Could an app be the future of sexual education? That's what the recent University of Tennessee graduates, who are the driving force behind sexual education app Hookup, are hoping. Launching in November of this year, the app will provide a platform for teens to ask questions anonymously, getting responses from experts and volunteers. According to their website there will also be games, how-to videos, information on nearby clinics, and a place to share stories about different sexual experiences. The creators hope the anonymity will allow teens to ask questions honestly and freely. As for the app format— we all know a teenager who is constantly glued to their phone, so they may have a point.
A survey done by YTH and the California Family Health Council questioned teens who had been using a text message-based sexual health service, and 90 percent of them reported improvements in healthy sexual behaviors, like getting tested, since using the service. Could an app provide all this and more? Dr Ruth Westheimer, the famed pyschosexual therapist, said the vast majority of questions she receives from young people are very basic and could be covered in an app, but worries about this information being put out to young people without a moral context. There is also an issue of truthfulness- while on the one hand having a place to share embarrassing stories could take some of the confusion and shame out of clumsy sexual encounters, I imagine an anonymous message board for stories could have the same potential as a playground for misinformation, tall tales, and teasing that can mislead or intimidate the sexually inexperienced. Monitoring will be key.
Overall, though, the app idea is promising. It's playful and sex-positive, something a lot of current sexual education lacks. And although Dr Ruth may worry about this information not and encourages them to open and available, but that's just not always the case. I had an over-protective father who would go into my doctor's appointments, meaning I always lied about being sexually active. Then 15-year-old me would have to call my doctor from the drama teacher's office and explain I did actually have sex so please tell me I wasn't going to die. I wish there had been an app for that.
Images: Kat N.L.M./Flickr; Tumblr