Northwestern to offer online Sex 101 class

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A new online Northwestern University “Sex 101” class aims to demystify the subject for freshmen, without leaving parents scratching their heads, as some did following a live sex-toy demonstration on campus in 2011.

In a series of short videos, students will able to learn the basics about sex and reproduction, said Teresa Woodruff, vice chair for research in obstetrics and gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

“If you Google it, there’s nothing out there like this,” Woodruff explained Tuesday. “Reproduction is one of those things where we don’t assemble the definitions, the fundamental science and the health outcomes in one place that is easily accessible to the public.”

The videos, which will be available for free online starting Monday at www.coursera.org/learn/reproductive-health, cover such topics as the rise and fall of hormones, STDs and how to avoid them, sexual violence and the workings of the sex organs.

“For many college freshmen, they may have had information in a sex ed class in school, but some of them have not had a really good education on this topic,” Woodruff said. “For some, this information is a little bit embarrassing or taboo.”

Some videos feature Woodruff in a laboratory, another with her beside a chalkboard and another using a “hologram” stage with hologram models.

“They allow you to look at the anatomical regions and hear about how those tissues function,” Woodruff said.

In 2011, Northwestern made headlines when two non-students demonstrated for 100 students a power tool converted into a sex toy in an optional after-class seminar of Prof. J. Michael Bailey’s “Human Sexuality” class. In the days following the demonstration, Northwestern’s phone lines lit up with calls from alumni and parents of students unhappy about the class. Morton Schapiro, university president, later described himself as “troubled and disappointed” by the sex-toy demonstration, although he also said controversy is part of every university.

In the wake of that particular controversy, the sexuality class was not offered the following year.

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