Sex and the Social Work Student (coming soon to Lifetime)

28 07 2011

I know that I have a bit of a tendency to mock St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries social work school. I can’t help it, it was a crazy time with some crazy people. But that’s not to say I didn’t get a good education. For every moment of insanity and frustration, there was one (ok, maybe a half) in which I learned something that I apply to my work regularly.

A lot of the professors were a bit on the nutty side. What can I say? They were social workers. So when you found a good one, it was wise to stick with him or her.

I found that I really enjoyed my public policy professor. She was feisty and liberal, but also reasonable. There were good discussions in her classes. When I had the option to take an elective my second semester, I immediately looked for a class that she was teaching. (Preferrably nothing too early. Rush hour on the six train? Not as glamorous as J-Lo makes it sound.)

And there it was in my class guide. “Human Sexuality and Social Work.”

Oh my. At least it wasn’t bunny sexuality.

I didn’t really know if this would apply to my work, or what the class would entail. But I liked the professor, it fit into my schedule, nothing else was jumping out at me, and the only social work student I never wanted to smack for hours was also taking it. What could go wrong?

My friend and I made the best of the class. People always shorten the names of the classes their attending. No one says they’re late for Human Behavior and the Social Environment. They’re running to HB. Only an asshole would actually call Casework by it’s full title, “Social Work with Individuals and Families.” We shortened the name of our class to “sex.” It made for fun times and wacky misunderstandings.

“Gotta run, we have sex now.”
“Oh, really? I…didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, every Tuesday and Thursday, from eleven to one.”
“That’s quite a commitment.”

Going over the syllabus was interesting. The things you would expect were all in there–DSM IV sexual disorders, LGBT related issues, discussing safety with clients, etc. What really caught my eye, though, was our project for the semester.

It was entitled, “Try something new!”

My first reaction was, naturally, to slap the piece of paper and tell it to mind its own damn business. How dare you!

Then I read further. The assignment was still, at its core, kind of weird. We were to engage in some kind of “new experience” and write a paper about it, and relate it to our future practice. Fortunately, there were suggestions for new experiences, or things could really have gotten out of hand. They included things like interviewing a parent, boss, or member of the clergy (seriously) about their attitudes about sex, or trying online dating.

My friend went the online dating route, and was, as far as I know, the only person who successfully used sex class to get laid. I hope she got extra credit.

I decided that the least traumatic option was visiting New York City’s Museum of Sex.

For those of you planning a trip, my review is as follows–meh. I managed to get a friend to go with me. A non-social work student. Let me tell you, you really find out who you can count on when it’s time to do your assignment for sex class.

When we went, the entire first floor was dedicated to animal sexual behaviors. I would have been OK going the rest of my life without ever having seen a whale penis, but the Museum of Sex decided we really needed to see two in action. (That’s right: big gay whales.) The second floor pretty much just had porn playing. I finally saw that Paris Hilton sex tape, speaking of “meh.”

My friend and I felt a little out of place. It seems that the “Museum of Foreplay” might have been a more accurate name. There were some couples getting pretty cozy. I wanted to tap them on the shoulder and ask if they had ever heard of this place called “the internet,” where they can watch porn and get down to business in the comfort of their own home.

So maybe I could have done without that particular experience. But overall, I’m glad I took the class. For one thing, it provided some much needed comic relief. (Maybe another time I’ll tell you about when that friend of mine acted out various DSM-IV coercive paraphilias for the class, as part of another project.)

It also got me over any hesitancy I might have had in talking with clients about sex. It’s an important topic. Considering the mother of a sexually active 13 year old just told me that she, “doesn’t even want to know” what her daughter is getting up to, someone needs to be ok with talking about sex.

If we’re uncomfortable, clients will be uncomfortable. The things I have found myself saying without batting an eyelash, especially to my teens, would, I hope, make my sex class professor rather proud.

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5 responses

28 07 2011
Prima

I took a human sexuality class in college (and I wasn’t even in social work school!) and we had some kind of similar assignment – not “try something new,” exactly, but to keep a journal of… our experiences, or interviews with people about their experiences, or something. Rather than ask my housemate for details of what practices she was engaging in the night she woke me up at 5 am screaming, I interviewed my mom, and your mom, and 2 of our aunts, about their birth control practices over their lifetimes, and called it something like “case studies of four Catholic American women’s attitudes towards and use of contraceptives.”

28 07 2011
socialjerk

I actually remember that! I was going to bed and my mom told me you had called. Naturally I was excited, because I was 12 and you were awesome and in college.

She then told me that you had chatted about what kinds of birth control she had used. I think she was using it as a teachable moment (might be wear I get it from) but all I could think was, “WHY THE FUCK HAS SHE EVER NEEDED BIRTH CONTROL?!”

29 07 2011
wiggy

Really interesting blog. Sadly we never had such a class on my social work course. I did previously study the sociology of sexuality, which definitely helped me to be aware of my values and without a doubt still informs me now. I think its the reason I can talk to foster carers about masturbation and enable them to be comfortable with discussing a ‘taboo’ subject with children.

10 08 2011
socialjerk

Thanks! I was fairly comfortable speaking my mind (shocking, I know) but this class really drove home for me how important a topic this is in our work. Glad to hear you feel the same way!

10 09 2011
Melanie

“the only social work student I never wanted to smack for hours was also taking it. ”

Can’t tell you how often I picked my electives in social work school based off this criterion.
Like, how the F did all of these people get into this program and please, PLEASE tell me you’re not going to be real social workers out there in the real world.

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