A talk on "Sexual Issues and the Public Health Perspective" tops the agenda. "Last year on television, nearly 20,000 couples had sex, but almost no one got pregnant. Why is that?" asks Fern Goodhart, director of health education at Rutgers. "And there were next to no commercials for condoms." She asks people to voice their concerns about sex on TV and provides a list of addresses and websites.
Next, members of a panel discuss their sexual development, telling of their first sexual experiences. A 27-year-old Muslim physician, now a medical resident, says she is probably the oldest virgin anyone will ever meet, since her religion forbids premarital sex. Anal and oral sex, she says, are also taboo.
Tuesday's lunchtime film, "Sexuality Reborn," is an inspirational look at how three heterosexual couples, each comprised of a spinal cord injured male and an able-bodied female, are able to enjoy sex.
Terri and Joe Davis, one of the couples in the film, appear after it is shown. Joe, 42, is paralyzed from the waist down from a gunshot wound. "Before I was injured, I woke up every morning wondering how many women I would bed down that day,'" he recalls. "The morning after the accident, I woke up urinating on myself. I wondered then if I'd ever have sex again."
Joe met Terri after becoming wheelchair-bound. They fell in love almost instantly, and soon married. Since then, Joe says he is no longer consumed with the sex act itself, but is concerned mostly with how his partner feels. "The key to good sex is love, intimacy and commitment," he says.
He asks students not to shy away from the subject of handicapped people having sex. "Sixteen years ago, when I went into this wheelchair, that topic wasn't even spoken about," he says. "Your duty as doctors is to help new patients feel better about themselves and their future sex lives."
A panel of bisexuals and homosexuals speaks next. A gay Hispanic health educator tells of being called sissy, fag boy and queer in school. As he speaks, he builds a structure, using blocks of different colors. "When I was five, my uncle told my father I was gay," he says. "So to toughen me up, my father beat me."
As a teen, he dated, hoping to become attracted to women. He even got a reputation as a Latin lover. "But it just wasn't me," he says. As he completes the story of how his father finally accepted his homosexuality, he also finishes the miniature building. He then begins removing only red blocks; an intact, recognizable model remains. "Like this building," he says, "my sexual orientation is only one part of who I am. I am still a whole person."
A family practitioner and graduate of UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) says he still winces when telling people he's gay, because it's impossible to predict their reactions. He doesn't discuss his sexuality in his practice, but doesn't hide it either. "If a person prefers not to come to me because I wear glasses or because I'm gay, better for both us." He was recently voted one of the top doctors in the state by his peers, in a poll conducted by New Jersey Monthly magazine.
The physician asks the students to be aware of their biases and open to alternate lifestyles, and gives suggestions for obtaining a sexual history without sounding judgmental. "But most important," he says, "if you're not comfortable with a patient's sexual orientation, set him up with someone who is." A bisexual man explains that according to the famous sexologist Alfred Kinsey, homosexuality is a continuum. People aren't simply straight or gay, there is a gray area. He advises students not to "flip out" if a patient is unsure of his sexual preference, and to use universal precautions at all times. "That way everybody is safe," he says.
Two short, sexually explicit film clips follow. "Erotic by Nature" is a video
of two women engaged in lesbian lovemaking; "Erotic Choices" is aimed at gay men
who want to learn more about the practices and pleasures of safe sex.