Monday, May 10, 2010

Standardized Sexuality Assessment Measures

Hello Everyone,

The purpose of this blog is to facilitate a discussion on the use of standardized measures in relation to sexuality education. For this discussion I am defining a standardized assessment measure as a tool that can be used to test for sexuality knowledge, attitudes, or affective response. These measures can be standardized to understand an individual's response in relation a larger distribution of responses throughout a particular society.

There are several reasons why I think the discussion of these tests is important:

1) Pre/Post testing can be useful for establishing that a particular lesson or curriculum was effective at creating a change

2) Standardized testing can help educators and students understand particular areas that an individual may have inherent strengths or weaknesses

3) There is current debate regarding the effectiveness or relevance of standardized testing and whether the practice is culturally/socio-economically/tester biased

4) Historical voids in research into sexuality topics due to taboo or moral objection

5) The facilitation of knowledge through understanding what other researchers feel is important to know about sexuality issues

I personally have felt that in past work that the use of testing measures were a great help in establishing validity for sexuality education and counseling. In addition to a treatment plan, if I were able to show that a person referred to me for education was able to increase knowledge on the Family Life And Sexual Heath (FLASH) curriculum assessment tools, then I was able to provide greater justification for the importance of sexuality education. In the larger scheme of sexuality education, showing that there is legitimate research that is evidence based can also create greater support for the importance of the field.

As a student and as an educator, I feel that the use of standardized tests help to further my own understanding of sexuality topics by both the data that is being generated and by the presentation by other researchers of the relevance of the information being investigated. During my undergraduate work I found that creating studies helped peak my personal interest in sexuality topics. The furtherance of this type of research can also show how testing has been misled and where biases and statistical errors have been made.

Some good resources:

The Handbook of Sexuality Related Measures

Here is a link that references several tests of sexual well being in relation to health matters:

So for this week...Please discuss your experiences or knowledge of any methods of testing for sexuality issues. Do you have any recommendations for future test, have any current measures you use or find interest, or have caveats?


Friday, April 30, 2010

Porn in the Classroom

By now, we as human sexuality students are all acquainted with SARs: Sexual Attitude Reassessments: the use of "emotionally evocative and sexually explicit films and presentations" designed to give the viewer an "opportunity to explore (their) own attitudes, values and beliefs about sexual behavior in a safe, comfortable and nonjudgmental environment." These activities are designed specifically for those of us who work with sexuality issues in the workplace.

While we might each have differing reactions to the SARs trainings we've experienced in the program, the goals of these exercises certainly seems to be positive and productive. As Planned Parenthood defines a SARs activity, it is designed to help educators and clinicians:

- See and study (their) own reactions. Learn to recognize the way (they) respond to sexual behaviors, images, thoughts, and feelings, and see how other people develop sexual attitudes and values.
- Understand sexual diversity. See the complexity of human sexuality and examine the diversity of human sexual expression and experience.
- Learn how to communicate about sexuality. Examine issues involved in effective communication, particularly in the context of understanding sexual behavior and expression.
- Learn to view sexuality more objectively. Understand the impact sexual attitudes have on personal relationships and on providing educational, health and social services.

All positive stuff, right? But we are talking about sexuality educators who are a willing audience for sexuality education, whether it be difficult/uncomfortable/troubling or not. The underlying agenda (since in teaching, there is always an agenda to be taught, even if it's a "worthy" one) is to detail the multiplicities of sexuality in order to create more capable educators. We are not talking about college students taking an elective or high school students grappling with body issues.

So let's talk about taking explicit content into a classroom NOT filled with sexuality educators! And more specifically, let's talk about porn! Some facts on the widespread nature of pornography (in case you didn't already know):

- Every second - $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography.
- Every second - 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography.
- Every second - 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines.
- Every 39 minutes: a new pornographic video is being created in the United States.

And college professors, in particular, have taken note of the social impact that porn has has in recent years. According to the blog "Breaking Free: A Journey Towards Purity in a Sex-Saturated Internet," a number of colleges and universities now offer courses that involve either the viewing or discussion of pornography, including UCLA, UC Berkley, Vanderbilt, MIT, and NYU. Some academics, such as Michael Leahy, the author of Porn Nation, think this has changed the landscape of teaching college students in a profound way:

“Porn is now the norm in our culture, and no one understands that better than today’s college students. From the rapid rise of cyber porn addiction among male and female college students to its role in influencing the high incidence of rapes and prevalence of eating disorders among college co-eds, the growing influence of porn in the midst of an already sexually charged campus culture is taking a very real toll on students’ lives.”

That being said, some professors have responded by using porn against porn: showing pornography content in order to help students "reveal their understanding of pornography." Not unlike our SARs activities.

The viewing of pornographic content, on its own, has its own agenda as a conduit for sexual arousal and stimulus. It possesses the dual agenda: that of the person viewing it as well as that of the person(s) who produced it. Considering perhapshow much pornography is viewed in the United States, utilizing pornography as a tool to demonstrate societal (ab)normativities and counteract some of (potential) effects porn has had on the modern life is one way that sexuality educators can apply their own training to the education of others.

Using porn in the classroom, though? Seems like a racy thing to do, but is it really realistic? After all, just using text with sexual content in it can lead to reactions like this one. For that reason, here are some suggestions for starting out:

1. START SMALL. If you can't get approval to show pornographic content, then find as much written material that expresses the ideas and concepts you want to cover. Push for the concepts instead of the videos; ask yourself if you really need to show something in order to teach the experience of it.
2. RATIONALE, RATIONALE, RATIONALE. The foundation of our HSED learning. What is the point of this class? What change do you want to affect?
3. AFTERCARE. Many journalists and researchers point to the notion that porn does indeed have a profound effect on youth's psychological stasis, so proceed with caution and care. There is a difference between creating a radical shift in standpoint and causing a breakdown.

And above all, get APPROVAL from the school board! Teaching with porn might be a tricky process, but using popular culture to teach about popular culture may indeed be a creative and rewarding way to affect change in student's lives.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Teaching about abortion

For those of you that know where I work (Planned Parenthood) you will probably not be surprised by my blog topic of abortion education. However, I am a little surprised with myself for choosing this topic mostly because I know so much about it already. But it is for this reason that I should be the one person to write about this topic. I do feel that it’s an important issue and that unplanned pregnancy is so common place in the U.S. that it’s important for teens (really everyone) to know about all their options before experiencing a pregnancy and preferably before they become sexually active.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (2008) approximately half of American women will have an unplanned pregnancy at some point in their lives and one third (35%) will have had an abortion by age 45. In 2005, 1.6 millions abortions were performed in the U.S. which is high for a developed nation. It’s apparent that unplanned pregnancy and abortion is very relevant to Americans' lives and therefore they should be equipped with the tools that are needed to cope with this situation should it ever arise, which according to statistics, is likely.
It’s easy for me to compose an argument as to why abortion should be incorporated into sexuality education. It’s not so easy on the other hand to actually teach this topic. Because it is so controversial and emotionally charging many teachers are hesitant to touch this topic. They may be uncomfortable with the topic themselves and/or feel that they are not qualified to teach about abortion.
Now even though I have never personally taught on the subject, as a counselor (and educator) for an abortion clinic, I can offer some good advice for those of you who may need to teach this topic in the future:

1) know your own values/beliefs/attitudes about abortion. I can’t stress this piece of advice enough. This is something that we spent a lot of class time on during this semester and everything we talked about applies to teaching about abortion as well. Our values matter, but this is one topic in which it’s best to stay as neutral as possible.
2) Know your facts. There are a lot of misconceptions floating around about abortion. If you type “abortion” into Google search, you’ll get a lot of biased and one-sided information that comes up. If you need to look up information using the internet try searching “accurate information” and “abortion”. I’ll list some good reliable sources below.
3) If you are uncomfortable teaching this topic or are unable to answer questions students have, ask for help! There are people who are better equipped to teach this subject than others – like me! Having a guest speaker or presenter is one way to take the weight off your shoulders. You can use the guest speaker as a learning opportunity for yourself – observe how he or she approaches the subject, handles comments and emotions and presents the information.

Here’s a video – documentary style – which looks at a religious school in the UK and how abortion is being incorporated into its curriculum.

Web resources that provide accurate information:

SexEd Library: lesson plan from F.L.A.S.H. curriculum

SIECUS: lesson plan “teaching all sides” page 77

Alan Guttmacher Institute. (2008). An overview of abortion in the United States. Retrieved from Alan Guttmacher Website,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Zoos: An Opportunity for Sexuality Education

I am a member of the Philadelphia Zoo and from April to October if the weather is nice and I have no other plans I will head to the zoo on a Sunday morning just to walk around for a few hours. It’s relaxing, fun and a great way to clear my head. Since I don’t attend a church it is, in a sense, my way to worship through nature. A few weeks ago on one of those unusually warm spring days I was at the zoo for one of these Sunday morning strolls. I visited the otters who are always one of my favorites because they are always so active and playful as they slip and slide down their waterfalls and swim around chasing one another. On this particular Sunday there were two otters clearly having sex. Standing there watching them were about a dozen families all with young children, as I am usually the only creepy adult at the zoo without kids. All the children were squealing, laughing, pointing at the two otters having sex and asking their parents what the otters were doing. All the parents replied that the otters were wrestling or playing or some other euphemism but none, none, answered honestly that the otters were having sex. Apparently my experience is not unique. On his blog,, Randy Seaver talks about and posts pictures of elephants having sex at the zoo while he was visiting the zoo with his grandchildren.

The field of human sexuality advocates that parents should begin talking about sexuality with children at a young age. Human beings are sexual from birth through death and not talking about sexuality with children can lead to fear, shame and anxiety around sex and sexuality issues. Parents often wait to talk about sexuality with their children until puberty but by then it is too late as children have learned about and received sexuality messages from peers, the media and the rest of the world around them. Or worse, parents never talk to their children about sexuality because they never find an opportunity to bring it up or have a conversation about it. In his book, "The Sexual Life of Children", Martinson talks about how children learn about sexuality in their everyday life yet parents avoid anything that permits or encourages sexuality when it comes to children in an effort to protect them and keep them innocent. Not answering honestly or avoiding sexuality, Martinson goes on to say, leaves the control of sexuality firmly in the hands of adults. Martinson echoes the sentiment of the human sexuality field that it is important for both parents and teachers to be informed about and have an opportunity to discuss sexuality with their children. Parents especially need to facilitate family discussions about sexuality because that is how they can integrate their family’s value system into sexuality. Here are some links that guide parents on how to talk about sexuality with their children:

If you visit any zoo websites from around the country you will see that they have a host of children and school education programs offered on a daily basis. None of these programs address sexuality. The San Francisco and Central Florida zoos offer animal sexuality classes but they are for adults only, and only offered on Valentine’s Day. The following link is someone’s account of the “Woo at the Zoo” program offered at the San Francisco zoo and is complete with pictures and interesting information about animal sexuality:
While some zoos are beginning to incorporate sexuality education into their programs the sexuality information is once again reserved for adults only.

Some people are beginning to use animal sexuality as a way to educate children. Animals are a traditional way to educate children and a staple in children’s literature. Famous stories such as, Aesop’s Fables and Winnie the Pooh, use animal characters or anthropomorphism to tell their tales. Well known children’s authors such as, Richard Scary, argue that animals are great for children’s stories because they are racially and ethnically neutral so they can appeal to all children and they are able to do things or take risks that human children cannot. Sexologists often study animal sexuality and argue that many animal sexual behaviors are found in the human world and vice versa. Animals are often a great way to learn about the nature and variety of sexuality. Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell’s book "And Tango Makes Three" is a children’s book on the different types of families and is based on the true story of three penguins at the Central Park Zoo. Roy and Silo were two male penguins that fell in love, built a nest and were trying to start a family of their own. The zoo keepers gave them their very own egg to care for and hatch and they ended up with a baby of their own, Tango. Richardson and Parnell took advantage of the real life teaching opportunity zoos offer in order to educate children about age appropriate sexuality issues. "And Tango Makes Three" can be purchased at

The otters having sex at the Philadelphia zoo a few weekends ago offered a great teachable moment for parents to begin having conversations with their children about sexuality. Instead of avoiding children’s questions about sex or answering these questions dishonestly parents should seize these opportunities to talk about age appropriate sexuality issues with their children. As sex educators we need to educate parents about sexuality and sexuality education and help them feel comfortable talking about these issues so that they can talk to their children about sexuality when opportunities present themselves, like the otters at the zoo. Zoo staff and school educators also have the opportunity to use animal sexuality as a way to educate and talk with children about sexuality. They provide a population that needs sex educators to educate and guide them in getting children’s sexuality education programs off the ground. Zoos offer both sexuality education opportunities for children and their parents, as well as professional relationships for sex educators.


Bruess, C. and Greenberg, J. (2009). Sexuality Education: Theory and practice, 5th ed. Jones and Bartlett Publishers: Sudbury, MA.
Heasley, R. and Crane, B. (2003). Sexual lives: A reader on the theories and realities of human sexualities. McGraw-Hill: New York, NY.
Martinson, F. M. (1994). The sexual life of children. Bergin and Garvey: Westport, CT.
Strong, B., W. L. Yarber, B. W. Sayad and DeVault, C. (2008). Human sexuality: Diversity in contemporary America. McGraw-Hill: New York, NY.

Friday, April 9, 2010

State Mandated Reporting for Educators

This blog comes from some recent confusion in my everyday work life as a mental health professional working within the public school system. Working with children (in this blog, any person under the age of 18) is no easy task, especially when you work in an environment (like a school) where rumors are flying around every hour of every day, where children tell you things about other children and their families, and where children willingly tell you about the happenings in their lives they don’t or feel they can’t tell their parents. As educators, by law, we are considered individuals who are mandated to report to child welfare services if we have any reason to suspect that a child is being physically or sexually abused or neglected. This is partly where my confusion started. The reporting of suspected physical abuse or neglect, to me, is a very clear, cut and dry process. However, when it comes to sexual abuse, due to the language of the laws, this is where the confusion sets in. While this might not seem like a confusing issue to some, for me, it is a topic that I often ponder. And, because I, myself, have never been formally educated on the subject, the confusion is even greater. Sure, if a 30 year old person was sexually abusing a ten year old, no problem, report as soon as you suspect. But what happens when you are aware that an 18 year old is having sex with a 15 year old? What are the laws regarding that? What about when two 14 year olds are having sex? What if two 12 year olds are sexually touching, but no intercourse has actually happened? Does it make a difference if they are same-sex couples? These are just a few of the questions that have been brought to my attention recently. Because I am currently a mental health professional, my office is run with a confidentiality agreement. The children I see know that what they say in my office stays in my office, with three exceptions: 1) they are causing harm to themselves; 2) they are causing harm to another; 3) someone else is causing harm to them. This is where state mandating steps in. However, do to consent laws, when it comes to sex, what are we required to report and what can we consider a privacy issue?

To start researching this, I looked up what sexual abuse and exploitation was defined as in the state of Pennsylvania. According to Pennsylvania state law, “The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in, or assist another individual to engage in, sexually explicit conduct. The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of a child to engage in, or assist another individual to engage in, simulation of sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depicting, and filming.” (Child Welfare Information Gateway). This makes the issue at hand a little clearer. If any person (including another child) persuades, entices, coerces, or induces another child into any sexual act, it must be reported. This is pretty clear, in my eyes. What is not clear is what to do when it is reported to you that children are consensually being sexually active together. To research a little further into this, I looked up the sexual consent ages in Pennsylvania. According to, in Pennsylvania it is illegal to have sex if you are under the age of 16. And this is the case for both same-sex and different-sex sexual acts. These ages of consent are different for all states, and gives a comprehensive look at the consent laws of all the states in the United States, as well as many countries within the world. So, for example, technically, in Pennsylvania, if two 15 year olds are having sex together, they cannot legally consent to have sex, even if they both want to. So what does that mean for us if we are aware that it is happening? For that, I have not been able to come up with a clear answer. To me, at that age, I would think of it as a privacy issue and not a state mandated reporting issue, however, the law might prove me wrong.

This is where I think it would be especially important, in our line of work, to go over the laws of state mandated reporting for sexual abuse during our coursework. While I am learning how to be an educator, I also need to learn my responsibilities as a state mandated reporter of child abuse because I am an educator. While I might not agree with all the laws, I need to abide by them so I can continue to educate children and help those who need it. While I know I haven’t even answered all of my own questions, I am more aware of the fact that I need to look into this further if a situation arises where I am not sure what to do. Different agencies, school systems, and organizations may have different policies regarding reporting sexual abuse, so be sure to look over the policies of the places that employ you. I think it is very important to keep this issue in mind when working with children. Not only do you need to look out for their best interest, but you need to look out for yours as well, so that you can continue to look out for theirs.

Here are some additional resources to help with laws regarding state mandated reporting:

Child abuse reporting requirements in Pennsylvania

Online Resources for State Child Welfare Law and Policy

Teens, Sex, and the Law

Friday, April 2, 2010

Sex Sells! Cultivating the Critical Eye through Education

Ever since last semester, when I was looking for helpful links for sex educators/education and found the Media Awareness Network, I’ve been thinking about how media literacy intersects with sex education. Why? Because mass media is, well, massive. It’s everywhere. It is full of messages about sexuality, in all different shapes and forms, and the people consuming these messages are just as diverse - more so, even!

Every time I open a magazine or watch television, I’m getting some kind of message about sex or gender. Take this ad, for example (found in New York Magazine):

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Sure, the advertisement’s overt message is about a specific shopping center. But there’s also a subtext to this image. What might you guess is the gender of the person portrayed here? The socioeconomic status? Ethnicity? I’d guess that the person is a white upper-middle class woman. What does this say about who engages in shopping? Women. But not just any women: this ad seems to imply shopping is the realm of the privileged, thus there's no need for them to bother appealing to people who have less privilege. Further, look at this woman’s stance. Is this a powerful posture? What does that say about how a woman (a white upper-middle class woman) “should” present herself? In my undergraduate days, one of my professors was teaching us to view media critically, and she pointed out that everything in advertising is intentional. No choice is arbitrary, because companies don’t just sell products anymore - they’re selling values, stories, ideals. In short, they are selling a particular culture (or perhaps, at least, the building blocks of culture).

Why is this important? Whoever they may be in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, ability, etc., my (future) students will likely be consumers of media. I live in America, and it is likely that I will be teaching in America. Here, media is ubiquitous, and my students will be constantly bombarded with something that, in my experience, they are rarely taught to question. And while some media can be pretty empowering, much of it seems to be doing more harm than good. For example, take body image and self esteem. Constantly seeing perfect airbrushed or Photoshopped bodies could make any regular person feel inadequate, next to this literally unachievable ideal. Unhappiness or depression seem to go hand in hand with low self esteem, so I'd call that pretty harmful.

How does this all relate to education? Well, I don’t think I have the power to completely overhaul the media industry or the entire lexicon of cultural symbolism. So, I think the next best thing is to educate people to become critical consumers of media, with the hope that this will defuse some of the nasty effects of the constant bombardment of media's narrow cultural representations. And, really, it’s not even fair for me to say “next best thing” because this kind of education is not less important than activism: I also think that helping my fellow humans to become more critical thinkers and consumers will help them to be generally more empowered to think for themselves about what’s best for them, not what will help them to fit in. Call me biased, but I think this is really important.

So if media literacy education is important (and it is! ;-) ), then how would I go about actually teaching media literacy, especially that related to sexuality? Thankfully there are at least a couple of fantastic resources on the web to help me in this endeavor! (Those resources, and more, are included at the bottom of this post.)

For this kind of education, I love the idea of taking an experiential approach. For example… I could start off by showing a video advertisement, and then ask my students questions about it, like the following: What or who did you see in this ad? Who didn’t you see? How was the person in the ad portrayed? What does this imply about people like the person in the ad (e.g., if the person in the ad is a woman, what does the ad imply about women?)? How might it affect people watching the ad? What messages about sexuality/gender does this ad send? Why is it important to think about that? And so on… Depending on the students and subject of the overall class, it might be appropriate to conclude my questions with something like: How do the messages you noticed fit in with (or contrast with) societal messages about the same thing? What can you do about it?

Of course, I’d also want to make a habit of asking students: What was the point of the ad? Ultimately, the answer should always be the same: “To sell the product/service.” I think it’s so important to remember that always, companies are advertising in order to sell something to consumers. They are not looking out for the best interests of their customers; they are looking out for their own profit-making. This is a point I’d want to drive home to students, but in this context, the main focus should be on the education related to sexuality, gender, etc.

In my travels (possibly on the Media Awareness Network, or somewhere else - I’m not sure, but if I find it, I will post it in the comments), I saw another interesting idea for media literacy in sex education, which involves bringing in a bunch of magazines, scissors, glue, and paper, so that students can create their own advertisements via collage (which could appeal to visual & spatial learners!) By creating their own ads, students would have the opportunity to see how ads don’t just sell the product; they also sell a story, a culture. It could also be empowering for students to create their own messages of what they would like to see represented in the media, instead of just consuming what is already out there.

How might you go about educating about media literacy pertaining to sexuality? What are your general thoughts on this subject?

Thanks for reading!


More Resources:

Media Awareness Network - Resource for parents & teachers. Has K-12 lesson plans on various aspects of media literacy (e.g. bullying, body image, and gender portrayal).

Center for Media Literacy - Similar to Media Awareness Network. A site to help educate about media literacy, as well as provide resources to educators.

Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing - Blog with posts not always, but often, about some portrayal of sexuality. Lots of images and analysis of the meanings of those images. Keeping up with/reading archives of this blog may help train you to have a more critical eye toward media. (This blog is a personal favorite!)

Teen Aware: Sex, Media, and You - An interesting spin on sex & media - teaching abstinence via media literacy.

Teen Sexual Health workshop module on Media Literacy - One handy outline of a lesson an instructor could use to teach about sex & media.

Sex Ed Library: Sexuality and Media - Links to a few lesson plans on, well, sexuality and media. (Overall, Sex Ed Library is also a helpful resource for lots of sexuality education lesson plan links.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Copyright in the Classroom

For my class presentation, I discussed the potential for copyright infringement educators and students face when simply pulling images off the web for PowerPoints, activities, and assignments. It's easy to use Google Images as a resource, but it may not always be legal. Copyright means that a person (or a company or school) owns the rights to their created work (a song, image, blog post, video, curriculum, etc). All rights to use or distribute the creation are reserved by the copyright holder.

Does this mean that every time you want to use an image you should get your lawyer on the phone? Not exactly - there is some breathing room under the label of fair use. Here are the terms surrounding fair use, found in Section 107 of the US copyright law:

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include —

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a
commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the
copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the
copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors (

Everybody clear on that? No? Me neither. As with all laws, there are various interpretations of fair use. Does number 3 mean that you can only show part of a TV episode in class, or are you allowed to play the entire show? Could you let your students rewrite the lyrics to a popular song to perform in class, using the original instrumental as background music? Can you include that image you found online in your PowerPoint or should you email the photographer first?

How do you know? What are your options as an educator? What can you do? Should you call or email the owner of the copyright (or their lawyers) and ask for permission? Just use the content and hope that no one takes issue with a possible copyright violation?

What am I doing in my classes? I'm getting creative with the help of artists, educators, and others from all around the world by using their works. Content that they actually want me to use. This system of sharing is known as Creative Commons. Want to know more? Check out this video...

Let's take that video, for example. How did I know I could post it here? I found it here and thought it would be perfect for this post (honestly, I kinda built my post and class presentation around it). After clicking on the link, you will see this symbol underneath the media player.

This is the owner's Creative Commons License. This particular license tells you that you are free to copy, share, distribute, and remix (adapt) the material - as long as you aren't using it commercially and you attribute it to the creator. This video was posted to by the Creative Commons organization. There. I just upheld my part of the bargain. I attributed the content to the owners and am not selling it. I could have put my own vocal track behind it, or edited it to only play a specific part. I can show it in class or broadcast it on another file sharing site. That is what their license allows. How do you know what their license allows? Click on the image beneath the media player on the page and you will see all the details (it is too large of a graphic to embed here - sorry!).

This is only one type of Creative Commons license - some allow for commercial use. Others do not allow remixing or adaptation. How do you know what license is used? You can find a quick and easy guide here.

How can you begin using Creative Commons (I'm going to use the CC abbreviation from here on out) content in your classrooms today? It's easy - not quite as easy as jacking items from a Google Image search - but who wants to use the same pics as everyone else anyway? One of the first places to look is the photo and video sharing site flickr (you may need to create an account to access all content - particularly if you are looking for sexuality materials). Not everyone on flickr uses a CC license, but many folks do. The easiest way to find CC content is to use their advanced search feature. Type in the search terms - I used "transgender youth" - and scroll to the very bottom of the page. Then be sure to click the box that searches only CC licensed photos and videos. Click search and...

Awesome. That photo was taken by flickr user "[insert stereotypical label here]" and can be found here. Their CC license says that I can use it, but not remix or adapt it, and that I can't use it for commercial purposes. All I need to do is attribute the picture to the photographer, which I just did. It's that simple.

Another site with fewer choices, but really interesting images, is fotopedia. I searched for "sexuality" and came up with this CC licensed gem...

It was actually taken from a flickr account as well and posted on the fotopedia site. The photographer's user id is "derpunk", and their CC license says I can use it for non-commercial purposes, and adapt it as well. This license also has one additional restriction, known as "share-alike." If I did alter the image (can anyone think of funny thought bubbles we could photoshop on the happy couple?), I have to license the work in the same way as the original. Meaning simply, I can't make the terms of use for my derivative work more or less restrictive than the original picture's.

Wikimedia Commons is another great place to find CC licensed (and public domain) images. I searched for "sex", clicked on a couple of the tags, and came across this image (again from a flickr
user) taken by "Noodle." The license for this image is the same as the one described for the turtles that are slowly...getting...busy.

Another site worth checking out is the Brooklyn Museum, which has thousands of images of artwork online, many of which are CC licensed (just don't forget to check the CC box in the advanced search options). This image has no known copyright restrictions, and the museum provides a bio of the artist, Lilly Martin, who supported her husband and family by painting pictures of women in traditional gender roles.

Brooklyn Museum: Kiss Me and You'll Kiss the 'Lasses

These are just a few of the amazing images you can find with just a little effort. Once you start looking at the gorgeous and thought provoking photos, you may never want to go back to Google Images. And after learning about copyright and Creative Commons, you may decide to share some of your own creations - images, videos, lessons, or activities under a CC license. Utilizing and contributing to the CC community will help to raise awareness of of the movement, and that will ultimately mean more content that you can be sure is is free, simple, and easy to use.

Ryan McKee

*As with any info on copyright you will find on the web, this post is not meant to be taken as legal advice. It is intended only to get you thinking about the way you use resources in the classroom, the rights of the creators, and the vibrant CC community that is emerging around art and education.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Education for Postpartum Depression

I spoke to a friend recently about pregnancy, specifically when and where information is provided. We both agreed that the time right after labor to several weeks after birth is the most formidable time for new parents. In this time parents are plagued by lack of sleep, putting more tension on an already stressful time. Some people are lucky enough to have family and friends present in this time to help the new parents adjust to the daunting task of making life changes for a new addition. What happens for those that do not have the support of friends and family? What happens when parents are not able to deal with the stressors of new parenthood?

The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that up to 15% of new mothers have symptoms of postpartum depression (National Institute of Health, 2005). Postpartum depression symptoms can include, but are not limited to feeling: tired, antsy, little motivation, and decreased appetite (National Institute of Health, 2005). All of which can be misconstrued as typical feelings after having a baby. So how can we as educators better identify these signs?

Although we may never aspire to become parents, it is important to support those around us in their sexuality-related endeavors. A good way to look out for a friend or family member is to keep updated about the new family’s adjustments. Let the new parents know there are a number of biological, physical, emotional, and social changes that occur after the birth of a child. If symptoms seem to continue weeks after birth, talk to the person about how you can help. Reassure the new parents that they need not take on everything themselves. Recommend to the new parents that they seek out help from medical professionals, as ignoring can lead to harm of oneself, or the baby. Many treatments are available, and can be very effective. The following resources provide additional information about postpartum depression:

Bodnar, D., Ryan, D., & Smith, J. E. (n.d.). Self-care program for women with postpartum depression and anxiety. Provincial Reproductive Medical Health. Retrieved from

National Institute of Health (2005). Understanding postpartum depression: Common but treatable. News in Health. Retrieved from


Friday, March 12, 2010

Client Comfort in Addressing Human Sexuality Issues

My original blog topic was an extension of Sandra's with a focus on culture and sexuality in Kenya. I typed my blog and saved it as a word document on my laptop ready to post on my designated blog date.

On Monday afternoon one of the staff assistants where I work asked if I could fill in as the guest speaker for the staff assistant retreat (target audience being female aged 35-55), since the scheduled presenter canceled. The retreat was Tuesday, less than 24 hours away. I asked if I could choose the topic. I ran a few ideas by her. She declined each of my suggestions and said that the subject matter I was focusing on would make everyone uncomfortable. Even though my certification as a nurse practitioner is in family practice, I have been exclusive to college and women's health for the past 9 years. All of my suggestions for the presentation were related to sexual health. The staff assistant was adamant that any female sexual health topic would not be well received. We agreed I would speak on Lyme's disease.

I started a literature search knowing that I had only a few hours to prepare for a fun afternoon workshop on Lyme's Disease. It is ironic that my computer has never experienced problems with the many human sexuality literature searches I have explored. Early in my Lyme's Disease literature search my computer crashed. Presently my computer is still under care of the IT Department who said it received a virus from one of the Lyme's sites I visited. This conundrum left me with no computer to prep for the Lyme's Disease workshop and no means of retrieving my previously completed blog. I learned 2 valuable lessons. First, I should always back up my material and second, I should never assume people have comfort with human sexuality issues.

Chris spoke about sexuality education training for practitioners in her blog. I challenge each of you to assist your clients/patients with being comfortable in discussing human sexuality issues.

Patient comfort in sharing sexual information is important to the client - practitioner relationship. Less than 1/3 of patients feel comfortable discussing sexual concerns with their providers, with only 10% of patients spontaneously discussing concerns if not prompted by their provider (Parish & Clay, 2007). Often when the office visit is complete and the practitioner and patient are exiting the exam room a "by the way..." conversation about a sexual concern begins. Embarrassment and lack of time is evident.

Patient comfort is important to alleviate embarrassment and establish a positive provider-client relationship. Patient comfort can be established by respecting diversity, offering an open environment for discussion and sincerity to understand other attitudes, beliefs, opinions and behaviors.

Prior to the Lyme's Disease workshop, the staff assistant told the audience our story of my ideas for a topic and her concerns about my choices. I then mentioned that if I started to feel uncomfortable talking about Lyme's Disease, I might have to change the subject to my comfort zone of human sexuality issues. The audience enjoyed our opening and suggested I pick the topic next time:)

Please feel free to explore more about patient comfort in addressing human sexuality issues with providers in the article listed below.

Parish, S. & Clayton, A. H. (2007). Sexual medicine education: review and commentary. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 4(2), 259-267.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Sexuality Education As Justice Making

This is not the blog I had intended to post. I’m scrambling at the last minute, putting aside my original work. I tossed and turned all night thinking about our work as sexuality educators and the profound impact we can have on cultural attitudes towards poverty; specifically its effect on women and girls. You are probably not surprised given the comments I made in class about this issue.

My restlessness was brought on by going to the movie theatre last night to celebrate International Women’s Day organized by the authors of Half the Sky and CARE (a humanitarian organization). The set-up was a live concert streamed from the Skirball center at NYU, which included musical performances by artists like India Arie and Diane Birch. Several celebrities read excerpts of women’s stories from the book (Marisa Tomei, Maria Bello, Sarah Ferguson). It also featured a short film of one of the stories of a girl named Woinshet from Ethiopia. She was the victim of the cultural practice of bride abduction, where a girl is kidnapped and raped by a man who then forces her to marry him afterward to avoid paying a dowry as well as any punishment for the rape. It was the first of several documentaries to be made into a TV series that will tell these women’s stories to an even wider audience.

Half the Sky, through its Pulitzer-prize wining authors, exposes three major abuses of women: sex trafficking and forced prostitution; gender-based violence including honor killings and mass rape; maternal mortality, which needlessly claims one woman a minute.

During the panel discussion each panelist responded similarly to the question of what can be done: EDUCATION. The dominant theme of this presentation was the power of education. It is one of the Millennium goals of the United Nations (United Nations, 2000). There are groups of people, including Woinshet, who travel throughout Ethiopia educating women AND men.

This is some SERIOUS education. This is not like writing a lesson plan on how to effectively use a condom or the benefits of masturbation. I can’t imagine a koosh ball activity that could stop a group of men from gang raping a young girl.

I expect to be confronted with the effects of poverty on sexuality in my work here in the United States. I expect this because poverty is very real here. The 2006 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that 13.3% of Americans live in poverty. Women and children represent a significant portion of this population (Michigan Domestic Violence and Treatment Board, 2008).

How can we maximize our effectiveness in this culture of poverty? Research shows an undeniable link between poverty and sexual violence (Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, 2007). To me it is the “ism” that is at the root of many of the other “isms” we encounter.

Sarah Ferguson suggested that each of us develop a discipline of gratitude and that this discipline be the basis for our efforts. Then we act.

Today’s blog asks you to identify your gratitude, to claim it; then to ponder how you as an educator can act. Think about the career path you may choose, the curriculum and programs you will create, the organizations with which you will associate, your relationships with colleagues, the dissertation you will write. On our first day of class, Dr. Dyson asked us to consider the role of culture and other influences on our community partners/target group.

How does poverty influence your group in any way? I look forward to your responses.

And to a good night’s sleep.

Your colleague,

Kristof, N. and WuDunn, S. (2009). Half the sky. Knopf Publishers, New York:New York

Michigan Domestic Violence and Treatment Board (2008). The intersection of poverty and sexual violence. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (2007). Poverty and sexual violence: building prevention and intervention responses. Retrieved from

United Nations Millennium Development Goals (2000). Retrieved March 5, 2010 from

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sexuality Education for ALL Medical Students

A conversation I had recently with my dentist spurred me to consider this topic. She approached me and said, “Hey… you’re an expert on this, so I challenge you to get people thinking about the importance of sex education for physicians. That includes general practitioners, OB/GYN, and yes, even dentists.” I looked at her quizzically as she continued, “You have no idea how difficult it is, as a dentist, to know how to approach people who have been sexually traumatized in their lives. I know that some of the things I do have the ability to trigger them, yet I don’t fully understand what’s happening.” Enter the bright light and music as it dawns on me what she’s really talking about. She’s talking about how to work with a patient who has been traumatized and that her training involved zero sexuality education therefore she had no idea how to approach it. Consider someone who has been forced to have oral sex... the dentist working from above and within the mouth has the potential to be an absolutely terrifying experience. You know, I never even thought of it that way. I have been challenged to look at the situation and the act of going to the dentist, or to any doctor, in an entirely new way.

It is necessary to equip students with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes regarding sexuality for them to be an effective practitioner. Some schools stress the knowledge, but cover the rest sparingly, if at all (Solursh et al., 2003). I began to examine online course catalogues for various medical and dental schools to see how much human sexuality education a student could expect in their schooling. I found that many schools provided courses in functional anatomy and physiology, but the courses appear to be just that, structure and function. The dental schools I looked at did not provide sexuality education at all. I could go on for days about the variations found and which schools had what, but that’s not the goal here.
In an effort to address the lack of quality sexuality education for American medical students, the American Medical Student Association recently launched their Sexual Health Scholars Program. It is a small group of dedicated students who enter a six month online course aimed at giving participants increased knowledge and skills toward “encouraging healthy sexualities, managing sexual concerns, and will help students bring these tools to their individual schools” (AMSA, 2010).

It is definitely a step in the right direction, and I encourage all of us to consider ways to make it more mainstream in the education process of physicians of all disciplines.

Solursh, D.L.,Ernst, J.L., Lewis, R.W., Prisant, L.M., Solursh, P.L., Jarvis, R.G., & Salazar, W.H (2003). The human sexuality education of physicians in North American medical schools. International Journal of Impotence Research, 15, S41-S45.

American Medical Student Association,


Friday, February 12, 2010

Online Courses

There is an explosion of online course opportunities. Some universities even offer programs that are solely online. As educators it is important to make the best learning experiences for each participant. Moore (1993) offers three tips/suggestions for successful online education.
1. Learner-content interaction
2. Learner-instructor interaction
3. Learner-learner interaction

This seems pretty simple but how would you integrate that into your own course? Learner-content is pretty straightforward you could assign readings, research, PowerPoint. Learner-instructor could be accomplished through email, Skype or videos. I had an instructor for a class for my masters that would video tape himself giving lectures and send it to the students. I would not recommend this because it does not facilitate interaction. Learner-learner interaction may be a little trickier. There is always email, blogs, message boards, phone calls but you really do (in my opinion) miss out on the face-to-face time with fellow students. Peters (1993) would agree, he believes online lacks the human dimension of group interaction, and alienates learners from teachers.

Just like any class that you would teach there is a lot of planning that is needed to make an online course successful. There are classes that do lend themselves better to online courses than others. Classes that are more research based or text heavy would do well as an online course but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make those courses more interesting and interactive. Just because a course is online doesn’t automatically make it cutting edge and interactive, be creative and try new ideas, like Skype or conference calls or I-chatting to encourage a face-to-face feel without actually being face-to-face.
I have included a few resources that may help you out when planning an online course.

An introduction to teaching online

Instructional strategies for online courses

Best practices

Instructor Workshops

Moore, M. 1993. "Three Types of Interaction." Distance Education: New Perspectives, eds. K. Harry , M. Hohn and D. Keegan. London: Routledge.

Peters, O. 1993. "Understanding Distance Education." Distance Education: New Perspectives, eds. K. Harry , M. Hohn and D. Keegan. London: Routledge.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Children and Sexuality

Children and sexuality

Opportunities for sexuality education span across the lifetime. An important population to consider providing education to is parents of younger children. Advantages of parents providing sex education is that they are able to make the most of teachable moments and teach the family values related to sexuality (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2010). However in order for parents to do this, they must be able to recognize young children as sexual beings. Fortunately, great resources are available on the web so parents can have access to quality knowledge even when a sex educator cannot be physically present for the conversation.

Last semester I went to a workshop on talking to children about sex hosted by Planned Parenthood of DE (PPDE). I saw great teaching methods used there and am going to share them along with information that can be useful to parents.

Understanding sexuality in children – Here is a link to sexual milestones in children a way to educate parents. If providing education in person, one could consider having milestones on individual cards and having parents match the milestone to the correct age (like a timeline).

Making the most of teachable moments – While parents may not schedule sex talks with young children, they should be able to answer sex questions if they come up. Here is a resource that offers suggestions for making the most of those teachable moments. If doing this is person, parents could practice by being given a scenario and role playing the response with a partner.

Know your family’s values – parents are in a positive to teach about sexuality from a point that fits within the family’s values, not societal values. This will require the parent(s) to really think about what is important to them and how they wish to convey that message to their offspring. To help parents think through their values two very different cultures and their view on sexuality could be given to help parents figure out how they fall on the spectrum.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How To Write A Sex Advice Column

Teaching sexuality can occur in many different ways. Sex education is not limited to a classroom or the bedroom. For those of you who plan on incorporating technology into your career, you may have come across the idea of creating an internet sex advice column.

According to Debra Levine, the popular advice columnist from, there is a specific way to arrange your advice when answering and educating people through a sex column. There are three parts you should list in your advice: 1) Explain what the concept is, 2) Give specifics about the concept, and 3) Provide two references (one offline and one online). Your answer to the question should be more of a commentary, rather than actual advice.

Below, I created my own answer to a commonly asked question. Try doing one yourself, and have fun with it! Please take note that you need to know who your audience is. If your sex advice column is purely for educational purposes, you should avoid using slang terminology. Personally, I enjoy adding a little entertainment in my answers.

Where is the clitoris and why is everyone talking about it?

A rose is the key to a woman’s heart. An orgasm is the key to a woman’s happiness. Giving your woman an orgasm will make her temporarily happy. It’ll give you just enough time to run out and buy her a rose (in case you’ve forgotten it’s your anniversary)!!

The majority of women can only orgasm through clitoral stimulation. If you have been with an extraordinary amount of women who orgasm from penetration, you’ve either had the pick of the litter or maybe you should be rethinking your techniques! The chances are you will not be able to tell if she’s faking it. Even if you're with a woman who can orgasm during coitus, play it safe by learning exactly where the "clamburger" is. In order to find the exact location, check out some human sexuality books at your local bookstore. Also, the following website reveals the female genitalia in 3-D:

Enjoy, and's not just the clitoris! The shaft, legs, glans, and bulbs of the clitoris give orgasms as well! LEARN THEM ALL!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Welcome to Hey Sex Ed!

This blog is created by the students at Widener University's Graduate Programs in Human Sexuality who are currently enrolled in HSED 626.