Sue Johanson

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Susan Johanson
Johanson speaking at the University of Alberta
Johanson speaking at the University of Alberta
BornSusan Powell
(1930-03-13) March 13, 1930 (age 92)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • Registered nurse
  • public speaker
  • sex educator
  • writer
Alma mater

Susan Johanson CM (née Powell; born March 13, 1930) is a Canadian sex educator, public speaker, and registered nurse.


Early life and career[edit]

Johanson was born Susan Powell in Toronto, Ontario, to Wilfrid Powell, a decorated British war hero,[1] and an affluent Ontario-born Irish Protestant mother, Ethel Bell.[2] Her great-uncle was Lord Baden-Powell.[citation needed] Her mother died when Johanson was ten.[2] Johanson attended nursing school in St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, graduating as a registered nurse.[3] Soon after, she married a Swedish-Canadian electrician named Ejnor Johanson.[2] They had three children: Carol, Eric and Jane.[2] The family moved to North York, where Johanson kept house and raised her children.[4]

In 1970, Johanson opened a birth control clinic in Don Mills CI high school, the first of its kind in Canada.[2] She worked there as coordinator for 18 years.[5] She continued her education at the Toronto Institute of Human Relations (a postgraduate course in counseling and communication), the University of Toronto (family planning), and the University of Michigan (human sexuality), graduating as a counselor and sex educator.[6]

Radio and TV programs[edit]

Johanson first achieved popularity as a sex educator and therapist hosting her own show on rock radio station Q107 during the 1980s.[7] The show, entitled Sunday Night Sex Show, transitioned into a TV talk show of the same name on the community television, Rogers TV in 1985.[4][7] In 1996 it became a national show on the Women's Television Network (WTN).[6] It ended in 2005.[8]

In January 2002 reruns of the show began to be replayed to American audiences on Oxygen Media.[2] The recorded program was very popular, but American viewers missed the opportunity to call in and ask their own questions.[2] The U.S. version of Sunday Night Sex Show, called Talk Sex with Sue Johanson, produced especially for American audiences, debuted in November 2002 on Oxygen.[2][6] Talk Sex with Sue Johanson was divided into several segments, all covering the following topics: sexual life, love and relationships. Call-in segment included viewers' live calls with questions being answered by Johanson with discussions on a variety of sex topics. The show also included a sex quiz, a sex poll where viewers could vote via the internet and see the results at the end of the episode, and included important sexual news and information.[citation needed]

On May 7, 2008, it was announced that the next Sunday night's episode of the show would be its last, ending the show's run after six seasons.[9]

Johanson has made appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.[10]


Johanson appeared in two episodes of Degrassi High and two episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation. She played Dr. Sally, a radio host and sex educator that basically was a version of the real life Johanson. During her Degrassi High appearances, she was famously one of the early supporters of The Zit Remedy, a band fronted by Joey Jeremiah (played by actor Pat Mastroianni).[11]


A full-length documentary about Johanson was released in 2022. Entitled Sex With Sue, the documentary chronicles Johanson's life story, directed by Canadian documentarian & filmmaker Lisa Rideout.[12]


Johanson is the author of three books: Talk Sex (ISBN 0-14-010377-5), Sex Is Perfectly Natural but Not Naturally Perfect (ISBN 0-670-83856-X), and Sex, Sex, and More Sex (ISBN 0-06-056666-3).[13] All of them cover the sex topics from different points and include the detailed answers of the most delicate questions asked commonly about sexual life, Johanson's advice and health information.

Johanson was also the author of a weekly column published in the Health section of the Toronto Star newspaper.

Awards and honours[edit]

Johanson's work educating and informing the public about birth control and sexual health earned her Canada's second highest civilian honour (after the Order of Merit), appointment to the Order of Canada in 2001, for lifetime achievement.[14] In 2010, Johanson was presented the Bonham Centre Award from the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies for her contributions to the advancement and education of issues around sexual identification.[7]


  1. ^ "Powell, Wilfrid Bayley". Kenora Great War Project.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Deziel, Shanda; George, Lianne (June 10, 2004). "Sue Johanson (Profile)".
  3. ^ Joundi, Talia (February 1, 2011). "Campus Beat: Sue Johanson proved a popular personality among U of M students". The Manitoban.
  4. ^ a b Hampson, Sarah (January 25, 2003). "The lady's not for blushing". The Globe and Mail.
  5. ^ Navarro, Mireya (February 19, 2004). "Instead of Dr. Ruth, a Nurse Called Sue". The New York Times.
  6. ^ a b c "Sue Johanson, RN".
  7. ^ a b c "Sexual diversity centre at U of T to give citizenship award to renowned Oxygen network sex educator Sue Johanson". University of Toronto Media Room. September 9, 2010.
  8. ^ "Johanson's sex show cancelled". The Globe and Mail. July 11, 2005.
  9. ^ "Oxygen's 'Talk Sex' is ending run". The Hollywood Reporter. Associated Press. May 7, 2008.
  10. ^ "How Sue Johanson, Canada's 'grandma with a pottymouth,' became the country's leading sexpert". CBC News. Jenna Benchetrit. October 9, 2022.
  11. ^ " - Sue Johanson".
  12. ^ "New Doc Explores Life and Work of Sex Educator Sue Johanson". Global News. September 28, 2022.
  13. ^ "Talking sex: Sue Johanson getting a doctorate from LU". October 29, 2015.
  14. ^ "Order of Canada".

External links[edit]