May 13, 2017

So You Want to Study Sexuality…

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What does it mean?

Matt McDaniel

What does it mean?

As our semester here at Indiana University (IU) comes to a close, my students often share how much they have enjoyed taking a class in human sexuality and they ask what other courses they can take. We’re fortunate at IU as there are classes in sex and gender in a number of departments, so one cannot possibly be comprehensive (especially as new classes pop up from time to time), but here is roughly what I share with them:

In the School of Public Health (SPH), we offer a minor in Human Sexuality and list, on the linked page, a number of our course offerings. In addition to classes about sexuality that I teach, faculty such as Drs. Brian Dodge, William Yarber, Sherwood-Laughlin, Reece, and Eastman-Mueller have – for many years – been teaching sexuality-related classes in the SPH. Dr. Sherwood-Laughlin leads a particularly well-regarded course about teaching methods related to sexuality education.

I also encourage students to explore departments and faculty all around campus. In IU’s Gender Studies Department, Drs. Sanders, Johnson, Fair, Foster, Garcia, and Maher (among others) often teach sexuality related classes . The Sociology department at IU has a particularly long tradition of offering coursework related to human sexuality, notably with courses by Dr. Powell and the recently retired Dr. Weinberg.

We also have a number of excellent courses in Biology, Criminal Justice, the Media School, Anthropology (such as those taught by Dr. Virginia Vitzthum), Psychological and Brain Sciences, and in the School of Education that would be of interest to students seeking greater knowledge about sexuality, sexual health, and/or reproductive health.

Because course offerings change frequently, and there are a number of hidden gems on any campus, I encourage students to ask their advisors, professors, and classmates for suggestions, too. One of the more interesting classes I took, years ago as a graduate student, was simply titled African Women, was in Anthropology, and addressed a number of issues related to gender, relationships, love and sex. However, I wouldn’t have found that class if I hadn’t been curious enough to look online, browse the IU course catalog, and ask questions of other graduate students. The name itself didn’t suggest it was  a sexuality-related course, but it was and I found it enriching.

For doctoral students at Indiana University, The Kinsey Institute and the Interdepartmental Graduate Committee on Human Sexuality have long coordinate an interdisciplinary doctoral minor in human sexuality (more information can be found here).

Wherever you study, if you’d like to learn more about a career in sexuality, browsing the AASECT, SSTAR, and SSSS websites can also give a sense of what a professional career in sex research, education, or therapy could look like as well as the kinds of education and experience it takes to pursue your interests.

If you’re interested in one day working as a sex therapist, then courses in psychology, social work, or counseling (sometimes offered in psychology departments and other times in educational departments) may be helpful. If you’d like to work as a sexuality educator, then coursework in health education, health promotion, higher education, and/or public health may assist you in reaching your goals, as might classes in journalism or writing if you see yourself provided education through writing books, newspaper columns, or through digital media. For those who see themselves pursuing careers in sex research, focusing on a specific discipline (e.g., psychology, public health, biology, sociology, etc) that features the kinds of research you find interesting or a good fit for your skills may be worth looking into. And of course those interested in sexual medicine might consider paths in either nursing or medical school. Find out more, and explore your options, by talking with your advisor, professor, or a faculty mentor.

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