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This week on SciShow Talk Show, Dr. Lindsey Doe sexplains to Hank some of the difficulties in conducting sex research and discusses the past leaders of the field. Later, Jessi from Animal Wonders drops by with Stumpy the Dumpy Tree Frog.

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Hank: Hello.  In this SciShow Talk Show with Dr. Doe, something happened with the sound recorded in the first half, so we had to rely on the camera audio, just the mic that's built into the camera, and that is not high quality.  Our apologies for that, but we didn't wanna like, throw the whole episode away, because it's good, so here's this conversation with Lindsey.  Luckily, the second half sounds great, so you have that to look forward to.  Thank you and enjoy.

Hey there.  Welcome to SciShow Talk Show.  It's that day on SciShow where we talk to interesting people about interesting stuff and today, we're talking to clinical sexologist Dr. Lindsey Doe.  

Lindsey: Yeah. 

H: Hi.

L: Hi.  

H: Of Sexplanations, a YouTube channel that we help produce.

L: Yeah, and Sexplanations the podcast that you help produce.

H: I did.  I was just a guest.

L: Which is fantastic.

H: Where we talked about numbers things.  A great number of things.  We went--we ranged far.  But one of the things we talked about was the fact that we don't necessarily do a ton of research on sex in our world.

L: Right.

H: Which seems like, you know, sex is pretty important.  It's how all of us exist and also just a fairly important part of peoples' day to day lives.

L: Yes.

H: It's an important method of disease transmission, it's an important method of happiness creation, and of, you know, close intimacy relationships and--

L: Reproduction.

H: Yeah, also, you know, having human beings, still.

L: Exactly.  

H: Which, you know, maybe if you're not in favor of that, but I am.

L: They're still (?~1:42)

H: I like humans a lot.

L: Yeah.

H: That's not what I--I meant people who are not in favor of any more humans on Earth at all, which is a viewpoint I have encountered.

L: Yeah.

H: I'm a huge fan of people and I think that there should be plenty.  I don't know if we should have the amount we have.

L: Yeah, I would say, I'm a fan of people, but I'm a bigger fan of the planet.  

 (02:00) to (04:00)

H: Oh, I disagree.  I think that the Earth without humans is very interesting but not nearly as interesting.  I really don't--I really like people, man.

L: Big questions here on SciShow Talk Show.

H: Yeah.  Should humans exist?  Leave your comments in the (?~2:18) below.  Oh, I like humans.  It seems to me like this is a thing that we should study a lot.  You study sex and have--

L: Yes.  You wanna hear about that?

H: Yeah, sure.  

L: So when I was in graduate school, which was around 2003, one of my earliest experiences with the lack of funding toward sex research and the incredible amount of hurdles that are set up, (?~2:46) for that was my master's thesis.  It's titled Phenomenological Claim of First Sexual Intercourse Experiences Among Individuals of Varied Levels of Sexual Self-Disclosure.  The reason why it was so long is because when you're doing research connected with a university or college, you have to go through what's called the IRB or the Institutional Review Board, and they take a proposal, in my case it was 30 pages, it's usually around 10, but because I was working with human subjects, because I was talking to them about their sexualities, which at the time was a very sensitive subject, my proposal was much longer and I had to explain every question that I was asking them, what I was going to do with the data, how it was protected, et cetera.  For my classmates that were handing in much smaller and less comprehensive proposals, they would get theirs approved by the IRB round one.  Mine took three rounds to go through and even then, I have, you know, all of this research planned out, but now I have to get participants so comparison, you have the--in my program, you have exercise science students and health (?~3:56) students.  They were able to acquire, you know, Psychology 101 students easy access, right, to these huge pools of participants.

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H: Sure.  I mean, this is a general problem that there is in human research, where if you would like to study people of a broad range of sort of, you know, experiences, ages, socioeconomic status, it's a lot easier if you would like to study, you know, 18-22 year old college students.  

L: Right.

H: 'Cause they're accessible and they're--have free time, whereas if you want to be talking to a lot of different people who are like, so that's a very well studied population.

L: Except for sex.

H: Even in sex.

L: Right, because, so, my study ended up becoming what's a called a phenomenology, where you study the phenomena of something, you know, of a much smaller subject group because it was so difficult for me to find participants.

H: People just didn't want to sign up?

L: Right.

H: Even if it was anonymous, even if it was--

L: Right.  So I had eight participants, two pilot participants.

H: Yeah.

L: That is--so the whole research study got changed because that's all I could access, and then from those eight participants, I wanted them all to have really high levels of self-disclosure because I want them to be able to tell me about their first sexual intercourse experiences, but I wasn't able to access eight high-disclosure and so that's where you get the part of my thesis title which is 'Varied Levels of Sexual Self-Disclosure' so, so many barriers!

H: Right, and you're also just gonna have selection bias toward people who are more comfortable talking about that stuff, which is going to be maybe a different (?~5:36) data from that.  I do see why it's hard.  I see, especially now, like, especially if it's like, of course, like, you have to get people to actually talk about it.

L: Yeah.

H: And you can't just be like, so uh, I'm gonna check your personal history and here's uh, here's the first sex you ever had and how it went and why and how and it was all written down.  

L: (?~5:58) couldn't do that.

H: Yeah, no, but it's all locked up inside.  

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L: Yeah.  So you wanna hear the history of some of these problems?

H: Sure.

L: And some of my favorite sex researchers who just pushed through the barriers?

H: Okay.

L: Okay.  So one of the very first outlets for sexologists to kind of communicate with one another was a journal that was published in 1926.

H: Okay.

L: And then you have the Institut Fur Sexualwissenschaft, which is the German name for the Institute of Sexology.

H: Okay.

L: And this accumulated thousands of artifacts, volumes of research, photographs, art, et cetera.  But then the Nazis came along and in three years of them being in power, so 1933-1936, they burned the entire insitute down and all of the artifacts.  Supposedly some were rescued though, and they have been preserved in San Francisco.  So then, from there, you have a lot of taboo around the subject, not a lot of access to materials, but Kinsey, Alfred Kinsey, comes along.  He has been studying (?~7:11) wasps for his whole biological career and he starts meeting with students who have no idea how their anatomy and physiology works in terms of reproduction, and so he shifts to start teaching a course on human sexuality, but you can only take it if you are married.  

H: Wow.

L: Yeah.  

H: Kinsey has always fascinated me because it was like, he did this research and he found that like, a huge of variety of sexual experiences, but I--I was always like, how did he get that information out of people?  Like, how do you talk to a person in a time when homosexuality is extraordinarily taboo and find out that so many of these people have had homosexual experiences?

L: I think people love talking about sex.  It's just--

H: You gotta--

L: Giving them that permission to do it and establishing rapport so that they feel safe with you as whatever person who is recording things, right.  

 (08:00) to (10:00)

Eve Ensler put together what's called The Vagina Monologues, which are a collection of monologues based on her interviews she did, and she has one where she's talking to an older woman and the woman is huffy, like, why, you shouldn't be asking me these questions, this isn't polite, and then she gets to talk for the first time about how when she became aroused, there was this huge flood of liquid that came out and she hasn't ever told anyone about this and she's afraid to be sexual and that she hasn't been, and then in her 70s, she, post-interview, goes back and masturbates for the first time and has an orgasm.  It was really exciting.  So I think that when people are invited to have those conversations, then they're all about it.  Right, you like talking about sex.  We can talk about sex for hours.

H: Yeah, but I'm a pretty open dude, though, like, I, you know, I had--I feel like I've had the trajectory that allowed that.  I feel like a lot of people, especially in Kinsey's time, did not.  Like, it's taboo now, but way more taboo then.  But I guess, you know, if you establish that rapport and you make the--make it very clear that this is not something that's gonna leave this office, yeah, I think people do like, actually intend to oftentimes like to talk about it.  

L: Yeah, so they did.

H: It does make it difficult to research.

L: Yeah.

H: If people aren't, and like, it's not like, I mean, tell me how many times you exercise a day?  'Cause I like, you try to find research on like, how much sex do people have, and it's like, mehh.  

L: Uh, yeah, it's true, it's very hard for me to find stats on how often people are masturbating, how often people are having oral sex, how often people are having same sex relationsh--yeah. 

H: Yeah.

L: It's very difficult.

H: Are there barriers to funding that research in it like--?

L: Yeah.

H: But why?

L: Kinsey's research was just cut, like it was, game over.

 (10:00) to (12:00)

H: Sure, but that's then.  Like, 2017, now, is it still like, is it still that hard to get funding for this research, 'cause it seems like really important things to know about our society.

L: The research about sex either exists because sex is some sort of problem and we need to understand what is causing this infection or how do we stop young people from early onset intercourse, and so it's a problem-solving research.

H: Early onset intercourse is an interesting way of saying that.  

L: Having sex for the first time, early.

H: Yeah.

L: Or it's about behaviors and pleasure, et cetera, and that is definitely not funded.  Well, who would fund it?

H: I don't know.

L: Who would fund--

H: Who funds just knowing things like, that's--a lot of the research that we do does not necessarily have an end, we just want to know more about the world.  

L: We, on the podcast, talked about how to have sex in space.  Where is the funding to send Dr. Doe into space so that she can have sex?

H: Is this been the end of this entire conversation?  It's like, look, there's not enough research being done into this and no one's funding the important sex studies, like sending me to space and someone else for me to have sex with.

L: Or I think my bigger resentment is that biosex females can experience what's called ejaculation, squirting, surging, et cetera, right, like there's a gush of clear liquid that comes out some of their bodies, and there's all this really crappy research that's done that's like, oh, it's beer piss, it's from drinking too much alcohol, or it's because you're hyperhydrated or it's really just urine and it's so sad to me, because you have entire generations of people that are insecure about their bodies and their experiences because no one is out there willing to do the scientific collection of data so that we have actual answers.

H: Yeah, it's strange, but I guess understandable to think that like, we still have social taboos standing in the way of understanding physiology, particularly female sexual physiology, and we think that like, we think we, you know, we're super progressive and like, science isn't held back by social taboos, but it totally is.

 (12:00) to (14:00)

L: It totally is.  The researchers that (?~12:19), wanna hear them?

H: Sure.  

L: Okay.  On the subject of Kinsey, he was curious about what was going on and trying to understand sexuality so that he and his team, called the "inner circle" could be better researchers, and they would all actually have sex together in his attic, so there were other men on his team, and so it would be them and partners and his wife and they'd all engage in sexual activity together.

H: Wow.

L: For research!  For science!  

H: Whoever got the clipboard job was just like, okay.  

L: Yeah.

H: Pull the clipboard key.

L: Well, they videotaped it too. 

H: Oh, okay.

L: At least, that's how the story goes.  Then there's Havelock Ellis, who you're familiar with, because you had to roleplay him in a Sexplanations episode.

H: I did.  

L: And he was having nocturnal emissions, right, wet dreams, and he did his own research there to figure out whether or not he was gonna die, like the medical field had told him.  Think fast, pretty incredible.

H: Yeah.  Well, I mean, if you're being told like, that he basically, what you say in the video, is he was documenting his demise.  

L: Yeah.

H: Like he thought he was like, well, I guess I'll do research on myself if I'm gonna die of this disease that I have.  Wet dreams that I'll, you know, keep track, as I decline to the grave, then he was like, I feel okay.  I've been doing this for years now and I'm super not dead.  Became a sex researcher.  Good job, dude.  

L: Good job, dude.  You also know about one of my favorites, Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek, who made one of the first microscopes and in that, he had spermatozoa, which I think is incredible.

H: Yeah, like, the first thing is like, I made a microscope.  The first thing I'm gonna do, I'm gonna look at blood, I'm gonna look at sperm.

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