Whenever someone asks what I do for a living, I have a decision to make: do I “out” myself as a sex scientist, or do I give a generic answer that doesn’t emphasize the fact that I study sex for a living? For example, I could simply say that I’m a social psychologist or an author and leave it at that. This choice is something that all sex educators, researchers, and therapists face. Each of us has to figure out on our own what we want to reveal about our jobs to different audiences. However, there’s one audience that’s often especially tricky to navigate: our families.Read More
Gizmodo recently published an exposé on Daniel Sendler, someone who presented himself as a sex expert to the popular media and succeeded in getting a lot of publicity for himself over the last two years. However, as Gizmodo reports, Sendler was a “serial fabulist” who misrepresented his training and credentials.
The Sendler case got me thinking about how journalists and consumers alike can tell the real scientific experts from the fake ones. I tweeted a few thoughts on this the other day, but wanted to expand on some of them here.Read More
I’ve been running the Sex and Psychology blog for nearly 7 (!) years at this point. When I started, I didn’t know a whole lot about blogging. I gradually picked it up over time, but it definitely took a while to find my stride. As you might imagine, I learned a lot about the dos and don’ts of blogging on sex science (and science more broadly) along the way. I’m often asked for writing advice by people who are new to this, so if you’re thinking about becoming a science blogger, here are some of the key things I’ve learned so far:Read More
I made a major career move this summer. After working ten years as a college professor, I decided it was time for something new: I left academia to become a full-time author. My reasons for this were both personal and professional.
It was a tough decision to leave the academy because there are a lot of things I love about it. So here are four things I’ll miss about being a college professor—and four things I won’t miss at all.Read More
I've taught human sexuality courses in colleges and universities for more than a decade. Teaching a course on this subject obviously poses a number of unique challenges, but one of the biggest for me was finding the right textbook. Don't get me wrong--there are a ton of fantastic sex books out there written by superstars in the field; however, none of them offered the perspective that I take in my class. As someone working in a psychology department, I want a book that emphasizes psychological research and theory, as opposed to one that largely dwells on the clinical and biological side of things. My students want this too. In fact, for the first several years I taught this class, my end-of-semester evaluations had a lot of comments along the lines of “great class, but where’s the psychology?” Given that I couldn’t find a book that met my needs and the needs of my students, I decided to write my own, which I titled The Psychology of Human Sexuality.
The first edition was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2014, and the second edition will be released on December 8, 2017. Let me tell you a little bit about the book and what's new in the revised edition.Read More
A new paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggesting that computers have better “gaydar” than humans made quite a media splash this week. Specifically, this study found that a machine algorithm correctly classified 81% of men and 74% of women as either gay or straight; by contrast, human judges correctly classified just 61% of men and 54% of women in terms of their sexual orientation.
These findings have raised a lot of ethical concerns, with many gay rights groups expressing worry about how such findings could potentially be used for nefarious purposes.Read More
I spend a lot of time talking, writing, and tweeting about the latest scientific research on sex and relationships. Over the years, I've had more than a few people respond to my posts and articles with comments like, “We needed research to tell us this?” In other words, it's not uncommon for people to question whether a given study was ever needed because we could have used “common sense” to figure out the results instead.
Dismissing research in favor of common sense is one of my bigger pet peeves. In fact, it ranks right up there with people asking me whether I can read their minds when they find out that I have a degree in psychology. Once and for all, no, I’m not a psychic—that’s something completely different. But I digress.
What I want to do in this post is to take a moment to explain why it’s problematic to dismiss research with "Oh, that's just common sense."Read More
The morning after this week’s U.S. Presidential election, I awoke feeling a range of emotions—none of them positive. I was sad. I was angry. I was scared.
I spent the entire day feeling helpless and pessimistic about the future, which I documented in an early morning blog post about seeing this election through the eyes of a sex researcher and educator.
A few days have passed now and I certainly don’t feel any better about the election results, but I’m no longer despondent. I know that the next four years will pose immense challenges, both personal and professional, but I also know that I don’t just have to sit by idly while so many things that I care about are threatened. I can do something—and I’m starting today.Read More
As I watched last night’s U.S. election results come in, I was stunned and shocked. When I work up this morning, I was terrified.
These feelings are, in part, a function of my personal politics—the details of which I’ll spare you. However, I also feel these very same emotions in my capacity as a sex researcher and educator—and that’s what I’d like to talk about for a few moments. Here’s why what happened last night at all levels of government scares me.Read More
I am pleased to announce that, for the fourth year in a row, there will be a Sexuality Pre-Conference prior to the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP)! Our last three Pre-Conferences were hugely successful, with incredible talks and great attendance. We are so excited to continue building on this tradition.
The next SPSP Sexuality Pre-Conference will be held on Thursday, January 19th, 2017 at the Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. The theme of our upcoming pre-conference is "a new look." As such, all of our invited talks are designed to offer a fresh take on important issues in sex and sexuality research. We have also intentionally sought out speakers who will include a social justice perspective in their talks.Read More
Being a successful sex researcher is--and always has been--a tough business. Sex research has a lot of vocal critics who aren't comfortable with the work we're doing, some of whom have actually gone to great lengths to try and scare us away from studying certain topics! One person who knows this all to well is sexual psychophysiologist Dr. Nicole Prause.Read More
Before a scientific study is carried out, researchers usually need to receive approval from an Institutional Review Board (IRB), a body of fellow scientists who evaluate a given study’s potential risks and rewards. In the name of protecting research participants, IRBs often given studies focusing on “sensitive topics” heightened scrutiny.
Sex is often considered to be a sensitive topic, and many researchers (myself included) have encountered difficulties at one time or another in getting certain studies approved because their IRBs are concerned that students might be traumatized by certain kinds of sex questions (e.g., how would students who have been sexually victimized feel if they were asked questions about prior experiences with rape and sexual assault?).Read More
As someone who spends a fair amount of time engaging the public with the latest scientific research on sexuality and relationships, it is not uncommon for me to receive comments or tweets that say something to the extent of: “We needed research to tell us this?” The implication is that there really wasn’t a need for a given study to be conducted because we could have used “common sense” instead to figure out the results.
I’ve received enough of the “that’s just common sense” rebuttals that I thought it made sense to write an article tackling them head-on with the goal of explaining why I think it’s problematic to dismiss research in this way. So, here goes.Read More
Although sex is a topic about which many of us are inherently curious, there are surprisingly few reliable sources out there for learning about it, especially sources that are grounded in scientific research instead of arbitrary notions of sexual morality. That is precisely the reason I started this blog in the first place. However, in order to get the most out of the sex research I share on this site (not to mention the research you might come across elsewhere in the media), it is vital that you first become literate in the science of sex. That is, it is important to understand and appreciate what sex research can and cannot tell us. To that end, below are six things you should keep in mind any time you sit down to read the latest write-up of sex research.Read More
Open-access (OA) science journals such as PLoS ONE operate under a different model of editorial and peer review than the traditional non-OA journals. Perhaps the biggest difference is that, at the traditional journals, reviewers and editors are usually encouraged to take into account what they perceive to be the potential impact and importance of a given study in determining whether or not it merits publication. In contrast, such judgments are irrelevant at many OA journals, where the focus of review is on whether the science itself is technically sound. At OA journals, whether a given study is important is a determination that is made by research consumers themselves rather than by editorial boards. This difference in focus has led some scientists to view OA journals with skepticism and to perceive that their review process is “watered down.” However, I would argue that by not focusing on perceived impact and importance, OA journals take a lot of the subjectivity out of the review process and, in the end, this is ultimately beneficial to science.Read More
Diversity courses dealing with sexuality, gender, and race offer a range of benefits to the students who take them. As a result, U.S. colleges and universities are increasingly adding such courses to their curricula, with many now requiring students to take a certain number of them in order to graduate. Requiring that students take diversity courses does not guarantee that they will benefit from them, though, because the benefits of such classes depend, to some extent, upon students’ initial attitudes toward the course. Those attitudes are crucial because they shape how students approach the material and how engaged they become with it. However, we know relatively little about the factors that shape these initial attitudes. In order to address this knowledge gap, one of my colleagues (Dr. Jennifer Spoor of LaTrobe University) and I conducted an experiment to see how the title of a diversity course dealing with women’s and gender issues affects students’ perceptions of it and their interest in taking it. We focused on course title because it is usually the very first piece of information students hear about a course and, as such, may be the point at which attitudes toward a class begin to take shape.Read More
I have attended a lot of psychology conferences over the years and, after many of them, I often thought to myself: “What would have made this conference even better? More sex talks!” I'm far from the only one who has had this thought, though. Several of my colleagues have noticed that many of our major conferences are lacking when it comes to sexuality programming, so we took matters into our own hands and, earlier this year, we put on the first ever Sexuality Pre-Conference prior to the 2014 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP). The Pre-Conference was a huge success--it was very well-attended and received rave reviews. As a result, turning this into an annual event seemed like a no-brainer!Read More
Nerve recently ran an article entitled "Meet The Modern-Day Masters Of Sex," in which they interviewed four sexologists about how they got into the field, what a typical day looks like for them, and how their work impacts their personal life. I am honored to have been included among the interviewees, along with Drs. Debby Herbenick, Kristen Mark, and Sarah Merrill. I know that many readers of this blog are aspiring sexologists who will find this to be a worthwhile read. But even if you aren't planning to study sex, this article does a nice job of highlighting just how diverse the nature of our work is and it debunks some common myths and misconceptions about sex and sexology.
Check out the full article on Nerve here.Read More
I have been teaching college level human sexuality courses for nearly a decade. However, during all of that time, I could never find the right textbook. Certainly, there are a lot of fantastic sex books out there written by superstars in the field, but they just don’t offer the perspective that I take in my class. Most of them are very clinical and/or biological in nature, which just isn’t the best match for the way I approach this subject. As someone who teaches in a psychology department, I want a book that really demonstrates the psychological importance of sex and that delves into psychological theory. My students want this too. In fact, for the first several years I taught this class, my end-of-semester evaluations had a lot of comments along the lines of “great class, but where’s the psychology?” Given that I couldn’t find a book that met my needs and the needs of my students, I decided to write my own.
I began working on this book three years ago, and I pleased to say that it is now officially in print! The end result is a 424-page text entitled The Psychology of Human Sexuality. In a nutshell, this book provides a comprehensive overview of human sexual behavior from a biopsychosocial perspective. What this means is that while I put psychology front and center throughout, I also acknowledge and consider biological, evolutionary, and socio-cultural factors that influence our sexuality.Read More
In my previous post, I talked about why I no longer want to be a part of the traditional academic publication system: the acceptance criteria are entirely too subjective, the process takes years, and scientists are forced to sign over their copyright to a greedy industry that gouges anyone who wants to access our work. As a result, I have started publishing in open-access journals. I have many scientific colleagues who have never published in such journals and are quite curious about the process, so allow me to tell you about my recent experience publishing a paper in the journal PLOS ONE entitled Social Networking Smartphone Applications and Sexual Health Outcomes in Men Who Have Sex With Men.Read More