Using Sexually Explicit Media To Educate

Using Sexually Explicit Media to Educate

By Mark Schoen, Ph.D.


Sexually Explicit Media (SEM) is visual depictions of nudity, which may include the genitals, and depiction of sexual acts involving the genitals, such as anal, oral and vaginal sex. (Rhoades, 2008) These films portray sexual realism and the primary purpose is to educate.

Adult Films (also known as Stag, porno or pornographic films) depict nudity, which may include the genitals, and depiction of sexual acts involving the genitals, such as anal, oral and vaginal sex. These films primarily portray sexual fantasy and the primary purpose is to entertain and titillate.

Stag Films are adult or pornographic films.

A Sex Negative Society

Should we be observing sexual behavior? The answer to this question had a tremendous negative impact on sexuality education and research. Consider that two of the most prominent and influential sex researchers of all time Alfred Kinsey and William H. Masters each came under fire for using film as a research tool to observe human sexual behavior. They each filmed couples making love and noted aspects of the sexual behavior and physiological responses to further their research. (It is difficult to imagine being restricted from observing the very behavior that one is researching). This sex negative attitude has been a significant obstacle in sex research, sexuality education and production of effective instructional films.


In Dr. Paul Saettler's "A History of Instructional Technology," (1968), he wrote, "Motion pictures, radio broadcasts, lantern slides, objects, models, and charts, maps, television, recordings, field trips, exhibits, and teaching machines, like the theater, are media for expression. From the educational point of view it is 'in fact which appears on the screen' that is important, just as the ideas expressed on the printed page are important, not the paper nor type of font. From the standpoint of content and then for teaching, there are good dramas and bad dramas, good textbooks and bad textbooks, good teaching films and bad teaching films, good field trips and bad field trips, group charts and band charts, good exhibits and bad exhibits, good pictures and bad pictures, and so on. It goes without saying that even the use of specific instructional media does not always result in effective instruction. There must be a technology of instruction in which men, machines, methods, procedures, and organization are coordinated in the interest of more effective learning."

Sexuality education has not achieved this coordination. Not only do we have a population that lacks basic sexual information, the United States has the distinction of having amongst the highest HIV and teen pregnancy rates in the western world. Sexuality Educators have a responsibility to create more effective learning. How can we use technology to achieve more effective sexuality education?

Today there are instructional films available which present reliable sex information, suitable for classroom, clinical or home use. They are available on DVD or electronically via streaming or down loads. We also have well trained sexuality educators. One of the primary problems we have is the integration of comprehensive sexuality education into school curriculums. In view of the current state of sexuality education those who do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education can become proactive and educate themselves using the many instructional films that are available today.

The existing instructional technology in the field of human sexuality has not developed to its current status without a struggle. Suspicion about the value of film in a curriculum or clinical setting is nothing new. Today we have educators who use films as an important part of their curriculum and we have others who don't use them at all.
Paul Saettler recognized film as a powerful teaching tool and "a potent medium for education", but at the same time there was widespread opposition and the "notion that entertainment, commercialism and education do not mix."
In the sexuality field Alfred Kinsey, William Masters, Ted, McIlvenna, John Money and Deryck Calderwood all were proponents of film as a powerful tool for learning.
Sexologist Peggy Kleinplatz examined the "consumer demand for 'educational' sex videos." (Kleinplatz, 1997) She indicated that the popularity of these programs was motivated by "the void created by the absence of accurate sexual information in our society and the lack of open communication on the subject." (Kleinplatz, 1997) On the positive side, Kleinplatz clearly states the benefit of film, "Sex videos seem to provide a safe, easy avenue for satisfying one's curiosity and for obtaining simple, easy-to-follow instructions with no intimate communication required." On the negative side, she said, "Much of the educational sex video industry capitalizes on sexual insecurities, fears and myths, and sells consumers the promise of a new and improved sex life without having to disclose one's ignorance, particular preferences and desires or to ask questions of one's partners."

Sexual Health Education Background

It was very early in my career I learned that using the words penis, vulva and clitoris in a middle school classroom brought attentiveness like I had never seen before from this age group. Children and adults want sex information. They want to know about sex and I've had the good fortune of spending the last thirty plus years producing films that provide information on a very wide range of sexual issues. In this article I will give you an evolution of sexuality education films, from the "disease model" of the early 1900's to the anything goes model on the Internet today.

You will walk through a history and practical use of sexuality films in educational and clinical settings. It is my hope that you will finish reading this chapter and recognize the value of film as a tool in human sexuality education, research and therapy.

Growing up In New York City, like most of my contemporaries our primary source of sex information were peers. Looking back I can honestly say they were well meaning, but they were no "Joy of Sex" when it came to accuracy. What could have been a simple education was game of hit and miss.

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