In our early years, we learn about sex in school (usually barely), on the playground (often erroneously) and at home (mostly embarrassingly). At the very least, we get some basics, some myths to decode and some shame to later tell counselors all about. And what today’s youth don’t learn from that tumultuous trident, well, they’ve got the Internet.
Click Here to Learn About Sex: Is the Future of Sex Ed Online?
If you make your way from confused and fumbling adolescent to slightly more sexually coherent adult, rest assured, help is out there. Over the past few decades, sex education for adults has exploded as a strong adjunct to the greater sex industry. Many sex shops offer a variety of workshops and courses for the sexually curious. Topics can range from how to give better blow jobs to rope bondage techniques to polyamory to Tantra ... the list goes on and on. The idea of being a sex educator has also caught on as it seems everyone has a particular interest worth sharing. Hell, even I’ve taught classes on prostate stimulation and sex writing.
So, the resources are out there for those who are worried about fumbling through their next sexual adventure
Well, sort of.
The thing is, sex workshops are most often offered by quality sex shops and organizations in urban centers and the sex educators teaching those workshops, more often than not, live in or near those cities. If you’re in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, Chicago, you’re covered. While some instructors do travel to colleges and universities in smaller centers as guest lecturers, their presence will greatly depend on the social climate of the area (*cough* University of Tennessee *cough*). So, if you live in the middle of Buttfuck, Nowhere, you just might get, well, nowhere in finding a class on butt fucking.
At least there are always books. And DVDs. And, well, the Internet. But these resources, as great as some might be, don't offer the connection with instructors and other learners that educational pedagogy universally agrees is the key to success.
Could MOOCs be the answer?
Massive Open Online Courses are a controversial subject in the world of education. These online courses cover a wide range of topics, including academic and general interest pursuits, and are offered free of charge and available anytime online. They promise an egalitarian approach to education so that anyone can learn, any time they need to.
Typically, MOOCs are created through a partnership between a college or university and an outside organization, the most well-known groups being Udacity, edX and Coursera. Professors work together with such organizations to create a course, often comprised of video lectures and quizzes. Students also submit work for feedback and are sometimes required to work with other learners in online forums to complete the course.
So, let’s review MOOCs as if we’re cruising their online dating profile: online, available everywhere? Yes. Interaction with instructor and peers? Yes. Affordable? Yes. Don’t even have to put on clean underwear to impress? Yes!
It sounds like the type of sex education you should get in bed with, right?
Well, yes and no. Sex educators are split on the value of the MOOC model, and many of them seem to like the idea more in principle than reality.
There isn’t anyone out there who doesn’t want to see more sex education. For kids and adults. And with the growth and understanding of our collective sexual knowledge, having people who can deliver that information is integral. Nowadays, we are lucky to have a growing group of educated, accredited sex instructors who can take the Ben Wa ball and run with it.
However, because sex education does not have a large institution behind it to underwrite the creation and administration of free courses, MOOC-style courses would have to be created as a goodwill measure. And in an age when more and more is being asked of people in the name of community, these sorts of projects are increasingly coming down to a stalemate.
So, the debate becomes how to reconcile the needed sharing of sexual knowledge with ensuring justified payment to worthy educators? I asked three prominent sex educators if they would participate in creating a MOOC - even if it cut into their bottom line.
Carlyle Jansen, founder, educator and sex coach at Good For Her, has built a significant reputation for herself and the shop, in large part because of the many workshops she provides (including some online ones). Because of many years of success, she is interested in the MOOC workshop potential, even if no profit is to be made.
"As an organization and as an individual, I already offer many free workshops. It is part of being in a community," Jansen says.
On the other hand, Charlie Glickman, PhD, sex and relationship coach, well-known for his writing and the connection he establishes with students, offers a pragmatic view of the MOOC model.
"My knowledge and expertise has been over two decades in the making," Glickman said. "Valuing my labor and the effort it took to get here means not giving it away. From the feedback I get from my clients and workshop attendees, I give a lot of value and I think it’s fair for me to get paid for that. So, no. I wouldn’t participate in creating a MOOC on a volunteer basis. I would consider it if I could a) be paid for my work, b) receive royalties for any payments made by students who take the course, or c) advertise my coaching work. I’d be open to hearing about other possibilities, such as helping create something that might or might not show a return on my labor, but I’d need to know that there was a plan to make it successful."
Ashley Manta, sex educator at Sex Ed with Ashley, centers her consideration in the needs of the learner.
"I would [participate]. Knowledge is vital to healthy sexual interactions, so anything that would increase the collective sexual knowledge base is a positive thing, even if it costs me earning potential," Manta said. "There will always be people with different learning modalities who will prefer live workshops to online workshops. I wouldn't want to prevent those who tend toward online learning from obtaining valuable information for the sake of preserving earning potential."
There is no easy answer to this dilemma. Just as academia struggles with MOOCs, so does the sex community.
Tell us what you think. Would you like to see more online sex ed? Would you pay for it?
Jon Pressick is a sex-related media gadabout. For more than 20 years, Jon has been putting sex into our daily conversations at his long-running site SexInWords—as a writer, editor, publisher, sex toy reviewer, radio host, workshop facilitator, event producer and more. These days, he focuses on writing for Kinkly, GetMeGiddy, The Buzz and PinkPlayMags and editing Jason Armstrong's series of Solosexual books. You can find him on Twitter at @Sexinwords.