SPECIAL SERIES : FROM SPUNK TO SPANK
Sex Research Gets Big Grant
October 1, 2004 12:00 PM
Public funds for sexual education can be hard to come by. So when the Ford Foundation announced plans to create and help fund four worldwide centers devoted to human sexuality, Dr. Gilbert Herdt decided to apply.
Now, armed with a $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation, Herdt heads SF State’s National Sexuality Research Center (NSRC). The center, which opened Feb. 20, 2003, is dedicated to being a public resource on human sexuality.
“We address sexual heath issues around the world,” said Herdt, the director of SF State’s human sexuality department.
The NSRC fulfills its mission in several ways. For one, it attracts students and educators from all over the world to its summer institute on sexuality, society, and health.
It also disseminates and publishes the latest research on sexuality on its Web site, and its two publications: a magazine, American Sexuality, and its academic journal, Sexuality Research & Social Policy.
“Sexuality is always treated as political football with cycles of panicked reactions in the United States,” Herdt said. “It’s very difficult to get funding in the United States. You can get government funding for research, but to provide general (human sexuality) education is very, very hard.”
The Ford Foundation, an independent organization created with funds from Henry and Edsel Ford, provides most of the funding for the NSRC.
She and Herdt both said in separate interviews that the current political climate and emphasis on abstinence-only education makes getting government funding difficult.
“The current administration spends $270 billion on abstinence-only education,” she said. No research has conclusively shown that abstinence-only education works, Young said.
The NSRC provides accurate information based on evidence instead of politics and policy, she said.
Herdt said the NSRC will undertake two new initiatives soon. One initiative calls for the research center to work with community colleges to improve the quality of the sexual education they can provide to their students. The second is an assessment of how sexuality is being taught in medical schools.
“Medical students are trained on Viagra, but get no sexuality education,” said Herdt.
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