Laser Spotlight: Professor Sarabeth Golden Reply

By Heather Murray – 1851 Staff

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Photo by Heather Murray

Professor Sarahbeth Golden teaches the Psychology course “Human Sexuality.” Her students explore the biological and anatomical sides of sex, as well as the cultural concepts. Part of Golden’s curriculum is to inform the students and get them more comfortable with their bodies and sexuality.

What do you want your students to learn from the Human Sexuality class?

I decided over the summer to change my curriculum to project-based learning. They will be learning by doing and finishing projects. In the age of the Internet, you can learn content on your own. I gave my students an electronic book that they can learn with on their own to make the learning a little less heinous and more likely for them to actually read it.

That’s where they get information about anatomy or sexual transmitted diseases. I wanted them to do a project based on human sexuality where they are researching a problem, and the problem has to be relevant, something related to the campus.

Why did you decide to teach this class?

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I’ve taught it. Originally, I thought it was an exciting opportunity to teach a side of psychology that people don’t normally talk about. This is a class the kids can get excited about, as it can be pretty provocative. We close the door a lot. The words we say and the things we talk about aren’t things you normally say in a classroom.

Does it ever feel awkward to talk with a group of young adults about sexual topics?

Sure, yeah. Because it’s not something you ordinarily talk about in a public forum. The students will say, “I talk with my close friends about this.” It’s definitely awkward. It’s funny because the anatomy part isn’t super awkward. That’s just anatomy and physiology and body parts. But when you talk about body response and pleasure, that’s when it gets really weird. We talk about why the pleasure part of sex is so taboo. We’ve had some pretty funny conversations about that.

It seems like there would be a lot of humor involved.

Oh yeah, because it’s super awkward. Humor is the unifying factor in an intense conversation that is usually kept hush-hush.

Do you see a change in being comfortable with sexuality in this day in age rather than in previous decades?

Yes, I mean I haven’t been alive for that many decades but based on what I’ve read, we’ve come a long way in terms of our culture. We have a long way to go. There’s still a lot of stigma and shame about enjoying sex. The rules seem to be different for men versus women. There’s a lot of assumptions that we are only talking about hetero-sex. We’re catching up on what we know, and then we’re learning about how we should talk about it.

What is the feedback from previous students who have taken Human Sexuality?

Typically, they really like the class. This se- mester I’m curious because I’ve changed over to project-based learning. Research shows that students learn more in a project-based course rather than a content-based course.

Will you explain the project that your class is working on right now?

It’s actually five different projects. There’s 19 students. We have four groups of four students and then one group of three. They each had to come up with their own project. They are coming up with a subject that they can either research the problem or try to find a solution to it.

We have one group that focuses on the problem about people not knowing much about sexuality. Not just where babies come from and how to be safe, but safe relationships. Another group is exploring ways of effectively communicating your sexual boundaries. They’re also curious if there’s a different response based on if the person hitting on you is from the same sex or the opposite sex. A lot of people also don’t know what consent involves. Another group is looking at street harassment and catcalling. They’re trying to come up with some kind of awareness to prevent it. Another group is trying to reduce the shame with casual sex while raising awareness of safe sex. They are asking people to reveal how many people they’ve slept with.

With guys, usually the higher the better, but with girls, it usually has to be lower. When there’s more shame associated with sex, you’re more likely to not have safe sex. And then the last group is doing research to evaluate the extent to which the students here endorse sexual double standards. From their data, they may develop some sort of outreach from it.

What do you want your students to get out of this project?

I would like them to take away a couple of things. A more sophisticated understanding of the problem they’re focusing on. An idea that they can actually do something about it. I want them to ask what their subject is about, what is the intention, what’s the effect. Finally, to learn to work collaboratively in groups. People are different, and it’s really important to work with people’s differences.

Are there any resources, outside of the classroom, that other students should look into to better understand issues within human sexuality?

There’s a documentary that came out last spring that was about sexual assault on college campuses called “The Hunting Ground.” It’s really thought-provoking and about how college administrators don’t know what to do. In some cases they try to cover it up or persuade police. I really love the movie “Kinsey” about Alfred Kinsey. He was the pioneer of sex research.

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