Beyond The Yucks – The Value Of Sex Research

E-mail Email Icon Print Print Icon
Reddit Digg StumbleUpon Delicious Bookmark

Should we assume that we know everything there is to know about sex? Don't be so sure...

Photo: Kinsey Institute

Friends may be a good source for sex information.

The “My Friends and I know everything we need to know about sex” attitude is a disturbing, anti-knowledge and anti-science attitude that has been around since Alfred Kinsey first published data on sex in America in the 1940’s.  In her review of a recent series on UK television (“The Sex Researchers”), Rachel Cooke seems to think that sex research has no value, and that her experience proves this: “..most people know exactly what they want and how to get it, and have done down through the ages.”

She accuses sex research of “clumsily invading what was once the province only of the poet.”   Substitute “the bible” or “god” for “poet” and you get an idea of the anti-science attitude that sex is mysterious and secretive, and not appropriate for study or analysis.  Granted, this TV series played right into that mentality, but a journalist/blogger should be able to discern between a sensationalized TV program and valid and serious research.

Advancing Sexual Health and Knowledge

Ms. Cooke seems utterly unaware of the health consequences of sexual decision-making, the struggles that people go through daily in their relationships and their personal lives.  Perhaps she is unaware of the impact that a diagnosis of cancer can have on a relationship, on self-esteem and on private lives.  Maybe her friends and the children of her friends have not been victims of sexual abuse or coercion, have only been pregnant when they wanted to and how they wanted to, have never been worried that they were HIV, or HPV, positive and just aren’t concerned about that sort of creepy thing.

Human behavior is hard to study.  There is no one approach or simple answer to the questions about what turns us on or off, or the pain and joys that go along with being sexual beings.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make an positive impact, or provide research-based information to help people understand themselves and their relationships.

Sex research includes broad perspectives, including health, psychology, physiology, and culture.  There are differences in approaches, and understanding sexuality is not easy to do; this TV show played right into this with its racy, over-sexualized approach.  For those of you who are satisfied that you know everything you need to know, your journey stops here.  For the rest of us, we have much to learn and to share about this critical aspect of being human.

Jennifer Bass (M.P.H.)

is Director of Communications at The Kinsey Institute and founder of Kinsey Institute Sexuality Information Service for Students, now Kinsey Confidential.
More posts by this author »

Comments

  • http://kinseyconfidential.org/author/adrofish/ Adam Fisher

    “know exactly what they want and how to get it”

    I wonder where she comes up with this idea. I have worked with a LOT of people who really have no idea about what they really want, nor how to get it. Putting that issue aside even, as you said, there are MANY other reasons for sex research. Perhaps she has a limited view of all the different topics sex research covers (e.g. sex abuse).