Using Sexually Explicit Media To Educate

Using Sexually Explicit Media to Educate

on comparing his classroom discussion with and without the use of films depicting explicit sex. As a result, many other institutions of higher learning adopted this same approach.

One year later, in 1968, the Reverend Ted McIlvenna, (now the President of The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality) of the National Sex Forum in San Francisco introduced a new technique in the development of sexual attitude awareness. He used sexually explicit films, slides and audiotapes that were "designed to elicit participants' attitudes and anxieties about human sexuality." (Ayres et al, 1975) He and filmmaker Laird Sutton produced what they called "pattern films," which were 16mm films that each depicted a sexual pattern, their unique way of making love. The films included gay, straight and lesbian couples. These films were used as an integral part of developing their "Sexual Attitude Restructuring" (SAR) programs. In later years the word restructuring was changed and it became Sexual Attitude Reassessment. The National Sex Forum designed these self-help programs for sexual enrichment and education. Ted McIlvenna, the driving force in establishing The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (1976) in San Francisco, which still utilizes the SAR techniques in their graduate programs in human sexuality. The methodology consisted of participants viewing in large groups SEM over the course of the program. After screenings the viewers would have the opportunity to share their feelings and discuss the sexual behaviors viewed in both small and large groups.
The SAR program is still used today and many professionals in the field consider the SAR experience as one of the most important aspects of their training. The American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) requires the completion of a SAR course by those seeking professional certification as a sexuality educator, counselor or therapist. (

Today, many variations of the SAR program and the use of sexually explicit visuals have become commonplace in professional training and are often sponsored by universities or professional organizations.

In 1970, Dr. John Money presented a six-session audiovisual program entitled "Pornography in the Home" to a total of 2300 freshman medical students at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Money described his methodology as "the direct confrontation technique." (Money, 1971) Graduate students were exposed to erotic materials in the form of readings, slides and movies. It was Money's belief that this technique forces an audience to become emotionally involved with sexual issues. They have no choice but to respond to and think about the lecture and demonstration materials. As a result of these early experiments, the consensus amongst human sexuality educators was that sexually explicit visuals are a useful educational tool (Money, 1972).

Professionals elaborate on this view by stating that sexually explicit visuals allow them to elicit "...attitudes and anxieties about human sexuality." (Chilgren) The strength in agreement on this issue has led to expanding use of such materials. For example, in 1970, the University of Minnesota began its approach to sex education, patterned after the National Sex Forum process. Since then, the Program in Human Sexuality has developed as an "interdisciplinary academic and administrative unit responsible to the Dean of the Medical School, charged with the development of education, research and service to improve sexual health." (Chilgren) The media portion of the program consists of films, slides and audiotapes depicting a wide range of explicit sexual behavior. The programs varied from facilitator to facilitator. Each would choose the media and tailor the program to their audience.

Dr. Ronald A. Chez, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, also used sexually explicit films to teach medical students. He concluded that "...the primary value of learning sessions incorporating movies depicting human sexual responses appears to be the opportunity the students and faculty have to question, discuss, and interrelate after sharing this common experience. It provides a setting in which personal and professional experiences are discussed. This interaction is of major pedagogic value." (Chez)

This sharing of experiences often occurs after the screening of a film. Typically, the facilitator will break the views into small groups, three to five people. In those groups they would be instructed to discuss the behavior or issues in the film and their feelings about the experience of the viewing. Once the small group discussion is over one member of each group would report back to the entire group. This method can be used with a classroom showing of a film or as part of a SAR. (Ayres et al, 1975) The value of this methodology is it gives professionals an opportunity to become aware of their own feelings and attitudes about sexual behavior, before working with students or clients.

Another early producer, who was a pioneer in SEM, was Dick Price. Price produced four short films that were released as 8mm films in cartridges designed to use on a desktop. These films called "Sensate Focus" Parts One - Four (1976) demonstrated, step-by-step, the techniques made popular by Masters and Johnson. Sex Therapists continue to use these visually outdated films today because there was simply nothing else available on this subject.

The "Sensate Focus" exercises, developed in the 1960's, is a set of specific sexual exercises for couples or individuals aimed at increasing personal and interpersonal awareness of one's own and one's partner's needs. The individuals are encouraged to focus on their own varied sensory experience, rather than to seek orgasm as the goal of sex. This exercise forced a couple to explore their sexual feelings without genital contact. After the early clinical successes of using sensate focus with patients was reported this exercise has been used, modified and is an important educational component of sex therapy.

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During the 1970's and 1980's the use of SEM were largely limited to university settings and sex therapy clinics. Then in 1991 Stephen Kapelow, an entrepreneur produced The Better Sex Video Series. This was a landmark sex education series for the general public. He used the same techniques that were being used by the academics for years and now made this type of education available to anyone who could dial