Sue Johanson, the outspoken, raunchy and beloved Canadian sex educator and host of the long-running television show “Sunday Night Sex Show” and her American counterpart, “Talk Sex With Sue Johanson,” died June 28 in a nursing home. facility in North Toronto. She was 92 years old.
His death was confirmed by his daughter Jane Johanson.
Sue Johanson was modestly dressed, often in blazers and wire-rimmed glasses, but she had a comedian’s sense of timing and flair, which dampened the hot topics she tackled. (In demos, she had a way of stretching condoms, she was an evangelist to them, reminiscent of a clown making balloon animals.)
And like Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor and one-time Israeli sniper-turned-sex therapist, Ms. Johanson, a registered nurse and mother of three who had run a birth control clinic at a public high school for nearly two decades, he became a media star. in middle age
“I wasn’t young,” she said in “Sex With Sue,” a 2022 documentary about her directed by Lisa Rideout, with Jane as her mother’s interlocutor and creative consultant on the film. “I was not beautiful. I didn’t have bodacious tatas. I was a mother with a lot of information.”
Is it weird putting body glitter on your boyfriend’s testicles? Is it safe to have sex in a jacuzzi? Could a Ziploc bag serve as a condom? If condoms are left in a car and freeze, are they still good? Answers: No. No (chlorinated water is too harsh on the genitals, particularly women’s). Definitely not. And yes, once defrosted.
Every Sunday night, questions came in about straight sex, gay sex, masturbation, and all kinds of fetishes, fantasies, and fears. At the show’s heyday in the early 2000s, operators answered and screened nearly 100,000 calls, though only 10 or 12 made it on the air on any given night.
Sex toy manufacturers shipped their products by box. Ms. Johanson would hand them out to her young team for test drives—“Canada’s Unofficial Sex Toy Testing Facility,” she called them—and show them their features at her desk, reaching into her handbag. hot things”, a black bag adorned with flames, to take out the last offerings. “The good, the bad and the ugly,” she liked to say. (Manufacturers tended to gild the lily, like the company that made a vibrator with a camera on its tip. “It gives a whole new meaning to ‘I’m ready for my close-up,'” Johanson said deadpan.)
A child of the Great Depression, she was thrifty and cost-conscious, often coming up with homemade alternatives. Why not vibrate your cell phone ringer, tuck it into your underpants and make your friends call non-stop?
“I remember her giving a cucumber a handjob,” Russell Peters, the Canadian comedian, said in the documentary. “I never looked at a cucumber the same way.”
Ms. Johanson began her career as a radio host with a hugely popular show on a rock station that ran for over a decade. The “Sunday Night Sex Show” first aired on Canadian television in 1996. In 2002, the Oxygen network commissioned an American version, which aired right after the Canadian show, so Americans could get their chance. The American audience was more timid and naive than his Canadian viewers, Johanson told The New York Times’ Mireya Navarro in 2004; They seemed to lack basic knowledge. Many young women who called wondered if they could get pregnant with oral sex.
“EM. Johanson said she couldn’t ride the subway or stand in line at a grocery store in Canada without being approached to answer the kind of question that would make even frozen chicken blush,” Ms. Navarro wrote. “But in the United States, a much larger market, her growing fan base seems almost shy but mostly appreciative. I think Americans are so polite and respectful that to be recognized is wonderful,” she said. and says, “Hi, I love your show. And that’s where it ends.”
Nevertheless, she was feted on the American talk show circuit, appearing with Jay Leno, Ellen DeGeneres, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien, whom she terrorized one night with the contents of her hot bag: it included a vibrating rubber band. duck, a dildo she strapped to her chin, and a hand-made manual vibrator she’d fashioned from a can fitted with bubble wrap and a sock.
“You’re like a perverted MacGyver,” Mr. O’Brien said, horrified.
“I consider sex a gift from God,” Ms. Johanson told Ms. Navarro. “We are the only ones who can really enjoy sex, so we have an obligation to learn about it and enjoy it.”
Susan Avis Bailey Powell was born on July 29, 1930 in Toronto. Her mother, Ethel (Bell) Powell, was a homemaker. Her father, Wilfred Bailey Powell, was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and worked various jobs. Her mother died when she Sue she was 10 years old and she was raised primarily by an aunt.
She met Ejnor Karl Johanson, an electrical inspector, on a blind date just before entering nursing school at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg; they were married in the early 1950s and moved to Toronto to take over his aunt’s real estate business.
Ms. Johanson opened her birth control clinic in 1970, after a friend of her oldest daughter got pregnant in high school and had an abortion, which was mostly illegal in Canada at the time. “Children have sex without their parents’ consent,” she told a reporter in 1983, “and therefore they should be able to obtain contraceptives without her consent.”
Throughout his career, high school and college students were his main concern. She was a tireless speaker, a regular at college freshman orientations each fall and at hundreds of high schools each year. Her husband, Jane Johanson said, was a reserved and private man, the opposite of his gregarious wife, but he handled his career and his fame with grace and “took it like a champ.” She died in 2014.
In addition to her daughter Jane, Mrs. Johanson is survived by another daughter, Carol Howard; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson. Her son, Eric, died in 2021.
Ms. Johanson also wrote a magazine column and authored three books: “Sex, Sex, and More Sex,” “Sex Is Perfectly Natural But Not Naturally Perfect,” and “Let’s Talk About Sex: Answers to Questions You Can’t do to your parents.” .”
In 2000, he received the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor for pioneers in their field.
Ms. Johanson’s Canadian show went off the air in 2005 and the US version in 2008. About time: the Internet had become the go-to source for questions about sex. As Dan Savage, the sex columnist, said in the documentary on Ms. Johanson, there was a Wikipedia page for every outfit and every sex act, and Ms. Johanson felt she couldn’t keep up. At 77, she was ready but sad to leave him.
“There will be a big hole in my heart,” he said while introducing his final episode in May 2008, his voice cracking. “I love doing this show.”
She added: “I will close with the same quickie condom that we ended the first show with 174 episodes ago: Sex will be sweeter, if you wrap your peter.”