I recently told a friend that I would be teaching human sexuality at Austin Community College this fall. She replied by asking me, “What do you teach in that class? What is human sexuality?”
I was a little bit surprised at her question. It was past my bedtime, so I stumbled through an answer about the range of topics that it included: information about gender, the range of expressions that human sexuality takes, biology and physiology and embryology, STDs and safe sex methods, sexual pleasure, sexual coersion, relationships and how to navigate them, and so much more.
My friend was surprised, and said, “Doesn’t everyone already know about all those things?”
Now, my friend is highly self-taught in many areas. She is also very dedicated to living naturally and supporting her body naturally. Given this predilictions, she is probably more highly educated in human sexuality than many American adults. Nevertheless, I suspect that if my friend were to take my class, she would find that there is a depth to this information that she did not already know.
Another friend, a teenager, recently boasted to me that he had no need of such a class - he already knew everything he needed to know about sex and sexuality from the Internet and from his friends. I started asking him specific questions about women’s physiology and sexuality, STDs, and homosexuality. From the absolute lack of substance and high degree of humor in his responses, I am left with the impression that he didn’t have any what he was talking about.
While everyone is a sexual being, and so knows a degree about human sexuality, unless someone has made a study of human sexuality (whether formally or informally), they are often missing critical pieces of information that they don’t even know they are missing. While there are extensive restrictions on what kinds of sexuality education public high schools can offer (particularly here in Texas), colleges and universities often have the freedom to offer high quality courses in Human Sexuality.
I cannot recommend that a high school student join college students for a Human Sexuality class, so a community college sexuality class cannot stand-in for high quality sexuality education in public high schools. However, I highly recommend that high school graduates register for Human Sexuality their first year out of high school - particularly if their high school did not offer comprehensive sexuality education. Because this is what I really teach in all of my sexuality education classes:
I teach basic information about people’s bodies, and how people’s bodies relate to each other sexually. But more importantly, I ask the students to go beyond this basic level of information and to think deeply about the morals and ethics behind sexual and sexuality topics and activities. Then I guide the students as they begin to form their own beliefs, standards, and boundaries about all of these topics. When done right, this class has the potential to dramatically affect every student’s sexuality choices to be physically and emotionally healthier and safer.
I hope that any college or university Human Sexuality class would do the same.