Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, Volume 9, Nov. 16, 2006


Teaching Human Sexuality: Fantasy vs. Reality

Sandra Schroer, Ph.D., Department of Sociology, Muskingum College
Gordon Hammerle, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Adrian College



Poster Design by: Codie Wedge


Fantasy: Demonstrations will work.

Reality: Better try them first!


Fantasy: You can bring an interesting speaker to class and the students will ask good questions.

Reality: Students may not ask good questions because of embarrassment, shyness, or fear that they will appear naive.


Fantasy: Administration in a learning institution values scholarly sexuality resources: books, articles, etc.

Reality: They have lawyers telling them to watch their backs and don’t scare parents (customers).


Fantasy: You can use a great 50 minute video and students will love it, too.

Reality: Student attention spans typically require shorter segments.


Fantasy: A good guest speaker can talk for 30 minutes and students will be enthralled.

Reality: It works best to have the speaker say just enough to peak student interest. Otherwise, too many of their questions will be answered, or they will zone out, thinking “this won’t be on the test.”


Fantasy: Teaching juniors and seniors will mean the students are sexually experienced.

Reality: A significant minority will be virgins, and they can’t be ignored in class discussions or activities.


Fantasy: Students will talk honestly about sex.

Reality: Some GLBT students will not acknowledge their orientation or status, even anonymously. Some are very uncomfortable talking about sex. For example, when doing an exercise on synonyms for masturbation, some students denied knowing any other than the one or two used to start the list.


Fantasy: You can teach without having to always ask yourself “How would I deal with this if I were gay?”

Reality: There is a heterosexual assumption/bias in much of what we do (e.g., a scale of erotophobia-erotophila includes the item “Swimming in the nude with a person of the opposite sex would be exciting.”) We need to be on the lookout for biases in our language and in the examples we choose.


Fantasy: There will be a balance of the sexes in class.

Reality: Classes can be disproportionately male or female. You may need to work on achieving a balance of the sexes.


Fantasy: You have to be young to relate to students and have good rapport in class.

Reality: Students relate to faculty who are engaging, open, enthusiastic, and who seek their participation.


Fantasy: Students will be interested in the material and thus read the book.

Reality: In a recent survey by one of the authors (G.H.), males reported reading 33% of the text and females reported reading 58%.


Fantasy: Students will volunteer to answer factual questions, or will respond to the phrase “any questions?”

Reality: Eliciting discussion is an art. Students are often afraid to answer questions they think have a clear right or wrong answer.



Fantasy: You don’t need to cover physiology in a social science or humanities course.

Reality: Students can not understand embodied experiences if they don’t know the body.


Fantasy : Everyone who takes a sex course is open-minded.

Reality: Some students have made up their minds and aren't open to data or new ideas. Some are sex-negative. Some are taking this course for a requirement and are uncomfortable with the material.


Fantasy: We are always talking about the “other.”

Reality: There are students in the room who have experienced homosexuality, sex phone work, childhood molestation, rape etc.


Fantasy: Students are not likely to tell all.

Reality: Occasionally one will “tell ALL” leaving others uncomfortable. (A) They may think they are supposed to tell all. Instructors may also be encouraging this. (B) Other students don’t want to know that much about a class mate.


Fantasy: Requiring self-disclosure (written or verbal) will increase students’ interaction with material.

Reality: Some students will benefit from this. However, others will retreat from interaction.


Fantasy: Students of similar ages understand a shared language and slang.

Reality: Slang is regional, and class stratified.


Fantasy: What’s shared in the classroom will stay in the classroom.

Reality: Students out one another.


Fantasy: All sex teachers make good counselors.

Reality: If you’re not a trained counselor you may do more harm. You can be a listener and a resource for help.


Fantasy: Sexuality instructors are objective.

Reality: There are those who have an agenda, and can be as closed-minded as some students.

Fantasy: Students who choose a sex course are simply curious and academic.

Reality: Infiltrators or sexual predators may use such a course to arm themselves with information about gender, trends, norms, fears and the weaknesses of their classmates.


Fantasy: Students will take this seriously.

Reality: Not always, but humor is good. Don’t try to stifle it, work with it.


Fantasy: The instructor must approach all material seriously.

Reality: Please don’t. Sex courses should reflect the joy and humor of healthy sexual practices.


Fantasy: Most of the students are “normal.”

Reality: Define normal (identity construction).


Fantasy: You, the instructor, know the most recent trends.

Reality: You may not, e.g. “man whore” as a negative description.


Fantasy: Teaching Human Sexuality is fun and can transform lives for the better.

Reality: True!

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