Most of us dread the culminating “sex talk” from our parents, but how much does it really teach us? On top of that, sex is still a taboo subject when it comes to education. Because of the misinformation regarding sex, SexInfo Online is a club organization dedicated to providing “comprehensive sex education based on the best research…to ensure that people around the world have access to useful and accurate information,” according to their website.
Run by the University of California, Santa Barbara’s sociology department, SexInfo Online was founded in 2003 and is overseen by professors John and Janice Baldwin. Carly Haack, a fourth-year marine biology major, runs and facilitates the organization, and she is the lead coordinator of their website.
However, the website is maintained by about 20 students. Consisting of a team of five to six webmasters, an editor, coordinator, and staff writers, SexInfo Online reaches out beyond the UCSB campus to around the globe. The articles written for the website are based on the most up to date information, and SexInfo Online only uses information and research from the last five years.
Using social media platforms like YouTube and Twitter, the staff shares information on human sexuality and addresses topics such as putting on a condom, masturbation, contraception, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. The website has sections ranging from “Ask the Sexperts” to “FAQs” to “Test Your Knowledge.”
Questions range from to “How should I come out to my parents?” to “Am I pregnant if my partner came in the pool?” The team answers questions from social communicative viewpoints, like advice on how to verbalize your intentions and what is and isn’t considered consent. The organization also addresses questions from a physiological standpoint; the website would answer the latter question with, “Sperm have a very difficult time traveling through water, so if the man ejaculates into the water of a bathtub or shower, away from the woman’s vulva, pregnancy is very unlikely. However, sexual intercourse in a pool or a bathtub is not an effective way to stop sperm. If the man ejaculates into the vagina or even on the vulva while in water, their chance of pregnancy is just as high as in the corresponding activity in dry air.”
About 20 to 30 questions are submitted to the organization every week and writers reply to topics they feel they are most knowledgeable with and questions that they feel are important to address.
“We meet once a week on Tuesdays and sit around a table answering questions that are sent in from all over the world,” said fourth-year staff writer Matt Friske, who is double majoring in communications and film & media. He has been writing for the site since his sophomore year.
Friske described that he began writing articles for SexInfo Online when he took Human Sexuality, also known as Soc 152A, an introduction course to the main aspects of human sexuality. He signed up for the honors section, which took the top 15 students from the class. Like many courses at UCSB, Soc 152A is geared towards research and engaging in further knowledge of the subject. Based on their writing capabilities and their general knowledge and interest in human sexuality, students in Soc 152A were given the opportunity to write for SexInfo Online and reach out to people around the world.
“We each have different topics we write articles on each week, and try to address all aspects of human sexuality. I focus my articles on LGBTQ topics and body image in social media” says Friske. As a communications and film & media major, he likes to focus on that aspect of human sexuality, such as how it is perceived via social media and how people communicate, but the writers of SexInfo Online vary in major and background.
There are biology majors, sociology majors, and students ranging from freshmen to seniors. “For instance, the biology majors like to focus on physical topics like STI’s,” said Friske. “I think we have an article on all of them with pictures.”
Based on “top pages” and “key words,” SexInfo Online can see which particular topics are most popular. Many searches and questions are sent in regarding pregnancy and virginity.
“We get a lot of hymen questions, especially in regions of the world like India, where virginity is socially constructed,” said Friske. “We try and make these topics seem normal and relatable. It a very human thing, the physiological aspects are the same all around the globe and we are trying to give people the information they need.”
The writers are making a “Pregnancy Probability Quiz,” which is coming out soon. It does not determine whether one is pregnant or not, but by asking a series of scientific questions, the quiz gives an approximate likelihood of pregnancy based on the answers given.
For more information on SexInfo Online, how to get involved, and stay up to date with all aspects of human sexuality, visit www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/home.