Develop Healthy Sexuality in a Porn-Driven World” and “Sex, College and Social Media: A Commonsense Guide to Navigating the Hookup Culture.” Her TEDx Talk, “How Porn Skews Sexual Expectations,” has over 16,000 views on YouTube.

“In the end, Cindy's talks are not actually about sex,” Berg said. “They are about feeling good, feeling safe and feeling supported in whatever conscious choices you make.”