I currently work in a college health setting. I am able to meet and interact with other sex educators in the field at conferences, in class, through advocacy events, at workshops and trainings, etc. Obviously, we come from a myriad of backgrounds and paths to becoming sex educators, and we work in a variety of different environments, structures, organizations, etc. The methods in which we are able to (and ALLOWED to) provide education to our audiences are all different, the content of that education is potentially regulated, and the resources we are allowed to provide are oftentimes limited. I will say that I am VERY lucky to be at an institution that really has yet to regulate any of the education I provide. But in talking with colleagues I know that often is not the case. Because sexuality is such a value-laden topic, morals and values of one’s organization, employer, audience, co-workers, etc., all have the potential to impact his or her work. Some sex educators I know are not allowed to discuss abortion. Some cannot hand out condoms. Some aren’t allowed to use sex toys when educating… I’m sure you’ve all heard these anecdotes before.
One notable story of an educator’s “questionable” methods has been in the news recently. If you’re not familiar, a Northwestern University professor held a optional session for his Human Sexuality class during which a guest speaker was brought to orgasm by her fiance using a sex toy. Not the most traditional teaching method, and it has not surprisingly caught some backlash. But the intention was to educate students. A spokesman for the University has said, "Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and some of at the leading edge of their respective disciplines... The University supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge” (“Northwestern Uni defends sex-toy demonstration”, Associated Press, March 3, 2011)
While I haven’t had any live sex demonstrations during my educatioal sessions (yet?), I already mentioned that I have yet to be restricted from doing something that I believe to be educational and beneficial to my students. That being said, I am nervous that I will not always be in such a lucky situation, and find myself feeling anxious and almost suffocated thinking about, for example, not being able to pass out condoms to my students. As simple as that may sound, I feel like I would really struggle with it! While I understand that condoms may not be within a person’s or organization’s or institution’s value systems… what about my values? As an educator, I feel as though something like that would be directly conflicting with my values. But I also know that some of us do it… and do it REALLY WELL! So I want to learn from you! Do you have any of these conflicted feelings? Is it easier than I am anticipating to quiet them? Or not? Does it make you angry? Frustrated? If so, how do you deal with those feelings both personally or within your work? AM I JUST BEING NAIVE? Or dramatic? Ahhh!