Northwestern offers Sex 101 for freshmen, public

Online class features 3-D animation, demystifies sex organs, contraception, fertility, STDs
Northwestern University has launched a Sex 101 online class for their incoming freshman that aims to teach sexual and reproductive health.

The class, which launched Monday, will discuss topics such as the link between beer drinking and erectile dysfunction, changes in young woman's menstrual cycles and pregnancy.

The class is free to students and the public on Coursera.

"Most students entering college don't have a good understanding of their own reproductive or sexual health," said Teresa Woodruff, vice chair for research in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who created the class. "Having sex is not the same thing as knowing how it all works. And most students have issues beyond sex, like changing menstrual cycle lengths and questions about exercise and testosterone levels. They need to know because it impacts their health. This class fills a huge gap."

Most first-year students arrive on campus -- a pivotal time in their sexual lives -- with only a cursory middle school or high school sex ed class in their background, a Northwestern news release said.

Lack of knowledge contributes to the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases as well as unintended pregnancies among college students, Woodruff said.

In a series of 2-5 minute videos, students will learn about rise and fall of hormones, fallopian tubes, STDs and how to avoid them, sexual violence, fertility after cancer, nodules on testicles as a possible sign of prostate cancer (which occurs in young men) and much more, the release said.

Woodruff compared the class to watching popular TV scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he explores the cosmos. "But our cosmos is sex and reproduction," she said.

Five years ago, Woodruff, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Feinberg, launched Repropedia, a site that defines reproductive terms in 180 words or less.

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