By Making a Canceled South by Southwest Presentation go Viral, you will Reduce Depression, Poverty, and Sexual Assault in the U.S.
I have been teaching college-level psychology courses since 1989 and presenting scientific research at professional conferences since 1994. In March of 2020, I was excited to be soon presenting at a conference I had never attended, The South by Southwest Education Conference. In a word, South by Southwest is the “cool” conference to be presenting at:
“The South by Southwest Education Conference & Festival is an annual event that fosters innovation in learning (attracting more than 10,000 people). The SXSW (pronounced South by Southwest) community is optimistic, forward-thinking, and purpose-driven with a shared goal of impacting the future of teaching and learning.”
To keep the coronavirus (COVID-19) from “going viral,” SXSW 2020 was canceled. I understood the decision was made to keep the public safe; but I was still disappointed in not being able to present. Ironically, I would have been presenting a pedagogical method for reducing social problems that I was hoping would go viral.
With your help, maybe this method will still go viral?
Imagine having a method for reducing the number of people suffering from anxiety and depression in the United States…
But not being able to use it.
Imagine having a method for reducing the poverty rate in the US…
But not being able to use it.
Imagine having a method for reducing the number of sexual assaults occurring in the US…
But not being able to use it.
Imagine no more, because in reality there is an empirically based method for reducing anxiety, depression, poverty, and sexual assaults in the US. The method is K-12, science-based, comprehensive sex education.
K-12, Science-Based, Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE)
CSE is driven by medical and scientific research (e.g., Lucas & Fox, 2018a; 2018b) for the purpose of facilitating the development of sexually healthy people. This type of education covers a variety of topics at age-appropriate levels, including anatomy and physiology, communication and goal-setting skills, development, relationships, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), safe-sex, pregnancy, and accessing valid information about sex and sexuality (American Medical Association, 2018; American Public Health Association, 2018; Centers for Disease Control, 2016; Future of Sex Education, 2011).
While increasing self-efficacy, CSE decreases rates of sexual prejudice, sexual discrimination, unplanned pregnancies, abortions, maternal deaths, high school & college dropouts, and sexual assaults (Chin et al., 2012; Lindberg & Maddow-Zimet, 2012; Lucas et al., 2020; MacDorman et al., 2016). For example, John Santelli and his colleagues at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health conducted in-depth ethnographic interviews of 151 college students and found CSE serves as a protective factor from being sexually assaulted during college (Santelli et al., 2018). To put this protective factor in perspective, 15 percent of undergraduate women at the University of Texas (UT, with more than 52,000 undergraduate students) reported they had been raped since attending UT, either through force, threat of force, incapacitation or other forms of coercion such as lies and verbal pressure (McGaughy, 2017).
Despite the personal, social, and medical benefits of CSE, most Americans have not, will not, and cannot use it. More than 80% of Americans want CSE for themselves or their children (Bleakley, Hennessey, & Fishbein, 2006), but less than 20% of Americans will get it. Political, religious, and cultural misunderstandings about sex education has caused CSE to only sporadically be used for the US population (Future of Sex Education, 2011; Mirzazadeh et al., 2018; Shalby, 2019).
These systematic misunderstandings have resulted in only 20 of the United States’ 50 states requiring the content within K-12 sex education courses to be medically, factually, or technically accurate (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2016); which means, 30 of the United States can completely base their K-12 sex education courses on opinion, conjecture, and ideology. To put this in perspective, imagine not having to teach from an empirically based perspective for other K-12 academic topics, and how screwed-up school children would be about these topics.
Having a Method that Solves Problems, but not being able to use the Method, is Beyond Frustrating
The present method was born of frustration to overcome the political, religious, and cultural barriers separating the public from scientific information.
These barriers are overcome by a YouTube channel named 5MIweekly.
5MIweekly has free, original, and entertaining, 3- to 18-minute length science-based human sexuality videos. Video topics are akin to those found within a typical college-level human-sexuality course (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, love, attraction, sexual physiology, safe sex, contraception, pregnancy).
Now, more than ever, teenagers in-particular and adults in-general need accessible, scientific sources of information on the Internet to learn about human sexuality (Holstrom, 2015). As many as 50% of Internet sources about human sexuality contain inaccurate information (Buhi et al., 2010). Significant increasing numbers of boys are using Internet pornography websites as their primary source for information about sex (Orenstein, 2016). And as the Internet continues being used for divisiveness, intentional and systematic misinformation about sexuality is becoming more apparent and powerful (Sifferlin, 2015).
Not being able to learn about sexuality using scientific sources of information on the Internet may not seem like such a big deal, if not for the fact that sexual illiteracy is associated with fear and anxiety, STIs and shame, low self-esteem and poor body image, family and domestic violence, and rape (Alsubaie, 2019; Jaramillo et al., 2017; Lee et al., 2015). For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting the highest rates ever of the sexually transmitted infections gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia (2018). And the main reason the CDC gives for these unpreceded rates — a lack of empirically based sex education (CDC).
Since launching 5MIweekly with a single video in the fall of 2017 for my students taking PSYC 2306: Human Sexuality (5MIweekly now has more than 50 videos), it has garnered thousands of views and subscribers, most of which are due to my students sharing the channel with friends and family. As one of my students said, “I wish I would have known this stuff a long time ago — this needs to be shared with the public!”
The results of studies conducted within my laboratory give further reason why science-based information about human sexuality needs to be shared with the public: People’s beliefs in sexual myths (e.g., a woman cannot get pregnant when on her period) are significantly reduced, after viewing 10 or more 5MIweekly episodes over a five-to-eight-week period, regardless of whether they have taken a human sexuality course. Further, the more people’s beliefs in human-sexuality myths are reduced, so too are their sexual prejudices and potential for acting in sexually discriminatory ways (Lucas et al., 2019; 2020).
A Solution only Works when Applied
As my students use 5MIweekly and share it with friends and family, I hope you too will use 5MIweekly personally, familially, and professionally. For the more sexually educated we are, the safer, healthier, and happier our society will be.
Everything you need to Watch, Listen, Read, and Study the Science of Human Sexuality
Science-Based Human Sexuality Videos:
Science-Based Human Sexuality Apple Podcasts:
Science-Based Human Sexuality Manuscripts:
Quizzes for Science-Based Human Sexuality Videos, Podcasts, and Manuscripts:
Alsubaie, A. S. R. (2019). Exploring sexual behaviour and associated factors among adolescents in Saudi Arabia: a call to end ignorance. Journal of Epidemiological Global Health, 9, 76–80.
American Medical Association (2018). Policy H-170.968: Sexuality Education, Sexual Violence Prevention, Abstinence, and Distribution of Condoms in Schools.
American Public Health Association (2018). Policy 20143: Sexuality Education as Part of a Comprehensive Health Education Program in K to 12 Schools.
Belluck, P. (April 23, 2018). Trump Administration Pushes Abstinence in Teen Pregnancy Programs, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/23/health/trump-teen-pregnancy-abstinence.html
Buhi, E. R., Daley, E. M., Oberne, A., Smith, S. A., Schneider, T., & Fuhrmann, H. J. (2010). Quality and accuracy of sexual health information web sites visited by young people. Journal of Adolescent Health, 47, 206–208.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). 19 Critical Sexual Education Topics, https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/profiles/pdf/19_criteria_landscape.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT), https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/HECAT/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (August 28, 2018). New CDC Analysis Shows Steep and Sustained Increases in STDs in Recent Years, https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2018/press-release-2018-std-prevention-conference.html
Chin, H. B., Sipe, T. A., Elder, R., Mercer, S. L., Chattopadhyay, S. K., Jacob, V., . . . Community Preventive Services Task Force. (2012). The effectiveness of group-based comprehensive risk-reduction and abstinence education interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus, and sexually transmitted infections: Two systematic reviews for the Guide to Community Preventive Services. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 42(3), 272–294.
Future of Sex Education (2011). National Sexuality Education Standards Core Content and Skills, K–12, http://www.futureofsexed.org/documents/josh-fose-standards-web.pdf
Holstrom, A. M. (2015). Sexuality education goes viral: What we know about online sexual health information. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 10, 277–294.
Jaramillo, N., Buhi, E. R., Elder, J. P., & Corliss, H. L. (2017). Associations between sex education and contraceptive use among heterosexually active, adolescent males in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 60, 534–540.
Lee, Y. M., Florez, E., Tariman, J., McCarter, S., & Riesche, L. (2015). Factors related to sexual behaviors and sexual education programs for Asian-American adolescents. Applied Nursing Research, 28, 222–228.
Lindberg, L. D., & Maddow-Zimet, I. J. (2012). Consequences of sex education on teen and young adult sexual behaviors and outcomes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 51, 332–338.
Lucas, D. & Fox, J. (2018a). Human sexual anatomy and physiology. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. http://nobaproject.com/modules/human-sexual-anatomy-and-physiology
Lucas, D. & Fox, J. (2018b). The psychology of human sexuality. In R. Biswas-Diener & E. Diener (Eds), Noba textbook series: Psychology. Champaign, IL: DEF publishers. http://nobaproject.com/modules/the-psychology-of-human-sexuality
Lucas, D. R., Fox, J., Kelley, K., Goguen, D., Matthews, T., Cefre, K., & Faulk, E. (2019). Dispelling sexual myths with higher and virtual education. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Sciences, Washington, D.C.
Lucas, D. R., Goguen, D., Faulk, E., Richardson, A., & Cefre, K. (2020). Science based sex education decreases sexual prejudices and discrimination. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southwestern Psychological Association, Frisco, Texas.
MacDorman, M. F., Declercq, E., Cabral, H., & Morton, C. (2016). Is the United States maternal mortality rate increasing? Disentangling trends from measurement issues, Obstetrics & Gynecology, 128, 447–455.
McGaughy, L. (2017). 15 percent of Female Undergraduates at UT have been Raped, survey says, The Dallas Morning News, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2017/03/23/15-percent-of-female-undergraduates-at-ut-have-been-raped-survey-says/
Mirzazadeh, A., Biggs, A., Viitanen, A., Horvath, H., Wang L., Dunville, R., Barrios, L. C., Kahn, J. G., & Marseille, E. (2018). Do school-based programs prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in adolescents? A systematic review and meta-analysis. Prevention Science, 19, 490–506.
National Conference of State Legislatures (December 21, 2016). State Policies on Sex Education in Schools, http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx
Orenstein, P. (March 19, 2016). When Did Porn Become Sex Ed?
Pew Research Center (May 31, 2018). Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018, http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/05/31/teens-social-media-technology-2018/
Ranji, U., Salganicoff, A., Sobel, L., Rosenzweig, C., & Gomez, I. (May 11, 2017). Financing Family Planning Services for Low-income Women: The Role of Public Programs, https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/financing-family-planning-services-for-low-income-women-the-role-of-public-programs/
Santelli, J. S., Grilo, S. A., Choo, T.H., Diaz, G., Walsh, K., Wall, M., Hirsch, J.S., Wilson, P.A., Gilbert, L., Khan, S., & Mellins, C.A. (2018). Does sex education before college protect students from sexual assault in college? PLOS ONE, 13, 1–18.
Shalby, C. (2019). Controversial Sex Education Framework for California approved despite Protest, Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-sex-education-california-20190510-story.html
Sifferlin, A. (2015). Why Schools Can’t Teach Sex Ed, Time Magazine, https://time.com/why-schools-cant-teach-sex-ed/
Dr. Don Lucas, Ph.D. is a Professor of Psychology and head of the Psychology Department at Northwest Vista College in San Antonio Texas. He loves psychology, teaching, and research.
If you like this story, then check out Don’s videos on his YouTube channel, 5MIweekly: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQFQ0vPPNPS-LYhlbKOzpFw/featured, follow him on Instagram @5MIweekly, and like him on Facebook: http://fb.me/5MIWeekly