Obituary: Stan Dale, Sexual Pioneer

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Stan Dale, founder of the Human Awareness Institute and leader of hundreds of sexuality/intimacy workshops, died last week at age 78.

I didn’t take to Stan when we first met 17 years ago. He was just too damned happy. And way too loving, considering we barely knew each other. But he was relentless. He had decided we were going to be friends, not just colleagues. Eventually, he melted my heart.

That was the first thing I learned about Stan: the guy was dangerous. And fierce.

Stan sometimes said we were like two sides of a coin—me, educating people out there with ideas, he, moving people in their hearts. I think that’s true. But what a difference in our projects. He was constantly falling in love with the majesty of human intimacy. I was continually angry about some repressive public policy, or cultural hypocrisy. When he saw sexual negativity, he saw an injured person doing their best. When I saw an exploitive Church, a cynical media, a corrupt government, I saw, um, exploitation, cynicism, and corruption.

And I was never satisfied with my work. Stan tried to fix that. He’d point out my accomplishments, reframing them ‘til they sounded grand. I tried to correct him. He’d refuse.

Ultimately, what Stan offered the world was not his ideas, but himself. He treated everyone magnificently. He was infinitely patient. He designed a workshop program that healed people and connected them to each other. He created a little international cultural island on which people could be sexual together, transcending arbitrary limits like age, gender, the meaning of fidelity, the definition of “sex.”

And Stan lived authentically, letting people know of his multiple marriage and unconventional sexual commitments. He answered the same questions over and over and over—from the media, from acolytes, from negative outsiders eager to be titillated or judgmental (typically both). People who didn’t know him personally were often surprised to meet him—a regular-looking guy (except for those exquisite, dancing eyes) with two regular-looking women (ditto the eyes!), talking like regular people—unusually happy, peaceful people. Stan’s life was the best advertisement for his workshops. Everyone who knew him thought some version of, “I’d take any workshop (or medicine or ritual) this guy recommended to be as happy as he is.”

With his worldwide travel, lectures, media appearances, and writing, Stan influenced millions of people. We’re all better off for him having been here. I didn’t always agree with Stan about ideas, meaning, philosophy, or public policy, but I never felt more loved than when I was sitting with him, usually having breakfast at the Sofitel. And as Stan understood, making self-critical people feel loved is pure revolution.

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