Friday, March 5, 2010

Adventures in Sex City: Can a video game be a Sex-Ed tool?

Though it wasn’t terribly long ago, I can only remember what my sexual education consisted of when I think really, really, hard. I do not even recall any health education classes before high school, and I think this might be due to the fact that I found the whole process of sitting in a classroom, full of my peers, while my crazy teacher held up and pointed out different forms of birth control, terribly uncomfortable and embarrassing.

However, that is basically all my health class covered in relation to sex. Our teacher held up, explained, and passed around a box full of different forms of contraception. We were then required to fill out a worksheet about them, and subsequently quizzed on the varying effectiveness percentages and who they were best suitable for. Sex may have been covered for maybe a week of class time if I round up…and to be honest I do not think anyone absorbed any of the material. This may be due to numerous reasons but personally, I think it is because it was treated as a taboo topic…even in our health class!

The teacher even seemed to be slightly embarrassed to be holding condoms in front of her 15 year-old students…so how could we not exude the uncomfortable feelings right back to her? Because of this mutual uncomfortable-ness, there was no interactive learning whatsoever in this class. There were no discussions prompted, or questions asked, or any sort of interactive learning tactics used at all. In my opinion, interactive learning is most important to keep the message you are teaching stuck in a student’s brain. That, along with connecting it to a way the students will care about it and feel comfortable learning about it, is vital.

The UK seems to have recognized this as well and has come up with a virtual video game to help spread important messages about sex. Adventures in Sex City, created by the UK's Middlesex-London Health Unit, uses characters like The Sperminator, Wonder Vag, and Willy the Kid to engage teens to learn important sexual facts.

Though at first glance I was extremely skeptical, as I delved further into the material and got a sample glance of some of the characters and messages displayed, I started to think that this was genius. Why had someone not come up with a sex-ed video game sooner? Pre-teens and teenagers are notorious of being glued to their computer screens and video game consoles…so of course a video game would get their attention! Topics from abstinence, condoms, STIs to virginity were all covered in the preview that I saw. Though some may think the idea is cheesy, I think it would have definitely gotten my peers’ attention more than the textbook we were forced to read, and the irrelevant facts we were supposed to memorize in my high school.

Hopefully some companies will expand on this idea and bring it over to the States. Though I think the game can be improved to not be so silly and ridiculous, it is a great starting point….and is undoubtedly more entertaining than the old textbooks and sex-ed movies I was forced to sit uncomfortabley through as an adolescent. Hopefully these new interactive video games will save future health class goers from the same health class experiences I had to endure.

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