What do you wish you learned in sex ed?

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Today I asked my Psychology of Human Sexuality students what they wished they had learned in sex ed. Here is what they said:

  • HOW to put a condom on
  • A simple HOW TO guide for the actual act of sex
  • What the point of sex is
  • More about body changes
  • Relationship differences
  • Contraceptive options (said by someone who attended a religious school)
  • HOW TO have oral sex
  • HOW TO please your partner/sensitive parts of the body
  • HOW TO actually have sex
  • Where to get emergency contraceptives and get tested for STIs
  • Sexual positions
  • Oral sex
  • Sex toys
  • Proper techniques
  • Love and relationships
  • More about how LGBTQI individuals have sex
  • Pornography
  • Sexual disorders/dysfunctions
  • Benefits of sex
  • Genital hygiene
  • Psychology of sex (i.e., how it affects people)
  • Sexual communication with partner
  • Debunk sex myths
  • Coming out
  • Abortion
  • HOW TO prepare myself to have sex
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Different types of sexual relationships (i.e., friends with benefits, romantic relationships, etc.)
  • Advantages of having sex
  • More about STIs
  • Body image
  • Circumcision
  • Alternatives to penetrative sex
  • More about vaginas and how to pleasure them
  • The after effects of pregnancy
  • Genital anatomy
  • Arousal is normal
  • Fetishes (i.e., what they are, what is “normal” and what isn’t, legal issues)
  • Psychological impact of relationship dissolution
  • Emotional aspect of having sex
  • Breaking stereotypes
  • More about masturbation and self-pleasure
  • HOW TO have a healthy relationship
  • Sexual orientations
  • Sexual consent
  • The media and its sexual messages
  • What to expect when you have sex
  • HOW TO handle “difficult situations”
  • Wish boys were taught that sex should be a “balanced” experience
  • Variations in bodies

Some students also commented on how they wished the overall mission/delivery of the course was different:

  • Teachers that aren’t biased
  • Be more open about sex and be comfortable discussing sex
  • Less fear-based tactics
  • Boost sexual confidence
  • Pleasure/love oriented sex ed
  • Wish they weren’t so negative
  • Teachers were not well educated or qualified
  • Learn to embrace it, not fear it
  • More sex positive lessons
  • Wish that they went into more depth about everything!
  • Don’t convey the message that sex is bad for women and necessary for men
  • Wish they used more demonstrations
  • Don’t slut shame!

Overall, a common theme was that these students wished they learned more of the “HOW TO’s” of sex. Perhaps our current approach to sex ed is too abstract?

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Androgynous Attire & Dressing in Drag as a Social Experiment

For my Psychology of Gender course at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I have assigned research papers on topics relevant to gender issues. One of my students for this course is a bisexual man who is also a clothing design major. He decided to do his paper on androgynous clothing. In his own clothing designs he uses androgyny as an inspiration. In our personal discussions about his interests in androgyny, he has expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that men’s clothes are now considered to be more androgynous, while women’s clothes are still considered for women only. If you need evidence of this fact, think about the buzz that Marc Jacobs caused when he showed up to an awards ceremony in a dress!

After writing the first draft of his paper, this student decided to conduct his own social experiment. He decided that he would dress in drag and go to a few of our local grocery stores in Honolulu, HI. When he told me about this experience, what shocked me the most (although perhaps it shouldn’t have) was that multiple people called him a “fag” and a “tranny.” What happened to the aloha spirit?

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SSSS 2014 conference in Omaha, NE

Just got back from the 2014 Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) conference in Omaha, NE. I met up with fellow sexuality researcher, co-author, and all around awesome lady Dr. Corey Flanders at the conference. Together we explored what Omaha had to offer (translation: we ate steak and sampled locally brewed beers). I had the opportunity to see a lot of really great talks at this conference, spanning from using geo-locating devices for sex research to adolescents having sex in cars. However, one of the most exciting things I got to do at this conference was to get my nails painted with spermies and a vulva!

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I presented a poster at this conference titled “Man Up! Perceptions and Portrayals of Masculinity.” This particular study is a follow-up to a previous study that Corey and I had conducted investigating group influences on perceptions of masculinity. In the first study, we brought people into our research lab in groups of 3-6 based on their gender. These groups were comprised of all-men, all-women, or mixed-gender. Once in these groups, participants rated two videos: one of a man engaging in a gender-typical activity (fixing a car) and one of the same man engaging in a gender-atypical activity (washing dishes). While watching these videos, the participants provided moment-to-moment feedback about how masculine they perceived the man in these videos to be using a Perception Analyzer wireless dial system. Interestingly, the group compositions did impact the participants’ video ratings! Results demonstrated that men in the all-male groups tended to rate the target character in the gender-typical video (fixing a car) to be significantly more masculine than the men in the mixed-gender groups did. Additionally, the women in the all-female groups tended to rate the target character in the gender-atypical video (washing dishes) as significantly less masculine than the women in the mixed-gender groups did.

The study that I presented at this years SSSS conference was a follow-up to the previous study. The present study sought to determine the underlying mechanisms that were driving the results of the first study. After considerable deliberation, Corey and I concluded that the groups may have been influencing participant ratings because either they primed individuals to think about societal gender norms OR they primed individuals to think about how their own gender is important in their day-to-day activities. For this study, we brought participants into the lab one at a time and randomly assigned them to either the gender norm, gender salience, or control condition. For each of these conditions, participants completed a written task that acted as a prime. Results of this study seem to point to gender salience as the culprit of our previous results. In other words, being in gender-based groups (particularly same-gender groups) primed participants to think about how their own gender identity has informed their own behaviors and actions, and that in turn influenced how they perceived the masculinity of the video target.

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