Dr. Sadaf Lodhi says it’s pretty shocking how little direct training physicians — even OB-GYNs like her — typically receive on the subjects of sex and intimacy. In med school, she recalls just a few hours on the subject, and that centered on the classic Masters and Johnson sex studies conducted in the 1950s and ’60s. Add to that the fact that most people are hesitant to discuss their sexual health problems with their doctors, and Lodhi says you basically have a culture that’s not talking frankly about a fundamental aspect of our humanity.
A few years ago, Lodhi decided to make a professional pivot to create a space for people to have candid, honest and productive conversations about sexual health. While maintaining her practice as an OB-GYN, she launched a career as a women’s sex and life coach, focusing on intimacy and healthy relationships. Based in New York, Lodhi works with women of all backgrounds, though she has a particularly strong roster of clients who are eager to find ways to combine sex and intimacy with their Muslim faith. “This doesn’t apply just to Muslim women, but many Muslim women grow up with negative views of sex,” she says. “You think it’s taboo, it’s shameful, it’s dirty. Some women think it’s a chore or a wifely duty, but not something they should enjoy.” As a Muslim herself, Lodhi often leans on interpretations of Islamic teachings to break things open. “Islam is a very sex-positive religion,” she says. “Women actually have sexual rights in Islam. They have a right to sexual pleasure, and women can divorce if they’re not sexually satisfied. The Prophet Muhammad even talks about how it’s very important for a man to satisfy his wife, including foreplay.” Lodhi says these perspectives are often transformational for her clients, because it opens up philosophical grounds to reconcile a commitment to religion with their desires for great sex lives and intimate relationships.
One of Lodhi’s latest projects is helping spread this message of sex positivity beyond her community of clients. Launched in 2021, the “Muslim Sex Podcast” is a sex-positive show that’s definitely “not just for Muslims.” Episodes feature expert interviews on to-the-point topics like “Intimacy and Cancer” and “Sexual Health, Wellness and the Clitoris.” One guest you may not have expected on the podcast: UM-Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso, who appeared on an episode back in April to talk up UM-Dearborn. “I just really wanted to highlight my alma mater,” Lodhi says. “Dearborn was the place where I really grew into myself. I felt proud of being a Muslim, because I was no longer the minority, which is how I often felt in high school. There were people there who looked like me, and I didn’t have to constantly explain who I was and what I did. It impacted my self-confidence and I really came to appreciate who I was as a person.”
Don’t be shocked if Lodhi someday ends up back in a higher ed setting, perhaps as a guest lecturer. As someone who sees learning about sexual health as a lifelong endeavor, she’d love to see candid, practical sex education be an integral part of a university experience.
Story by Lou Blouin