How sex toys, porn may help fund a university program

adamandeve

Watch your clicking on this one if you’re in the office.

AdamandEve.com, which sells sex toys, lube, porn and other accessories, has announced it’s helping sponsor a chair in sexual-health education at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Its funding for the $2 million Joycelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education — named for the surgeon general fired by President Bill Clinton after stating that masturbation perhaps should be taught — amounts to $50,000 over five years.

(The recipient will be named in five years, which is apparently the deadline for collecting the donor pledges.)

I clicked on the link in the press release to check out what’s going on, and was taken to a company page that required me to pledge I was 18 before I could continue.

I did, and — yowza. Suddenly saw an array of sex toys, hard core DVDs and nude women.

(Nice. I’m now calling HR to explain.)

Wondering whether some people might start howling,  I called up Eli Coleman, director of the human sexuality program in the med school’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health — and the man quoted in the press release.

He said he contacted the company after seeing that it had sponsored organizations such as the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists. (Here’s a short profile of AdamAndEve.com founder Phil Harvey in Bloomberg Businessweek, which tells a little about Harvey’s safe-sex education efforts.)

Coleman acknowledged that the idea of taking a donation from a sex-shop site might raise a few eyebrows, but said the company is just one of about 290 different donors and 21 different organizations contributing to the chair, and so no one has too much influence.

And scrutinizing a donor list, he said, is bound to reveal a donor that some people don’t like.

He told me:

“Our program mission is clear about promoting a science-based approach to health education. There are a plethora of sexual health problems that we’re facing as a country, and we’re really … trying to help people (by giving them) information to make people sexually healthy. …  That’s our mission, and I think that’s what (the) company is supporting.”

Fair enough. People might get the role of toys and lube and lingerie.

But hardcore porn? Something that’s believed to distort a person’s view of sexuality?

He replied:

“I think that to lump everything and make some sort of generalization is very difficult. We do know that many individuals and couples enjoy erotica as part of their healthy sex relationship, and we have evidence where that can be helpful. We’re also aware some people get lost, and we treat people who have problems with internet pornography.

It’s just like gambling. … This can be used responsibly or irresponsibly. Fortunately, the gaming industry devotes a lot of effort to helping people learn .. and … promote responsible use, and that’s what (AdamAndEve’s) intention is as well.”

He said his program isn’t endorsing or judging any of the donors or their beliefs, and would not say whether he approved of the company’s business. But he cautioned against judging the source of the money:

“If this was a company that was into child pornography or something like that, that was illegal, I don’t think we could morally accept something from people who are involved in illegal activities. But this is a company that’s responsible and is law-abiding, and I think that they generally take a responsible approach to providing these products to people who are adults and find these enhancing to their lives.”