UW Today

This is an archived article.

September 8, 1998

Although many Americans wish all that talk about sex would go away, sociologist sees healthy, positive side to frankness about sexuality

Despite a raging but reluctant debate about exactly what kind of relationship the President had with a White House intern, many Americans wish the whole public discourse about sex would just quietly go away.

That’s not necessarily a good thing, says the coauthor of a new book, “What I’ve Learned About Sex: Wisdom from Leading Sex Educators, Therapists and Researchers,” which will be available this week.
“Sexuality is a precious, positive part of life, not a prurient part,” says Pepper Schwartz, a University of Washington sociologist and former president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, who wrote the book with Debra Haffner, president of the Sex Education and Information Council of the United States.

The authors put together the book as “something people can have fun thinking about and at the same time learn,” explains Schwartz. “We designed the book to be part of a discourse about sexuality in a positive way. Public education about sexuality is important and we won’t achieve it if information is published in only one format. It behooves researchers and clinicians to get information about human sexuality out in different forms that people will read.”

“What I’ve Learned About Sex” consists of short nuggets of information gleaned from respected human sexuality researchers and educators, therapists, and medical and public health specialists. It was deliberately written this way and is not meant to be read in a single sitting. “There is something provocative or useful for people in every chapter,” says Schwartz,” and they should try to discuss these things with someone. I think the book will help communication about sex between people, even long-term partners.”

Many of the nuggets are deceptively simple. Others are practical or humorous. For example:

? Having a television in the bedroom is a bad idea.

? Men can also fake orgasms.

? Many people lie about their sexual history.

? Getting married doesn’t increase the frequency of making love.

? Consent requires communication.

? Thinking before sex is a good idea, thinking during sex never is.

The book also includes a referral chapter pointing readers to organizations and resources where people can obtain additional information. Schwartz, who frequently writes about relationships and sexual mores in the popular press, says she regularly receives telephone calls from around the country from people who have problems and want referrals to sexual therapists.

“There are times when I think people are too serious and too insecure about what’s proper. We think there are a lot of different ways to get information across to the public about sexuality and we believe sex should be talked about and problems should be solved,” she said.
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For more information, contact Schwartz at (206) 543-4160 or couples@u.washington.edu; Haffner at (212)-819-9770, extension 370, or dhaffner@seicus.org

For a review copy of the book, contact Hillary Schupf at (212) 366-2149 or hschupf@penguinputnam.com