Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reaching adult learners

               After high school and college ends, we often assume that the bulk of our learning is done. In the case of sexuality education, our knowledge generally consists of what we may have learned in health class and what our parents forgot to tell us. In adulthood, we move on to getting jobs, forming relationships and raising families. We often do this without the realization that there may be a small gap, and in some cases, a deep chasm between what we have been taught as kids and what we may want to know. Reaching the curious adult learner isn’t as easy as waiting until the next class session if they are not enrolled in college and taking an intro to human sexuality course.
                Prior to the 1970’s, sexuality education was inconsistently offered to students with no standard curriculum or information being provided. The post 1970’s expectation continues to vary between programs offered (Fisher, Herbenick, Reece, Dodge, Satinsky, & Fischtein, 2010). With so much variance in what was taught, who do you turn to when you want to learn more? Older adults have been turning to the internet for their information. They were educated during a time that sexuality was not spoken about as openly as today and with the advent and increased availability of information, using websites to responsibly educate is a viable option. This may be especially helpful in providing sexuality for older adult males since they tend to use the internet more often than older adult females (Adams, Oye & Parker, 2003).
                Using the internet as an educational tool is only as good as the websites that are searched. All information is not correct nor is it responsible information. Websites also change and are shut down almost as often as they are created.  When working with adults and using websites as resources, it is important to check for the validity of information provided.
                The internet can be used as an outlet for sexual expression, erotica, pornography, and cybersex. It can also be used to connect to educators. Another way to reach an adult population is through at-home toys parties. These can be set up through toy companies found on the web. These parties provide a safe space (your own home with your own friends) and allow the participants to ask questions related to relationships, specific skills and perceptions in addition to the toys for purchase. When discussion is aligned with the SEICUS guidelines, toy parties can provide the answers that women may not have any other outlet to receive (Fisher, et al., 2010). They also provide boatloads of fun.

Adams, M. S., Oye, J., & Parker, T. S. (2003). Sexuality of older adults and the Internet: from sex education to cybersex. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 18(3), 405.  

Fisher, C., Herbenick, D., Reece, M., Dodge, B., Satinsky, S., & Fischtein, D. (2010). Exploring sexuality education opportunities at in-home sex-toy parties in the United States. Sex Education, 10(2), 131-144. doi:10.1080/14681811003666341


  1. I have learned a lot of tricks about sexuality from at home sex toy parties, especially when there are few other safe places to learn about this stuff. I also like that there is greater emphasis on pleasure, rather than on health, safe sex, etc. These matters are still important but I believe there is lacking around pleasure.

  2. Even though it makes complete sense, I never thought about adult men being on the internet more than women. There is a ton of information out there, and trying to have these continuous learners, it might be more beneficial to them to show them how to find/verify a good website with credible information. Since most older adults never had a course on this topic, it would be very well worth their time. It would help make sure their sexuality information is accurate as well as giving them a useful tool they may use often in the future.

  3. I wonder if there are more up to date stats on who uses the internet more, men or women? I will have to look into that article you posted, that is very intriguing.

    I think the internet is a great space for adult learners. As you had mentioned, many adults of today grew up in a time when you did not talk about sex, when there was no curriculum, and most likely there parents didn't talk to them either. In addition, the internet can be reached on their own time. They can take in the information as slow, or fast, as they would like. Plus, because of the time frame they grew up in, they may still feel some embarrassment around the topic of sexuality. Because it is on the internet, no one really needs to know that they are trying to learn more about sexuality; though, I have a feeling they would be spreading the word around like wildfire!

    I think, most importantly, would be getting them to the said "correct" websites. We know as sexuality educators that there are numerous sites out there that contain little more than garbage. This in itself is a huge feat.

  4. I agree that the Internet can be a fantastic resource for older adults to explore relationships and gain sex education.

    My only concern is making sure the individual has a solid education about the Internet and basic safety measures. My mother is 77 and still struggles with understanding the Internet. With help she can navigate email and family blogs. However when an unwanted pop-up comes, spam email, or an advertisement appears, she gets flustered and doesn't know what to do -- she asks, "should I give out my information?" Most of the time the answer is "NO!"

    However with basic safety measures, I think the Internet can really provide an opportunity for older adults to explore their sexuality in anonymous and fun ways.