This Week in Sex: Sex Ed, Condom Dispensers, and Sex With Robots


This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Comprehensive Sex Ed for Broward County

Florida has a long history of promoting abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. The state’s law requires schools that teach sex education to “emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity is a certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, STDs (including acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and other associated health problems.” And at the height of abstinence-only funding, organizations in the state received almost $13 million in federal funding in just one year to promote messages of chastity outside of marriage.

Today, however, things in the state are shifting. This week, for example, the Broward County School Board voted unanimously—in a vote that took under a minute—to institute a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum beginning in kindergarten.  

Young elementary school students (kindergarten to fourth grade) will learn about anatomy and personal safety. Starting in fifth grade, students will learn about a variety of sexual health topics, including abstinence, HPV vaccines, dating violence, sex abuse prevention, sexting, and social media.

Students seem pleased with the changes, which will take effect in the 2014–15 school year. Student Mario Lopez told the local CBS station, “Policies that have been in place in the past have been abstinence-only and have not been LGBTQ friendly of scientifically based with evidence.” Keyanna Suarez, another student, added, “There’s not gonna be a taboo about anything. Everyone’s gonna be able to open up, ask questions and get the info they need to make these decisions because some parents aren’t giving them education at home.”

Broward County, which includes Fort Lauderdale, has the sixth largest school district in the country.

A Well-Designed Condom Dispenser

As RH Reality Check recently reported, city officials in Chicago have announced that they will expand the school system’s condom availability program to at least 24 high schools in the district for the 2014–15 school year. Thanks to design students at Columbia College in Chicago, the condoms will be available in unique dispensers.

Tao Huang, associate chair of the Art and Design Department, told the Columbia Chronicle that the student-made dispensers have so far been installed at Foreman High School and Collins Academy. She added that the project “will have a very positive impact in the community. The best part of it is that these students just came out of high school not long ago, so it’s students designing for students. It provides a very good insight into the problem.”

The wall dispensers will be available to schools that want them this summer.

Puberty Book Remains on Shelf

Robie Harris, has written books on sex for young people of all ages, including It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health, which is about going through puberty. An electronic copy of It’s Perfectly Normal, which includes anatomically correct cartoon drawings, became available for the first time this year in middle school libraries in St. Charles, Missouri. Despite the fact that the book is meant for kids ages 10 and older, some parents felt the pictures were inappropriate for middle school students.

One parent, Tim Schmidt, filed a formal complaint with the district, asking for the book to be removed from shelves. He told a local television station, “It has a lot of explicit drawings. Cartoon images, life-like cartoon images. A look of nudity. It actually shows people having sex.” He went on to say, “Most of the time, when I showed this to parents, their jaws just hit the floor. They were shocked and then their next reaction was outrage.”

Of course, not all parents had that reaction. Parent June Tiller told the station, “I feel like if the school teaches them this, and they have this information available, it’s very important, and it will help keep them safe.”

The district denied Schmidt’s request to pull the book. School officials said, “It was determined to keep the ebook available as a resource for check-out in the library. If a parent determines that he/she does not want to their child to have access to certain materials, we honor that request.”

One in Five People in the UK Would Have Sex With a Robot?

More than 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom were surveyed about their attitudes toward androids (also known as robots). For the most part, respondents were skeptical of the machines: 46 percent said they felt technology was progressing too fast, one-third felt that robots posed a serious threat to humanity, and one-third worried that robots could soon replace people in key jobs such as soldiers, police officers, and teachers.

And yet, despite this distrust of androids, 46 percent admitted that they would either have sex with a robot or would not look down on those who did.

Middlesex University professor Martin Smith, who oversaw the study, says that in the future robots will be very life-like: “Robots will be able to show most, if not all, of the signs and behaviors of emotional intelligence. … The robots will not feel, but like actors they will be able to show emotional intelligence.”

As nice as it might be to have a sexual partner who appears to care about our feelings yet allows us to be guiltlessly selfish in bed (because it has no feelings to hurt), we’re still not convinced that romping with a robot sounds like fun.

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Follow Martha Kempner on twitter: @MarthaKempner