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Using Sexually Explicit Media to Educate

By Mark Schoen, Ph.D.


Human ContactSexually Explicit Media (SEM)
A visual depictions of nudity, which may include the genitals, and depiction of sexual acts involving the genitals, such as anal, oral and vaginal sex. (Rhoades, 2008) These films portray sexual realism and the primary purpose is to educate.
Adult Films
Also known as Stag, porno or pornographic films, these depict nudity, which may include the genitals, and depiction of sexual acts involving the genitals, such as anal, oral and vaginal sex. These films primarily portray sexual fantasy and the primary purpose is to entertain and titillate.
Stag Films
Technically referring only to movies made prior to 1970, this term often generically refers to all adult or pornographic films.


  1. A Sex Negative Society
  2. Introduction
  3. Sexual Health Education Background
  4. SEM Background
  5. Why Sexually Explicit Media
  6. A Brief History of the Professional Use SEM
  7. What’s Available today?
  8. Choosing, Using and Processing Films
  9. Recommendations
  10. Conclusion
  11. References
  12. Mark Schoen’s Credentials

A Sex Negative Society

Should we be observing sexual behavior? The answer to this question had a tremendous negative impact on sexuality education and research. Consider that two of the most prominent and influential sex researchers of all time Alfred Kinsey and William H. Masters each came under fire for using film as a research tool to observe human sexual behavior. They each filmed couples making love and noted aspects of the sexual behavior and physiological responses to further their research. (It is difficult to imagine being restricted from observing the very behavior that one is researching).  This sex negative attitude has been a significant obstacle in sex research, sexuality education and production of effective instructional films.



In Dr. Paul Saettler’s “A History of Instructional Technology,” (1968), he wrote, “Motion pictures, radio broadcasts, lantern slides, objects, models, and charts, maps, television, recordings, field trips, exhibits, and teaching machines, like the theater, are media for expression. From the educational point of view it is 'in fact which appears on the screen' that is important, just as the ideas expressed on the printed page are important, not the paper nor type of font. From the standpoint of content and then for teaching, there are good dramas and bad dramas, good textbooks and bad textbooks, good teaching films and bad teaching films, good field trips and bad field trips, group charts and band charts, good exhibits and bad exhibits, good pictures and bad pictures, and so on. It goes without saying that even the use of specific instructional media does not always result in effective instruction. There must be a technology of instruction in which men, machines, methods, procedures, and organization are coordinated in the interest of more effective learning.”

Sexuality education has not achieved this coordination. Not only do we have a population that lacks basic sexual information, the United States has the distinction of having amongst the highest HIV and teen pregnancy rates in the western world. Sexuality Educators have a responsibility to create more effective learning. How can we use technology to achieve more effective sexuality education?

Today there are instructional films available which present reliable sex information, suitable for classroom, clinical or home use. They are available on DVD or electronically via streaming or down loads. We also have well trained sexuality educators. One of the primary problems we have is the integration of comprehensive sexuality education into school curriculums. In view of the current state of sexuality education those who do not have access to comprehensive sexuality education can become proactive and educate themselves using the many instructional films that are available today.

The existing instructional technology in the field of human sexuality has not developed to its current status without a struggle. Suspicion about the value of film in a curriculum or clinical setting is nothing new. Today we have educators who use films as an important part of their curriculum and we have others who don't use them at all.
Paul Saettler recognized film as a powerful teaching tool and “a potent medium for education” , but at the same time there was widespread opposition and the “notion that entertainment, commercialism and education do not mix.”
In the sexuality field Alfred Kinsey, William Masters, Ted, McIlvenna, John Money and Deryck Calderwood all were proponents of film as a powerful tool for learning. 
Sexologist Peggy Kleinplatz examined the “consumer demand for 'educational' sex videos.” (Kleinplatz, 1997) She indicated that the popularity of these programs was motivated by “the void created by the absence of accurate sexual information in our society and the lack of open communication on the subject.” (Kleinplatz, 1997) On the positive side, Kleinplatz clearly states the benefit of film, “Sex videos seem to provide a safe, easy avenue for satisfying one’s curiosity and for obtaining simple, easy-to-follow instructions with no intimate communication required.” On the negative side, she said, "Much of the educational sex video industry capitalizes on sexual insecurities, fears and myths, and sells consumers the promise of a new and improved sex life without having to disclose one’s ignorance, particular preferences and desires or to ask questions of one’s partners.”


Sexual Health Education Background

It was very early in my career I learned that using the words penis, vulva and clitoris in a middle school classroom brought attentiveness like I had never seen before from this age group. Children and adults want sex information. They want to know about sex and I've had the good fortune of spending the last thirty plus years producing films that provide information on a very wide range of sexual issues. In this article I will give you an evolution of sexuality education films, from the “disease model” of the early 1900’s to the anything goes model on the Internet today.

You will walk through a history and practical use of sexuality films in educational and clinical settings. It is my hope that you will finish reading this chapter and recognize the value of film as a tool in human sexuality education, research and therapy.

Growing up In New York City, like most of my contemporaries our primary source of sex information were peers. Looking back I can honestly say they were well meaning, but they were no “Joy of Sex” when it came to accuracy. What could have been a simple education was game of hit and miss. 

My childhood dream was to be a professional hockey player. That dream was squelched when it became apparent in college that I was just an average amateur player. So, I began my career as a health educator in a New York public school, teaching 12 and 13 year olds. My career path seemed pretty clear, teaching health education and coaching the high school hockey team. This was pretty ideal in my mind. I enjoyed teaching and was thrilled to fulfill my early dream by becoming involved in the school hockey program. 

In 1971, with the rise of the incidence of gonorrhea, New York State mandated the implementation of a program on sexually transmitted diseases. When I told the students that these diseases were transmitted by sexual contact, I realized how little the students knew. Immediately hands were raised with questions that had nothing to do with disease. “What do you mean by sexual contact?” My response was, sexual contact means either sexual intercourse, oral genital contact or anal contact.” The hands remained up and the questions kept coming. We spent the rest of the class clarifying very basic sexual information.

When I walked out of the room, I ran into one of the school administrators. He inquired how this class went? My response was that it seemed like a mistake to introduce students to basic sexual information through a course on communicable diseases. He asked me if I had a recommendation? Without hesitation, I said, “We need a sex education program.” The principal, Rodney Penny was extremely supportive and scheduled PTA and other parent meetings to inform the community and enlist support. The large majority of the community was extremely in favor of sexuality education; there were less than five detractors, who happened to be the most vocal. Sex education became the talk of the community. Word got out that I actually said that masturbation was a healthy sexual outlet! 

I also began making my own filmstrips on sexually transmitted disease that fit into the school curriculum. This seemed essential because there was so little available on this subject. I also felt the need to further my education so in 1972 I started taking graduate courses.

As a graduate student at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, I remember taking a basic course in human sexuality and seeing my first sexually explicit film in a classroom that depicted lovemaking. I was intrigued and thought, something special was happening here. Viewing graphic films in an educational context and having the ability to process the information with my peers. I realized that we were getting information and being guided through in depth discussion by what we saw on the screen. The discussion was honest and revealing. This process made a strong impression on me. I look back and see these films as one of the most important parts of my training as a sexuality educator.

Seeking further education in human sexuality, I enrolled at New York University, which offered a course of study in human sexuality education. I enrolled in 1974 and spent two months in a study abroad program in Uppsala, Sweden. I had the good fortune of studying under Dr. Deryck Calderwood. Dr. Calderwood, who was a master teacher who created innovative teaching materials. Dr. Calderwood had a strong interest in film. He produced the groundbreaking program, "About Your Sexuality” with the Unitarian Church. This sexuality program targeted middle school children and has been revised, updated and is still used by the Unitarian Church today. The program being used today is called “Our Whole Lives” (

Not long after my enrollment in 1974, Dr. Calderwood and I began a collaboration of producing sexuality education films. Under Dr. Calderwood’s direction, we produced films that were used to desensitize and to educate on a wide range of sexual issues. Two of the earlier programs were conceived by Deryck Calderwood, “Exhibition: The Male Genitals” and “Grand Opening: The Female Genitals.” The participants in these were sexually and ethnically diverse. These programs, used to desensitize, showed more than a hundred male and female genitals. Most of the people appearing in these programs were graduate students and their friends. Many of these films are still being used today. 
From 1980 to 1999, I produced and distributed sexuality education and therapy films primarily to the academic world. These films covered a wide range of sexual issues. The majority of these films are still available at 

In 1992 I was approached by Stephen Kapelow, an entrepreneur and producer of the original “Better Sex Video Series” to produce a film for the general public on ejaculatory control. A company that today is known as The Sinclair Institute was distributing the “Better Sex Video Series” , a sexuality education program designed for adults to use in their own homes. After completing this first film, I was asked to produce three more. Then, in 1999 I became the Director of Sexuality Education and the video producer for the Sinclair Institute ( I moved from New York to North Carolina where the company was based. Over the course of the next eight years, I produced more than twenty films including the revision of their flagship product the Better Sex Video Series. The original 1992 series made the kind of education reserved for college students and health professionals available to the general public. It opened the door for the wide range of instructional films available today.

In 2007, I decided to leave my corporate position to become an independent producer and pursue some of my own projects. My first was a short documentary about Dr. Harry Benjamin, the physician who coined the word “transsexual” and wrote the classic book “The Transsexual Phenomenon.” I actually videotaped Dr Benjamin’s memorial service in 1987, when he passed at the age of 101. The tapes remained on a shelf for twenty years. After screening this footage in early 2007 I realized I had something very important to the history of our field. 

Later that year, I produced a feature length documentary about the life of feminist and artist, Betty Dodson. The film is shows Betty telling her life story as a pioneering feminist using nearly two hundred pieces of her original art from the 1950’s to the present day.

Today I am still producing films, managing SexSmartFilms, and presenting a talk at numerous colleges “Sexual Health: 100 Years in Film” in which I use about forty film clips of educational films to illustrate a rich history. 

Producing educational videos has been very personally satisfying. Most universities that teach human sexuality courses use them and the American Association for Sexuality Educators and Therapists ( requires the completion of a SAR (Sexual Attitude Reassessment) Program that utilizes SEM as part of the requirement for certification as a sexuality educator, therapist or counselor. 

Personal stories have shown me how valuable my films have been to people’s lives. For example, one evening a woman called to inquire about a film called "Treating Vaginismus.” I explained that this film showed a woman diagnosed with vaginismus, a disorder that... and follows her through step-by-step self-treatment for the problem. I further explained that this film was sexually explicit. At this, she replied, “Well that’s not for me.” I was about to hang up, when suddenly I heard the words out of my own mouth, “Why isn't it for you?” She said because of the “graphic nature.” I told her that I was not trying to sell her a film, but if she were a friend of mine and I knew she had vaginismus, I would strongly recommend she watch this film. She then said, “Okay send me a copy.” I asked her if she were sure and she said, “Yes.”

Weeks went by and one day my secretary told me a woman was on the phone that would not give her name and insisted on talking to me. I took the call and it was this same woman and she only wanted to say two words, “Thank you.”

I also get letters from people attesting to the helpfulness of my films. I received this letter, which is a typical response to the videos. “My husband and I have wanted to write to you to let you know how much we enjoy your videos. We have watched all your educational films and have learned so much. We enjoy them together which serves to open lines of communication and share thoughts and ideas on the various techniques presented by the couples. They are sensual and tastefully explicit. I have some physical discomfort during intercourse, which has caused us to explore different methods of pleasing each other. We have explored new techniques and have purchased some sex toys. Both of us have become more comfortable with our sexuality and our body image. Thank you for your research and products. Your work is very valuable.”


SEM Background

Instructional films about sex have made a significant contribution to both our formal (in the classroom) and informal (outside the classroom) sexuality education (Kleinplatz, 1997). Whether it is a TV show, an online video, an adult film or SEM, we learn from observing and listening. There are far more adult films than SEM available today. I will define an adult film as a film whose purpose is to produce sexual arousal and to entertain. The participants are “actors” and the sex may be somewhat choreographed. It’s fantasy sex. There are many young people who get their early sexuality education from adult films. In the 1960’s the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1972) stated that the average American saw their first adult film at about the age of fifteen. With video and the Internet today I would speculate the age has dropped. With this in mind I would urge sexuality educators to address this issue. Acknowledge the adult industry, but put their films into the proper perspective.

Two observations that I have made over my more than 30 years of producing SEM demonstrate the social impact of the adult film industry. The first, and most obvious, was the state of the couples that I hired to appear in my films. These couples were real couples, not actors. After the early 1980s, they ALL showed up with their pubic area either shaved or groomed. No one told them that this was required, but this was about the time the adult industry began this practice. Another example is the young, married, college-educated couple that was about to do a sex scene. The male came up to me and inquired, “Where should I come?” My interpretation was that he thought I wanted it to be like the “money shot” in an adult film. This is where the audience clearly sees an ejaculation. I asked him, “When you make love at home, where do you come?” His response, “When we have intercourse, I come inside.” I told him we are looking to portray sexual realism, so please do just as you do in your bedroom at home.” The point being that we are trying to portray sexual realism. Although many of the instructional films may be sexually arousing, their primary purpose is to provide information and model sexual techniques.

I believe the adult industry can play a stronger role in sexuality education by emphasizing that their films are sexual fantasies, made for entertainment and sexual arousal purposes for ADULT viewing. I emphasize this because the easy access the Internet provides, makes it difficult to monitor young people whose first form of sexuality education may be exposure to explicit adult material. We need to be proactive with providing age appropriate films for children and teens. We know that young people are seeking sexuality information so why not use the very technology we fear to provide it?


Why Sexually Explicit Media

In support of SEM, I must emphasize that films are merely tools. In the hands of a skilled craftsman these tools can produce wonders. Used in an age appropriate context by a well-trained sexuality educator or therapist these films rid people of “sexual insecurities, fears and myths” and actually help people clarify their sexual attitudes and sometimes helps improve their sex life. 

In any other subject the thought of studying a behavior without the opportunity to observe it would be absurd. Our mission to educate is hindered because of social forces that are opposed to the observation of sexual behaviors. Observation is a significant part of any learning. The subject of sexual behavior is not any different. You see a behavior, you practice the behavior, and you learn. 

Reliable sexual information on film is readily available today. However there is also an abundance of not-so- accurate sexual information on film. If you search sex education on YouTube you will see an abundance of films that makes this point. 

For many people, the only sexual behavior ever observed is in “adult films” or “pornography.” Adult films are produced to be sexually arousing, to encourage sexual fantasy, and to be erotically entertaining. I prefer the term “adult films” because if you look at the derivation of the word pornography the literal classical Greek translation is “writing about harlots.” The social impact that these films have on society is amazing. For some, adult films are the only visual role models they have for sexual behavior. For others feature films and television are their source of explicit sexual information. Again, we must recognize that although many of these films are used for titillation there are viewers, especially younger viewers, who've not seen anything educational about sexuality and may see them as sexual realism.

As sexuality educators we are often called upon to clarify misinformation that our students believe to be the truth simply because they saw it in a film. As sexologists we must encourage the production of more films that depict realistic sexuality and encourage learners to seek out films that depict sexual realism. 

I remember an experience in Tokyo, being interviewed by a baseball journalist from a major newspaper. The Better Sex Video Series had just been released in Japan and he was covering the story. This widely circulated Tokyo tabloid sports publication included four center pages devoted to sex. He was much more comfortable talking about balls and strikes than sex. His questions were sarcastic and I could tell he thought that these sexually explicit films were just “pornography.” So I asked him a question. I began by saying “How would it be if you took a little boy in Japan and told him he could never watch a baseball game, touch a ball, glove or bat and then five years later, you said I want you to go out on the field and play baseball. How do you think that boy would do?”

"Not very well,” he responded. "Well that’s how it is with sex in Japan. You can't talk about sex; you can't see sex and then one day you end up in bed. And do you know how they do?” He shrugged his shoulders. I replied, “They strike out!” He then understood that I was trying to educate using film, just as a boy can learn how to hit a ball by watching a game. The interview ended with him asking me the question, “Who do you think is the best baseball player of all time?” My response was, “Willie Mays” . The journalist said, “You know baseball.” I also know sex. 


A Brief History of the Professional Use SEM

The early 1900’s sex education films used the “disease model” that only addressed issues of sexuality because of sexually transmitted diseases. Consequently, the only information was about biological disease transmission. The Federal government produced many films during World War II that were made to educate soldiers about the dangers of syphilis and gonorrhea. For the purposes of this chapter, I will skip the disease era and jump to where we actually addressed sexual behavior and pleasure.

Pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey first introduced the formal use of sexually explicit images to conduct research and to enhance education in the 1940’s. Kinsey suggested that sexually explicit films be used for educational purposes. He felt that if we were going to study sexual behavior, we needed to be able to observe it. Kinsey made his own research films that were used to observe sexual behavior while conducting his research ( What better method than film? While this logic may work for any other subject or behavior, it seems that it doesn't apply to sexuality. Our mindset, when it comes to sexuality is so negative that the popular opinion was that if you're filming sex it must be bad or “pornographic.” Kinsey received such negative publicity on his film use that he eventually stopped producing them, a detriment to sexual science.

It wasn't until some ten years later, in the 1950’s that sex researchers Dr. William H. Masters and Virginia Johnson filmed people engaged in sexual activity, to study human sexual response in their laboratory. William Masters, studying human sexual response thought that being able to review and compare different people’s sexual responses would be an asset to the research. They used film to observe sexual behavior and physiological responses of volunteers in their laboratory and used that data when they wrote their landmark book, (1966) “Human Sexual Response.” A Newsweek article that addressed their data collection and specifically mentioned the filming of sexual behavior produced such negative publicity that Masters, like Kinsey, ceased using film in his research.

More than ten years went by, when in 1967, Dr. Edward Tyler, (1970) teaching human sexuality, showed Indiana University Medical students films he had acquired from the Kinsey Institute of Sex Research’s archives, depicting a variety of sexual behaviors. He found the student response after watching these sexually explicit “Stag” films very different from the “clinical and “treatment” models of discussion that students had in the past. After watching these films, the Indiana Medical students talked about the sexual behavior they viewed on the screen and how they felt about it. This was a departure from the intellectual discussions they had had in the past. The ability to be able to talk about sexual issues with patients was critical in Tyler’s thinking and this new methodology utilizing film helped future physicians to become more comfortable communicating about sexuality. Dr. Tyler reported this success, based on comparing his classroom discussion with and without the use of films depicting explicit sex. As a result, many other institutions of higher learning adopted this same approach.

One year later, in 1968, the Reverend Ted McIlvenna, (now the President of The Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality) of the National Sex Forum in San Francisco introduced a new technique in the development of sexual attitude awareness. He used sexually explicit films, slides and audiotapes that were “designed to elicit participants' attitudes and anxieties about human sexuality.” (Ayres et al, 1975) He and filmmaker Laird Sutton produced what they called “pattern films,” which were 16mm films that each depicted a sexual pattern, their unique way of making love. The films included gay, straight and lesbian couples. These films were used as an integral part of developing their “Sexual Attitude Restructuring” (SAR) programs. In later years the word restructuring was changed and it became Sexual Attitude Reassessment. The National Sex Forum designed these self-help programs for sexual enrichment and education. Ted McIlvenna, the driving force in establishing The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (1976) in San Francisco, which still utilizes the SAR techniques in their graduate programs in human sexuality. The methodology consisted of participants viewing in large groups SEM over the course of the program. After screenings the viewers would have the opportunity to share their feelings and discuss the sexual behaviors viewed in both small and large groups. 
The SAR program is still used today and many professionals in the field consider the SAR experience as one of the most important aspects of their training. The American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) requires the completion of a SAR course by those seeking professional certification as a sexuality educator, counselor or therapist. (

Today, many variations of the SAR program and the use of sexually explicit visuals have become commonplace in professional training and are often sponsored by universities or professional organizations.

In 1970, Dr. John Money presented a six-session audiovisual program entitled “Pornography in the Home” to a total of 2300 freshman medical students at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Money described his methodology as “the direct confrontation technique.” (Money, 1971) Graduate students were exposed to erotic materials in the form of readings, slides and movies. It was Money’s belief that this technique forces an audience to become emotionally involved with sexual issues. They have no choice but to respond to and think about the lecture and demonstration materials. As a result of these early experiments, the consensus amongst human sexuality educators was that sexually explicit visuals are a useful educational tool (Money, 1972). 

Professionals elaborate on this view by stating that sexually explicit visuals allow them to elicit “...attitudes and anxieties about human sexuality.” (Chilgren) The strength in agreement on this issue has led to expanding use of such materials. For example, in 1970, the University of Minnesota began its approach to sex education, patterned after the National Sex Forum process. Since then, the Program in Human Sexuality has developed as an “interdisciplinary academic and administrative unit responsible to the Dean of the Medical School, charged with the development of education, research and service to improve sexual health.” (Chilgren) The media portion of the program consists of films, slides and audiotapes depicting a wide range of explicit sexual behavior. The programs varied from facilitator to facilitator. Each would choose the media and tailor the program to their audience. 

Dr. Ronald A. Chez, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, also used sexually explicit films to teach medical students. He concluded that “...the primary value of learning sessions incorporating movies depicting human sexual responses appears to be the opportunity the students and faculty have to question, discuss, and interrelate after sharing this common experience. It provides a setting in which personal and professional experiences are discussed. This interaction is of major pedagogic value.” (Chez)

This sharing of experiences often occurs after the screening of a film. Typically, the facilitator will break the views into small groups, three to five people. In those groups they would be instructed to discuss the behavior or issues in the film and their feelings about the experience of the viewing. Once the small group discussion is over one member of each group would report back to the entire group. This method can be used with a classroom showing of a film or as part of a SAR. (Ayres et al, 1975) The value of this methodology is it gives professionals an opportunity to become aware of their own feelings and attitudes about sexual behavior, before working with students or clients.

Another early producer, who was a pioneer in SEM, was Dick Price. Price produced four short films that were released as 8mm films in cartridges designed to use on a desktop. These films called “Sensate Focus” Parts One - Four (1976) demonstrated, step-by-step, the techniques made popular by Masters and Johnson. Sex Therapists continue to use these visually outdated films today because there was simply nothing else available on this subject. 

The “Sensate Focus” exercises, developed in the 1960’s, is a set of specific sexual exercises for couples or individuals aimed at increasing personal and interpersonal awareness of one’s own and one’s partner’s needs. The individuals are encouraged to focus on their own varied sensory experience, rather than to seek orgasm as the goal of sex. This exercise forced a couple to explore their sexual feelings without genital contact. After the early clinical successes of using sensate focus with patients was reported this exercise has been used, modified and is an important educational component of sex therapy. 

During the 1970’s and 1980’s the use of SEM were largely limited to university settings and sex therapy clinics. Then in 1991 Stephen Kapelow, an entrepreneur produced The Better Sex Video Series. This was a landmark sex education series for the general public. He used the same techniques that were being used by the academics for years and now made this type of education available to anyone who could dial a toll free number and had a credit card. Interestingly, many college level courses in human sexuality used clips from this series in the classroom.

After nearly thirty years of successfully using this series of short clinical Sensate Focus films described above, sex therapist and educator Dr. Bill Stayton felt the time was overdue to update and improve these valuable educational films. Dr. Stayton approached Sheri Falco of the Health Science Advisory Board ( and secured their aid to produce “The Guide to Sexual Pleasure Series.” Dr. Stayton wanted to take the sensate focus exercises developed by William Masters and Virginia Johnson and create updated instructional films for couples. He called the exercises “Sexual Pleasuring” . A script was written and I produced three films in 2006, using nearly the identical script. The difference in each film was that one contained two heterosexual couples, one contained two lesbian couples and the third had two gay couples. The point of making these three was to show how similar we all are, despite sexual orientation.

Today, the kind of educational experience - watching SEM, long-used exclusively by professionals, is available to the general public. Before the 1990’s, only health professionals in training or college students taking a course in Human Sexuality viewed SEM. Beginning in the early 1990’s SEM became available to the general public as well. 

The training of sexuality educators is best described as non-standard today. On one end of the spectrum you have the school based general teacher, where sexuality is a small component of the curriculum, and the quality of training varies from school district to school district. SEM is rarely used to train this group. I do believe this group is missing out on their professional development. I would site the success of the Unitarian Church program, Our Whole Lives that utilizes age appropriate material for all age groups (

On the other end is the sexuality educator who is teaching a college course in human sexuality. Training is more readily available and usually more comprehensive for this group. One who wants professional training for human sexuality education can choose from a number institutions including: The Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, (San Francisco) The Kinsey Institute, (Indiana University), San Francisco State University and Widener University (Pennsylvania) for those in higher education. 


What’s Available today?

There are various video formats available and they are constantly being improved upon. As of this writing the more popular delivery systems include DVDs, streaming video, and downloadable video on the Internet. There is also an abundance of material on UGC (User Generated Content) sites, the most popular of which is YouTube. Previewing and evaluating accuracy of the content is critical.


Choosing, Using and Processing Films

Clearly, facing an unprepared audience with threatening or inappropriate films is risky business. Even the best-produced and most carefully selected materials may do little to foster learning without the presence of a sensitive instructor or clinician who knows his or her subject, the materials presented and the needs of the audience.

Most often, risks and limitations come into play when educators and clinicians abdicate their proper roles and become mere projectionists. Materials are simply thrown on the screen and used to replace rather than deepen the educational process. 



I recommend some basic considerations when presenting films.

  1. * Preview the material before presenting it. Oddly enough, this step is sometimes skipped.
  2. * When previewing, be sure to monitor your own cognitive and emotional reactions. Personal feelings naturally influence student or patient response, so a practitioner must stay in tune with those feelings when selecting films.
  3. * Always introduce a film before showing it. Prepare the audience by discussing the content, tone and the educational/clinical objectives. There is no perfect film for a given audience. Point out the limitations of the film or use those limitations as a discussion point after the screening. Let students or clients know that discussion will follow the screening of the film. Providing questions for viewers to think about is always helpful.
  4. * Observe the group or client. If they are viewing it in your office, there is no better time to observe reactions. Candid signs of anxiety, interest acceptance can all prove useful during follow-up. Also, feel free to use the “pause” button during the film if a particular image or issue is worthy of immediate discussion.
  5. * Assure that there is enough time after the screening for follow-up discussion. Set the proper tone to allow for comfortable non- judgmental discussion. Prepare questions to jump-start the post viewing discussion. Expect personal concerns to be expressed.
  6. * Remember it is a lot easier to talk about what’s on the screen than what’s happening in your own life. Select films that relate to a particular sexual behavior or issue you would like to broach. Use the program as a springboard for discussion with your partner. Don't hesitate to pause the film when there is a question or a point for discussion. This is one way of maximizing learning by using video as an instructional tool. There is a very wide range of programming available on subject areas including sexual information, common issues in sex therapy, ways to improve your sexual relationship and erotic entertainment. 



When SEM is used in conjunction with well trained instructors, the right machines and good methodology we will produce more effective sexuality education. 



  • American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists,
  • Ayres, Toni, Lyon, Phyllis, McIlvenna, Ted, Myers, Frank, Rila, Margo, Rubenstein, Maggie, Smith, Carolyn, Sutton, Laird, SAR Guide: Sexual Attitude Restructuring, The National Sex Forum, 1975.
  • Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. Technical Report. Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1972.
  • Chez, Ronald A. “Movies of Human Sexual Response as learning Aids for Medical Students.” Journal of Medical Education, 46:977-981, November, 1971.
    Chilgren, Richard A. and Briggs, Mary M. On Being Explicit: Sex Education for Professionals SIECUS Report, Vol. I, Number 5, (May, 1973).
  • Considine, David M. and Baker, Frank, Focus on Film: They Learn it Thru the Movies, The Journal of Media Literacy, Vol. 53, No. 2, Fall, 2006.
  • Eberwein, Robert. SEX ED: Film, Video, and the Framework of Desire, New Brunswick, New Jersey, Rutgers University Press, 1999.
  • Hesley, John W. and Hesley, Jan G., Rent Two Films and Call Me in the Morning, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2001.
  • Kleinplatz, Peggy J., “Educational” Sex Videos: What are they teaching? The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Vol. 6 (1) Spring, 1997.
  • Masters, William H. and Virginia E. Johnson, Human Sexual Response, Little Brown, 1966.
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About Mark Schoen, Ph.D.

Mark Schoen has been producing sexual health media since 1974. As an award-winning filmmaker and human sexuality expert, he has produced more than 50 sexual health films that have been broadcast, used in clinical and educational settings, and by the general public. He is author of the award winning children’s sexual anatomy book and video, Bellybuttons Are Navels...available at Amazon. 

His productions have included projects for SIECUS, The Unitarian Church, and Planned Parenthood. Dr. Schoen has won six prestigious Telly Awards as well as other noted film awards for producing & directing in the sexual health field.

He received The AASECT Professional Standards of Excellence Award and the SSSS WR Distinguished Public Service Award, both in 2010.

Dr. Schoen was one of sixteen members on the National Advisory Council on Sexual Health led by former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher at Morehouse University, School of Medicine. He also serves on the Board of the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality and has been elected President of The Eastern Region of The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality for 2008.