Annual Symposium 2016
Workshop by Dr David Evans
The title of this session is not of my own creating, but the name of a bestselling book I fumbled through as a teenager, which helped me to understand more about myself, about life and sex, than any sex ed. lessons in school ever did! Roll forward more than 40 years and the government of the day has once again blocked effective and compulsory Sex and Relationship Education (#SRE) for all young people, despite their crying-out need for it. If they’re not getting ‘it’ at school, will they be getting ‘it’ in Higher Education?
Click here, or on the image above, for the live video recording and Prezi of this workshop session.
There were two key exercises for the participants of this workshop. The first involved colleagues getting in to pairs (where even numbers allowed), with one person representing a personal tutor, and the other, a new student nervous but keen to find out how to use a male condom.
The task was for the ‘personal tutor’ to demonstrate, as best they know, how to use a male condom. This playful event caused some great laughter and insightful learning! I then demonstrated the correct way, for anyone unsure, and then asked them to fill out a brief form critiquing the experience from the point of view of the demonstrator (the ‘personal tutor’) and the ‘student’, the recipient of the demonstration.
The second exercise was in two halves and involved using some of the elements advocated in the Teaching Backwards model, by Griffith & Burns (2014): the K&W of KWL, & KASH.
The participants were asked: “What something do you KNOW about sex (that may be useful for your work) – but you WANT (need, might or ought) to know more about? Griffith and Burns follow up K&W with “L”, “what did you LEARN?” but this feedback was achieved later, through more informal means.
The verbatim responses from the participants are organised here into themes, with some rudimentary answers and pointers for further resources. The workshop experience sits well with the core PLISSIT (J. Annon, 1976) element of Taylor and Davis’ (2006) Extended PLISSIT model, as I have explored elsewhere (Evans, 2013, or see the video on ExPLISSIT Malta). I commend this model to all of the participants at this workshop.
PLISSIT = Permission-giving e.g. to talk about sex; to practice this condom demonstration; LI = Limited Information (see below); SS = Specific Suggestions (again, see below), and IT = Intensive Therapy, meaning referral on to someone who knows more about the issues than you / me, subject matter experts: again, see my responses below.
“What ‘something’ do you KNOW about sex
– but you WANT to know more about?”
These factual questions about emergency contraception are probably the easiest to answer in a brief way. There are three main types of EC, or emergency contraception: the hormonal pills Levonelle and ellaOne, available over the counter from pharmacies, CaSH (Contraception and Sexual Health) and other healthcare services. Levonelle can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected intercourse, and ellaOne up to 120 hours. The other type of EC is a copper-bearing intra-uterine device (IUD) – often mistakenly referred to as ‘the coil’ – which can be fitted by an expert healthcare professional up to 120 hours after unprotected intercourse. There are a few more rules concerning these methods, clearly outlined on this fpa link. Brook, the UK’s sexual health charity for under 25 year old people, has a list of services where EC can be obtained from. Over-25 year olds seeking EC pills from pharmacies would usually have to pay, around £25; EC is free from Brook and other CaSH services (for all ages).
Although a popular term, it is misleading to refer to emergency hormonal contraception as “the morning after pill”, as they can be taken for up to 3 or 5 days (depending on brand) after unprotected intercourse.
As you read this blog, remember, this was a very short workshop session, with little time to explore matters in great depth. So it is not surprising, on this occasion, that most themes are relatively sparse. There were two knowledge-related deficits concerning the physicality of sex. One concerning people with disabilities and sex, and the other to do with erectile dysfunction (ED). If we had had time, I could have also mentioned how, given the predominance of younger males at universities, another common problem is PE, or premature ejaculation (especially relevant to virgin or sexually naïve males of particular faith communities).
People with various forms of physical – and mental – challenges often find they are hidden from media and other mainstream images concerning sex. This, in itself, is a form of discrimination, which not only hides them out of view but fails to appreciate their self-worth and esteem especially as sexual beings. For an overview of some of the issues on sex and people with physical disabilities, see: Teaching Sex Ed for Youth with Physical Disabilities , from www.SexualityAndU.ca .
On erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and related concerns, visit the MensHealthForum FAQs page; and for testicular self-examination (TSE) see the great videos on the checkemlads website, proclaiming “Your life in your hands”!
Celebrating diversity, especially for people whose sexualities and / or gender traditionally put them at the cutting edge of other people’s intolerance and aggression, was a key message in my presentation. Our HEIs need to be safe-spaces to provide open-minded opportunities for helping people move away from all forms of sexualities and gender-based discrimination or violence, as well as enabling us to truly celebrate and promote inclusivity and difference. At the University of Greenwich, we are proud to be a Stonewall Champion institution and an Athena SWAN award winner.
One-off awareness events on LGBT+ people might tick the box of getting something done for diversity, but LGBT+ people’s issues are human issues, and as such need mainstreaming and inclusion just as much as our heterosexual counterparts! The various discourses of histories of peoples, across times and places, are often littered with ways in which a person’s non-heterosexual orientation, identity / label, attractions and / or (sexual) relations have been hidden out of sight, mis-represented, persecuted or otherwise under-appreciated for the unique character they truly are, frequently a champion of resilience despite the prevailing ‘norm’.
To find out about support, local services and training opportunities, see ‘Switchboard: the LGBT+ HelpLine‘, and click the Gay Men’s Health Charity for explicit safer sex advice, for gay, bisexual and other maes having sex with males (MSM).
Concerns about how to address cultural and religious sensitivities on sex, sexualities and sexual health, in higher education, is a concern raised by a number of the participants. I’m privileged to have ‘been around the block a few times’, having been teaching in this field for over 26 years. My learning experiences include opportunities to teach in very diverse cultures at home and abroad, and with insights on religions gained from my former Roman Catholic priestly studies. Given that many gender and sexuality-based discriminations emanate from various interpretations of world religions, dialogue is essential and needs to be on-going, for us all to grow in awareness of each other.
The next set of themes I present here reflect what the National Teaching Fellows considered might be some student-focused concerns, followed by teacher-centred issues. Answering one of the posts, I’m not sure if there would be any data available on the number of students exiting HEIs because of pregnancy, but Public Health England’s Sexual Health Profiles resource will allow you to cross-tab a whole load of indices, such as number of teenage conceptions, abortions, sexual infections and HIV statistics for local areas across England, which can then be compared with neighbouring boroughs, the Capital, or England as a whole. It is also possible to cross-tab these data with indices of local / national deprivation, too. As a ‘rule of thumb’, unplanned conceptions tend to be higher in certain parts of the country with highest all-round index of socio-economic and educational deprivation. Conversely, if “ambition is the greatest form of contraception”, then although condomless / unprotected sex will obviously happen to university students, hypothetically speaking, a greater number of these might access emergency contraception and abortion rather than continue with a pregnancy. But condomless sex also leaves our university students open to sexually shared, sexually acquired, infections no matter how ambitious they are. My earlier article Clever Dicks Do It In A Condom (Evans 2005) springs to mind at this point! Given the concerns of NTFs, as shown in these next comments, we must not forget those students who may be may be trying to off-set their student debt in the various environments of the commercial sex industry and the impact this may have on their holistic health and well-being.
After exploring the K – Knoweldge – element of KASH (Griffith & Burns, 2014), the final part of the exercise was to re-visit what had been written, and enhance the picture further by exploring the Attitudes, Skills and Habits held by the participants, their colloeagues and / or their institutions. Sadly, shortness of time only allowed us to scratch the surface on these wider domains.
In this short workshop and blog, it has been impossible to address “EVERYTHING you always wanted to know about sex* – * but were afraid to ask”, but hopefully I have started the ball rolling, by getting a number of my fellow National Teaching Fellows considering ways to mainstream learning on sex, sexualities and sexual health across academia. Whether in personal tutorial or student welfare / support work; across a whole range of curricula, and in the wider agencies and structures within our institutions of learning, sex, sexualities and sexual health could be key ‘Graduate Attributes’ we aspire towards, as we educate our (sexual) citizens of today, tomorrow and for generations to come. Simply imagine our HEI Graduate Attributes initiatives promoting such wider sexual citizenship and well-being for all: bliss!
Evans, A.B. and D.T. Evans (2016) ‘Do safeguarding concerns deter young people’s access to condoms? Issues about integrating sexual health services online’, Education and Health, Vol. 31. No. 1 (2016): 3 – 8
Evans, D.T. (2014) Future directions: Collaborative learning and education for multi-professional practitioners? Institute of Psychosexual Medicine Journal. September 2014; No 66: 11-15
Evans, D.T. (2013) ‘Promoting sexual health and wellbeing: the role of the nurse’,
Evans, D.T. (2005) ‘Clever Dicks Do It In A Condom’, Practice Nurse, October 2005, pp. 24-33
A full list of David’s publications can be found / requested on his ResearchGate profile.
Education and Health Journal, Schools and Students Health Education Unit
Sexual, reproductive and mental health; free e-learning course of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (co-authored by Prof Kathryn Abel, Dr David T Evans and Dr Roxane Agnew-Davies)
Thanks for reading!
Please feel free to leave any comments you wish,
here or via Twitter @David_T_Evans