Text Only Page



How Do You Teach Sex in the Classroom?


Trent University Professor Tackles the Social Dimensions of Sexuality in Popular Psychology Course

Thursday, February 5, 2009, Peterborough

When it comes to teaching the social aspects of human sexuality, assistant psychology professor Dr. Terry Humphreys at Trent University has developed a distinctly student-centred methodology that helps students learn about this important subject.

“Sexuality can be an uncomfortable subject for students, so they are often hesitant to seek out greater understanding of this complex, yet essential, aspect of human behaviour,” explained Dr. Terry Humphreys, who is also an expert in human sexuality research. “I always try to keep the readings fresh so this course gives them the most current studies on a wide variety of topics related to the social aspects of sexuality.”

While much of the scientific literature about sex focuses on biological processes, Prof. Humphreys designed his fourth-year course entitled “The Social Dimensions of Sexuality” instead to explore sexuality from a social psychological perspective. It covers a broad range of topics, such as sexual orientation, mass media and sexuality, pornography, attraction and love, sex work, and sex education. Through these dimensions, students learn how historical, cultural, and intrapersonal understandings all help shape people’s current knowledge, attitudes, and sexual behaviour. Prof. Humphreys is open to letting student interests guide the way his course is structured.

“With every course offering, I make a point of asking students what drew them to this course and to identify what issues intrigue them the most.” Prof. Humphreys will then adjust aspects of the course to enable students to explore these subject areas more thoroughly. As the course unfolds, students learn to apply theoretical paradigms from social psychology to human sexuality, such as the influence of gendered patterns of communication on sexual behaviour.

Students spend two weeks early in the course exploring sexual orientation, a topic he says many find quite fascinating. “Current research indicates that sexual identity is much more fluid than we originally thought, especially for women,” said Prof. Humphreys. “We take a look at why gender and sexual orientation are not as categorical as most people assume.”

In addition to engaging in class discussions, students are expected to give several presentations throughout the course in order to expand their communication and critical thinking skills. This way, students start to take responsibility for the analysis of the materials, and to develop their own informed opinions.

Prof. Humphreys encourages his students to identify the convergence of ideas from other courses to build a more comprehensive understanding of human sexual behaviour. “It is an intensive course in terms of workload,” he says, “but the students who are open and up to the challenge, absolutely love it.”


For further information, please contact Dr. Terry Humphreys at (705) 748-1011, ext. 7773 or terryhumphreys@trentu.ca