Using Sexually Explicit Media To Educate

Using Sexually Explicit Media to Educate

Our mission to educate is hindered because of social forces that are opposed to the observation of sexual behaviors. Observation is a significant part of any learning. The subject of sexual behavior is not any different. You see a behavior, you practice the behavior, and you learn.

Reliable sexual information on film is readily available today. However there is also an abundance of not-so- accurate sexual information on film. If you search sex education on YouTube you will see an abundance of films that makes this point.

For many people, the only sexual behavior ever observed is in "adult films" or "pornography." Adult films are produced to be sexually arousing, to encourage sexual fantasy, and to be erotically entertaining. I prefer the term "adult films" because if you look at the derivation of the word pornography the literal classical Greek translation is "writing about harlots." The social impact that these films have on society is amazing. For some, adult films are the only visual role models they have for sexual behavior. For others feature films and television are their source of explicit sexual information. Again, we must recognize that although many of these films are used for titillation there are viewers, especially younger viewers, who've not seen anything educational about sexuality and may see them as sexual realism.

As sexuality educators we are often called upon to clarify misinformation that our students believe to be the truth simply because they saw it in a film. As sexologists we must encourage the production of more films that depict realistic sexuality and encourage learners to seek out films that depict sexual realism.

I remember an experience in Tokyo, being interviewed by a baseball journalist from a major newspaper. The Better Sex Video Series had just been released in Japan and he was covering the story. This widely circulated Tokyo tabloid sports publication included four center pages devoted to sex. He was much more comfortable talking about balls and strikes than sex. His questions were sarcastic and I could tell he thought that these sexually explicit films were just "pornography." So I asked him a question. I began by saying "How would it be if you took a little boy in Japan and told him he could never watch a baseball game, touch a ball, glove or bat and then five years later, you said I want you to go out on the field and play baseball. How do you think that boy would do?"

"Not very well," he responded. "Well that's how it is with sex in Japan. You can't talk about sex; you can't see sex and then one day you end up in bed. And do you know how they do?" He shrugged his shoulders. I replied, "They strike out!" He then understood that I was trying to educate using film, just as a boy can learn how to hit a ball by watching a game. The interview ended with him asking me the question, "Who do you think is the best baseball player of all time?" My response was, "Willie Mays". The journalist said, "You know baseball." I also know sex.

A Brief History of the Professional Use SEM

The early 1900's sex education films used the "disease model" that only addressed issues of sexuality because of sexually transmitted diseases. Consequently, the only information was about biological disease transmission. The Federal government produced many films during World War II that were made to educate soldiers about the dangers of syphilis and gonorrhea. For the purposes of this chapter, I will skip the disease era and jump to where we actually addressed sexual behavior and pleasure.

Pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey first introduced the formal use of sexually explicit images to conduct research and to enhance education in the 1940's. Kinsey suggested that sexually explicit films be used for educational purposes. He felt that if we were going to study sexual behavior, we needed to be able to observe it. Kinsey made his own research films that were used to observe sexual behavior while conducting his research ( What better method than film? While this logic may work for any other subject or behavior, it seems that it doesn't apply to sexuality. Our mindset, when it comes to sexuality is so negative that the popular opinion was that if you're filming sex it must be bad or "pornographic." Kinsey received such negative publicity on his film use that he eventually stopped producing them, a detriment to sexual science.

It wasn't until some ten years later, in the 1950's that sex researchers Dr. William H. Masters and Virginia Johnson filmed people engaged in sexual activity, to study human sexual response in their laboratory. William Masters, studying human sexual response thought that being able to review and compare different people's sexual responses would be an asset to the research. They used film to observe sexual behavior and physiological responses of volunteers in their laboratory and used that data when they wrote their landmark book, (1966) "Human Sexual Response." A Newsweek article that addressed their data collection and specifically mentioned the filming of sexual behavior produced such negative publicity that Masters, like Kinsey, ceased using film in his research.

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More than ten years went by, when in 1967, Dr. Edward Tyler, (1970) teaching human sexuality, showed Indiana University Medical students films he had acquired from the Kinsey Institute of Sex Research's archives, depicting a variety of sexual behaviors. He found the student response after watching these sexually explicit "Stag" films very different from the "clinical and "treatment" models of discussion that students had in the past. After watching these films, the Indiana Medical students talked about the sexual behavior they viewed on the screen and how they felt about it. This was a departure from the intellectual discussions they had had in the past. The ability to be able to talk about sexual issues with patients was critical in Tyler's thinking and this new methodology utilizing film helped future physicians to become more comfortable communicating about sexuality. Dr. Tyler reported this success, based