Defining, investigating sexology research

With a lack of education from kindergarten through high school, and an even greater misunderstanding of how to heal individuals affected, sexology, the study of sex, is a topic perpetually trying to be better understood.

Dr. Roger W. Libby, an American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) certified sex therapist and marriage and relationship counselor, has been seeking a clearer definition for sexology since getting his Ph.D. in sociology from Washington State University in 1974.

“The most basic problem is sexology has never been well-defined in this country as far as graduate work and defining it as a discipline or a field,” Libby said. “It’s in no-man’s land. Sexology is, to me, the study of sexuality and educating about it. In other words, you are trying to encourage the responsible pleasure.”

As a cognitive behavioral therapist, in addition to being a sex therapist, Libby has found that a lot of problems surrounding sex-related topics stem from a lack of education.

“You still don’t have adequate sex education in the schools,” Libby said. “It’s just never happened. And without that it’s hard talk about this intelligently. We have a total lack of separation between church and state when it comes to the public schools. That’s a big problem.”

The department of human development and women’s studies program at Washington State University are conducting research studies involving media impact on teens and young adults when it comes to sex. Dr. Kathleen B. Rodgers and Dr. Stacey J.T. Hust, two associate professors at WSU, have done extensive research on both the positive and negative impacts media has on young adults and their relationships with sex.

Without proper education, the door remains open for views on sex that could damage individuals and couples past their youth.

“Young people are more vulnerable because they don’t have the same cognitive processing abilities that adults have,” Hust said in a sit-down interview Tuesday. “But adults suffer from the same thing, especially they’re not exposed to other information.”

Social Change Making an Impact

Dr. Paul Kwon, an associate professor in the universities psychology department, has focused much of his research on how resiliency variables impact lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Kwon published an article in 2013, “Resilience in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals”, noting the correlation between social support of LBGs and psychological help.

“Social support can lead to a sense of connection with the LGB community, contributing to psychological health,” Kwon said. “In addition, the stress buffering mechanism of social support lowers reactivity to prejudice.”

LGBT is not the only new development in America over the past few years. Libby, who has practices in Seattle and Poulsbo, Washington, has found that open relationships and several other forms of sexual-relationships are becoming more prevalent.

“It used to be everybody is supposed to be monogamist,” Libby said. “The truth is more and more people are recognizing that doesn’t suit all people. I think there’s more emphasis on non-monogamy and dealing with couples who choose to have open relationships, or polyamory, or swinging. The open relationship thing is not as much of a minority as you might think, it’s becoming more prevalent.”

A state still divided

Libby is one of nine sex therapists certified by the American Board of Sexology in Washington. None of them hold practices in Eastern Washington. While Libby does have a few couples who drive over the pass to meet with him, and a few others who have Skype meetings, there is still a separation between rural and city mentalities when it comes to sex.

“Rural areas tend to be more repressive,” he said. “I think bigger cities provide more support.”

For a college town and a university with an undergraduate enrollment over 20,000, WSU has gone against the rural-stereotype and offers several outlets for students who are LGBT and those in a monogamous relationship and need help.

Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center in the CUB is a supportive outlet for LGBT students on campus.