Keith Hautala

By

College: Public Health

Sexual Health Course Now Offered by College of Public Health

Published: Feb 14, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 14, 2013) — Undergraduates at the University of Kentucky can sign up for a new course called "Sexual Health."

 

The three-credit class, the first of its kind at UK, is being offered as an option for the social sciences requirements in the UK Core.

 

The innovative and exciting course is being taught by Richard Crosby, DDI Endowed Professor in the College of Public Health, who has studied condom usage and the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases since 1995. Crosby says anyone could benefit from taking this course, but it is especially important for people of college age.

 

"We have robbed our youth of a decent sex education," Crosby said. "This course aims to overcome this problem. It is designed to provide students with the information and skills they need to improve their sexual health throughout their lives."

 

Crosby stresses that this course is "sex-positive," in that it embraces sexuality as an integral and essential component of human health. Although the curriculum includes instruction on avoiding disease and preventing unwanted pregnancy, Crosby says there's much more to sexual health than avoiding the negatives.

 

"Health has to do with understanding the body, both your own and other people's," he said. "One of the best aspects of sexual health is that it can lead to improved overall health. Science has discovered there are many  health benefits from sex, especially in the context of a loving and caring relationship."

 

Crosby assures students that even if they had a good sex ed class in high school, this course is going to provide them with new information, drawing on the latest research. A couple of good examples are the "trust hormone" oxytocin and the "reward chemical" dopamine. Research shows that levels of both are increased after the experience of strong sexual feelings, in women and men. Both chemicals are associated with numerous health benefits, as well as overall feelings of wellbeing, Crosby says.

 

There is also a lot of new and emerging information about sexually transmitted diseases, which students will not have been aware of before. For example, Crosby cites a spike in head and neck cancers scientifically linked to oral transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV).

 

"The class will help students learn how to protect themselves by identifying risks and by teaching them how to avoid risks," he said.

 

Students who sign up for Sexual Health will also gain an understanding of "sexual pluralism." This point of view does not advocate or elevate any particular type of sexual behavior or orientation, but rather acknowledges that healthy sexual expression can encompass a variety of different behaviors. The only two immovable parameters for defining "healthy sexual behavior," according to Crosby, are that it is consensual and that it occurs between adults.

 

This semester, 40 students are enrolled in the course. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

 

"Students love the class," Crosby said. "What we are doing at the university level is what other countries have done with comprehensive sex education, starting around the fourth or fifth grade. We take sex off its pedestal, so students can learn about it in a way that is open and honest. It makes learning easier."

 

The course, currently offered as UK 131, is part of a comprehensive strategy by the College of Public Health to include more undergraduate course offerings in population health. In the fall, it will be offered under a new course number, CPH 203.

 

The fall enrollment cap will be set at 200 students, but Crosby says if there are students waiting to get in, he will push to increase that number by 100 each year.

 

"I'll teach it in Memorial Hall if I need to," he said.

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Keith Hautala, (859) 323-2396; keith.hautala@uky.edu

 

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