Sex Ed in Bed
Turn your head and cough
By Jallen Rix, Ed.D. (c).

The next time you see your primary care physician, ask the doctor how much formal sex education s/he has had. It might surprise you to know that the vast majority of doctors have had one class or less of actual education about sex - really! Even gynecologists with all their focus on the biology and knowledge of reproduction have had very little education on the “in’s and out’s” of sex. I asked Christopher Eden MD, DHS, clinical sexologist and STD researcher, and he said that he attended, “One of the luckier medical schools in that we received a two week series of lectures on human sexuality [but] the majority of this was anatomy and physiology.” I think this is a crime, simply because medical doctors are the ones most people see first for their sexual problems. Believe it or not, many in the psychological profession haven’t had much more education on the subject, either.

As a result, advanced learning about sex has fallen through the cracks. Because sex is still a taboo and uncomfortable subject we often discount its importance. This makes it all the easier for medical doctors to say, “We’ll let the shrinks deal with that.” However, since sexuality has a biological component, it’s easy for the psychiatric community to say, “We’ll leave that to the medical community to deal with.” Just look at the past few decades of higher education in terms of Sex Ed. Nearly every single formal sexological degree program in the U.S. of A. has been absorbed into either medical programs or psychology programs. And then somehow the sex degrees systematically disappear altogether.

A sobering experience of this is from Dr. Jeff Patterson, another one of the rare medical doctors with a sexology degree. He reported that over the past few years a medical school in the midwest (which will go unnamed) gradually took his whopping, extensive, everything-you-need-to-know, one-week sex course (yes, that’s sarcasm) and gradually downsized it to only two days. Then the school reduced his teaching to a single day and brought in an “instructor” from Texas to teach the second day. Dr. Patterson was appalled to sit in class while the Texan showed the students slide after horrific slide of STD-riddled body parts while practically force-feeding abstinence education (if you can call it that) down the audience’s throats. Remember, this was the total sum of sex education these med students were going to get. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s truly a crime!

Furthermore, those sterile rooms where you wait in a “backless dress” for the doctor to enter aren’t the most conducive environments for having an intimate conversation about sexual challenges. Imagine how it usually transpires: The doctor comes in and, let’s say, a patient is having a general check up. Once that’s done, just as the doctor reaches for the doorknob to leave, the patient asks, “Um... doc, can I get some of those little blue pills?” These “doorknob conversations,” as they have come to be known, are horribly inadequate to address what the problem might actually be. If the patient has real difficulty getting erect there’s a significant chance that a pill will not resolve the problem. What then? He’s going to feel all the worse when the expected result does not arise, so to speak. Who’s he going to turn to then, much less have the courage to talk to someone else about it?

It’s not my intention to invalidate, or to sound like I’m blowing the whistle on the medical community. There are doctors out there who do their best to stay informed about their various fields of expertise. To be sure, physicians aren’t perfect, and I don’t expect them to know everything about sex, just as I don’t think psychologists could know everything about it either. Sexuality is not just biological or mental. It’s both and more—sociological, anthropological, theological, just to name a few. Sex is important enough to be a field of study all its own, and that’s what sexologists are for!

So the next time you want to get sex information from your doctor, think twice! You might ask first how much education s/he has. Who knows, there’s a good chance you might know more than your medical professional. And if your questions go unanswered, find a good sex therapist or educator by contacting the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists ( Of course, you can always contact me and I’ll do what I can to find some well-schooled, highly professional sexologist, probably right in your own backyard.

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