Web Site Reviews
Humphreys, Terry, The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality
Editor's Note: Terry Humphreys teaches an on-line sexuality course at the University of Guelph and has written about the pros and cons of web-based teaching. Terry is the host of this regular feature of the SIECCAN Newsletter, which reviews web sites and related matters of interest to educators, health professionals and researchers. Comments to Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sexscape.Org Web site address: http://www.sexscape.org/
Sexscape.Org is a Canadian "ask the expert" web site on sexuality hosted by Kim Martyn, a sexual health educator in the city of Toronto, Canada. As the site states "Kim has spent many years with the Toronto Board of Health working to educate people about human sexuality, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), and planned parenthood." The stated purpose of the Sexscape. Org web site is to "provide objective information about sexuality" for one's own personal benefit. As such, the site is geared toward individuals in the general public who have questions about sex.
The site has been in operation for six years and has retained its focus on a question-and-answer approach to sexual issues. The site is logically categorized by sexuality topic area (i.e., sexual arousal, other than straight, sensual seniors, cyber-sex, etc.) or simply by question (starting with the most recent). It also has an area where you can pose your own questions to Kim. Currently, the site contains approximately 134 questions and answers classified into 15 categories.
Overall, Martyn provides very down-to-earth, practical, and above all, accurate information to a wide variety of visitor questions. Her positive approach and conversational style make this a site worth bookmarking! And the "Question of the Week" on the Homepage is a great touch to get return traffic to the site. Now the details, and some suggestions.
The web pages on Sexscape.org load quickly, thanks to a minimum of graphics. One of the most important features of any question-and-answer site is a useful search engine. Sexscape. Org's search engine is partnered with Amazon.com (one of the largest online bookstores in North America). Keyword searches provide both the Q&A's within Sexscape.Org's archive that match the search terms, and a book of possible interest to the searcher. However, the majority of test searches performed on the Sexscape search engine returned Alex Comfort's The New Joy of Sex as the only related book from Amazon.com. Clearly, this feature needs refinement. Further, the partnership with Amazon.com is questionable. If this is truly a Canadian web site, then it might be worthwhile for Sexscape. Org to associate itself with a Canadian bookstore partner.
One feature that does seem confusing is the current incongruence between the Homepage design and the design of the rest of the site. The logo and colour scheme on the Homepage do not appear elsewhere on the site. This may confuse the novice user, who might believe that there are two separate sites. Hopefully this will be reconciled with future revisions. In addition, the Homepage presents data (both daily and overall) tracking the topics individuals are searching Sexscape. Org for and how often. The purpose of this presentation of frequency data is unclear given the overall purpose of the web site. One might think that such information would be of more use to those who develop and maintain the site, than to visitors. That being said, it appears from these data that a high percentage of the traffic to the site is looking for explicit pictures, not answers to personal questions. This tends to be the plight of many sexuality education sites (Sexscape does not contain sexually explicit images).
Authorship / Webmaster
Peer Partners Inc. is identified as responsible for and the copyright owner of the web site, however Kim Martyn is the individual clearly responsible for providing the expert answers to individuals' sexuality questions. The site carries a disclaimer that "any online counseling provided by Kim Martyn is intended for educational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be used as medical advice". The site also notes that all names and email addresses are kept strictly confidential.
Selected Analysis of Answers
Two questions were arbitrarily chosen from the archived list to assess the accuracy of the answers provided. The first question from the "Teens and Virgins" category, entitled "Sex and Parenting", came from a mother who was interested in knowing how much information to provide to her 12-year-old son who is questioning her about sexual issues, specifically masturbation. Kim Martyn starts her answer by normalizing this mother's anxiety and supporting her proactive role in the sexuality education of her son. Martyn suggests that parents often avoid the subject of sexuality with their children, a phenomenon supported by many studies (Hutchinson & Cooney, 1998; Klein & Gordon, 1992). Much of Martyn's reasoning as to why parents ignore sexuality discussions with their children is also echoed in the research literature (Geasler, Dannison, & Edlund, 1995).
Martyn goes on to suggest that there are no questions that should be put off. As with questions in other areas of life, the parent should endeavour to make the answers age appropriate and keep the lines of communication open. In addition, Martyn concludes that parents should not wait for the questions to be asked, but instead, take the initiative with their children. Research on sexuality education supports the notion that all children's questions can be viewed as "teachable moments" and answering them simply and without embarrassment can be quite beneficial for maintaining open lines of communication (Geasler, et al., 1995). While I suspect that the parent might next ask what an age-appropriate answer might be for a 12-year-old son this issue is not addressed in Martyn's response.
The second question was taken from the "Getting it Up" category and was entitled "Ejaculating Too Quickly". A man in his thirties asked about ways to prolong his sexual experiences, which he felt were over too soon ("a few minutes"). Again, Martyn provides reassurance first by stating how common this condition is and then provides a number of things that people have found useful including, different positions, masturbating prior to sexual activity, using a condom to reduce the sensation, the squeeze technique and more couple communication. Since Grenier & Byers (1997) identified 26 different ejaculation delaying techniques that university-aged men said they used (with varying degrees of frequency and effectiveness), this topic offers much more room for explanation and discussion than could reasonably be expected of a Q & A web site. Nevertheless, some mention of the importance of "performance anxiety" would have been desireable (i.e. is reducing reducing the pressure to "perform") as would an elaboration on the problems involved in defining problem (i.e. what makes it a "condition"?).
These quibbles aside, the site goes a long way in the positive promotion of sexual health education.
Geasler, M.J., Dannison, L.L., & Edlund, C.J. (1995). Sexuality education of young children: Parental concerns. Family Relations, 44, 184-188.
Grenier, G., & Byers, E.S. (1997). The relationships among ejaculatory control, ejaculatory latency, and attempts to prolong heterosexual intercourse. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26, 27-47.
Hutchinson, M., & Cooney, T. (1998). Patterns of parent-teen sexual risk communication: Implications for intervention. Family Relations, 47, 185-194.
Klein, M., & Gordon, S. (1992). Sex education. In E.C. Walker & M.C. Roberts (Eds.), Handbook of Clinical Child Psychology (2nd ed.) (pp. 933-949). New York: Wiley.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Web Site Reviews. Contributors: Humphreys, Terry - Author. Journal title: The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. Volume: 9. Issue: 2 Publication date: Summer 2000. Page number: 146. © 1999 SIECCAN, The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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