Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey




login / register  arrows

The Answer Blog

Wanted: A Few (More) Good Men to Teach Sex Ed

sexmatterslogo2_opt

This is not about the 1992 Tom Cruise film A Few Good Men. It’s about the need for more good men to teach sex education. We need these men to serve as role models for male students, showing them the importance of talking about sex responsibly and comfortably with their girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, partners, and, eventually, sons and daughters.

There was good and bad news in a report about sex education and U.S. teens released last week by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The good news? Before turning 18, nearly all teens — 97% — get some formal sex education in schools or other places, such as churches or community centers. (That’s progress, although the report doesn’t detail the accuracy or quality of the instruction.)

But a serious problem is that “more females than males have received formal instruction on how to say ‘no’ to sex, and more younger female teens than younger male teens have received instruction on birth control methods,” according to the report. Further, males get far less information from their parents than do females. The report’s author, Dr. Joyce Abma, a demographer with the NCHS, said the reason for the discrepancy “could be reflecting society’s regarding teen girls as needing to protect themselves more and prevent negative consequences.”

There might be another factor at play: Teen guys in schools see and hear adult women far more than adult men talk about sex.

“We need to groom good male sexuality educators. Good ones are so rare,” said Linda Morse, who recently retired after 30 years as the coordinator of School Health and Physical Education Standards at the New Jersey Department of Education.

I asked Morse for reasons why there’s such a dearth of male sexuality educators. Her reply can be summarized as the fear factor: men’s fear about teaching sex ed and administrators’ fear about giving them opportunity. She says that over years of her observations, male teachers are afraid of having to talk about sexual topics, such as family planning, risk reduction, safer sex, or gender and sexual orientation issues.

Morse says she has seen many male health/physical education teachers choose to attend a six-hour volleyball workshop rather than one on sexuality that requires less time. She believes that all sexuality educators need to understand their own sexual identity and “develop a comfort zone with students that is intimate, but not too intimate, and personal, but not too personal.” Further, “teachers of sexuality education must be prepared for all kinds of questions at any time and must be prepared to address parental concerns.”

Some men may find dealing with intimacy and the personal challenging, because they have not been raised to do it. Morse says that most male teachers “feel extremely competent and comfortable writing lessons on weight training, basketball and fitness, but not at all comfortable about addressing issues of sexuality.”

“This may be because experienced male health and physical education teachers often aspire to become athletic directors, principals, or supervisors and take graduate courses in management and leadership rather than health education. On the other hand, females are more apt to pursue graduate level work in health, family life, and sexuality education because they plan to stay in the classroom,” she says.

Administrators often make decisions that limit the number of men who get a chance to teach sexuality education. It begins early, in grades 4-6, when school nurses are called upon to teach the “clinical” aspects of sexuality, such as puberty education. Almost all are female.

Morse points out that some high school supervisors and principals are nervous about assigning young men to teach sex education. They have concerns “about pre-services or novice teacher’s teaching to students who are potentially only three to four years younger than they are and in fact ‘datable’ outside of school.”

Clearly, we have a problem here.

Morse’s perceptive analysis goes a long way to explaining the dearth of male sexuality educators. It also explains why young men may not feel comfortable talking to a male parent or asking a male teacher for in-depth information in order to make responsible, healthy decisions. They do not have the necessary role models.

To discover how we can encourage more men to teach sex education, I spoke to Hank Kearns, who taught the subject at Northern Burlington County High School for 35 years. He became a sexuality educator quite by chance: He was “assigned” senior health in his first year of teaching.

“I saw myself as not just a sex ed teacher. I saw myself as a health educator with wellness as my focus. But sex ed was a factor in all areas of wellness: social, physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and even financial,” he said.

I asked Kearns why so few men become sex educators.

“My gut response is that in order to teach sex ed, one has to be willing to make oneself vulnerable to questions, situations, and topics that men are uncomfortable with,” he said.

Kearns said he would tell prospective male sex educators that “teaching sex education helps you to become a better man. In the process of teaching, you have to learn it twice, once so you understand it and a second time you have to learn how to teach it. When you immerse yourself in that process of teaching, you understand [sexuality] on a much deeper level.”

Our society can reap rewards if we motivate more men to teach sex ed. There would be more information from the male perspective; more shared responsibility in sexual matters between partners; and more frequent and deeper conversations between fathers and sons about sexuality.

After all, conversations between the genders are an important key to a satisfying sexual life. It does take two to tango.

Add This
Email


Comments

  • I like this article because we need this to family planning…i hope you post more article like this…thank you…

  • [...] Susan Wilson wrote a blog post on Sex, Etc. lamenting the lack of male sex educators.  She cited societal pressures, gender [...]

  • Everyone can teach sex education, provided that the main theme should be a clean and safe sex.

  • Sexuality education is very important and men sex educators should take part of it. Having men as sex educators would play a good role to young male adults, thus they will have a better understanding in responsible sex. And being a sex educator does not mean teaching only these kids sex but what goes with it. Having men as sex educators would do good to the society.

  • i think now a days its going to very important to have sex education for every one.. so i think you are doing good work..

  • As a male I would find it somewhat uncomfortable teaching sex education but I agree that there should be more men teaching it. Students would benefit by getting both the male and female perspective on this issue.

  • I agree it would have been beneficial for me to receive my sexual education training from a male at least in part. I think that a reason males are afraid is because of the fear of being accused of something negative. I wouldn’t want to do it because I hear all the time about a student taking something the wrong way (legitimately or illegitimately) and the male teacher getting totally busted (legitimately or illegitimately)
    Just my opinion

  • Sexuality education is essential and males sex educators should participate of it. Having men as sex teachers would play a great function to young male adults, thus they’ll have a much better knowing in responsible sex. And being a sex educator doesn’t imply educating only these kids sex but what complements it. Having men as sex teachers would do great for the community.

  • It’s apparent you are dedicated to excellent writing. I truly related to the main points mentioned in this writing. This is really great original information.

  • I thought this post struck a very important topic, not often addressed. I am a female homeschool teacher and believe the topic would be better addressed by my male colleague, particularly because 3/4 of my students are teenage boys!
    I think it’s important for all children/teens to be taught not only the aspects of sexuality, but also of relationships.
    An article I read recently that tackled subject very well. There are also many resources at the psychalive site that would be beneficial to sex educators of all genders.

Post a Comment

Comments are limited to 500 characters and will be reviewed by staff before they are posted. We do not accept comments that include personal identifying information, abusive language, or solicitations.

You must be a site member to leave comments. If you are already a member, please log in. If not, please click here to become a member.