Sexology: The Academic Path To Sex Expertise

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Natalie explores the academic path to sexual expertise - graduate school, sexuality classes, and careers in sexology.

humansex_slide

Photo: Eric Dykstra

Human sexuality studies from the slide projector perspective.

So you’re interested in sex, right? Okay, most people are. Let’s say you have more of an academic interest in sex. What do you do with that?

Scientific Study Of Human Sexuality

The study of sexuality is often called sexology. According to the Curtin School of Public Health, sexology:

refers to the scientific study of human sexuality. The scientific study of sex and sexuality can be traced back at least to the classical Greek period in the Western world, and even earlier in the Eastern world. Throughout history, emphasis in sexological study has tended to focus on the outcomes of sex, rather than the experience of sexuality…The study of love, sexual emotions, human relationships, human sexual response, criminal sexual behaviour, sexual function, sexual pleasure and fulfillment have been relatively recent endeavours in the scientific study of sexuality.

Forgive the extra ‘u’s – Curtin is an Australian university.

Sexuality Classes In Academia

Sexuality classes and research are becoming more and more common in academia as researchers recognize that sexuality impacts almost every aspect of our lives in a number of ways. Most often, sexuality is studied within the realm of social sciences (psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, history, etc) where researchers can look at the intersection of individuals, societies, and sex; makes sense, right? So you can most definitely start there by pursuing a degree in one or more of the social sciences with a focus on sexuality.

Then what?

The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, & Therapists (AASECT) suggest these steps:

Decide if you want to engage in research or practice. Researchers focus on studying sexuality to answer new questions about how humans engage in sexual behavior, how we interact in romantic relationships, or why we engage in risky sexual behavior. Practice involves being a clinician or sexuality educator that may require slightly less schooling but more direct involvement with community organizations and individuals.

If you choose to pursue higher education, make sure you do your research. It is important to find a graduate program and faculty within that program who have similar research interests as you. AASECT has a list here of over 20 schools and institutes that offer higher or continuing education in sexuality studies or you can check out the Kinsey Institute’s list of training programs here. When researching schools, look at the Curriculum Vitae (CV, an academic resume) of faculty to see what types of papers they have published and presentations they have given at conferences. Would you be interested in joining them in that research? Do you want to learn more about that paper they published recently? If so, contact those programs. Ask questions. Researchers love to talk about their work and would love to talk to you about it.

Seek a mentor. Join a professional organizations such as AASECT or their sister research organization the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS). Most have mentorship programs that match you with a professional already in the field. They can help guide you through finding a school or starting a new job. They can serve as invaluable resources for your academic or professional career.

I know that thinking about careers and graduate school can be overwhelming. What can you do now or next semester? Take a sexuality class! They are fun, informative and a great way to find out if this is an area you are interested in pursuing. Check your university’s schedule of classes. For those of you lucky enough to be at Indiana University (I’m biased, I know), stayed tuned to the blog for details about studying sexuality at Indiana University.

What Do You Think?

Let us know what you think about studying sexuality in a university setting? Interesting? Boring?

Natalie Ingraham (M.P.H.)

is a recent graduate of Indiana University and is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Medical Sociology at University of California San Francisco.
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