Sex Research Puts University of Georgia Professors in Hot Seat

The Senate Committee of Higher Education was the location last week for three professors from Georgia State University. It appears some in Georgia would like for any education that has to do with a sexual nature be tossed from the desks.

The educators were having to defend their jobs after Rep. Charlice Byrd (R-Woodstock)called them out for having experts in oral sex and male prostitution. Human reports Rep. Clarlice Byrd (R-Woodstock,, Ga.) went to the Senate with these fighting words:

“This is not considered higher education,” Byrd said. “If legislators are going to dole out the dollars, we should have a say-so in where they go.” The legislators, their supporters and groups like the Christian Coalition will join together to pressure fellow lawmakers and the University System Board of Regents to eliminate the jobs of these fringe educators or move them into different subjects. They ask the question “is this really what a research institution ought to be teaching?”

On February 18 Dr. Kirk Elifson, Dr. Mindy Stombler and Dr. Donald Reitzes, the chair of GSU’s sociology department, were in the Senate explaining their decades of research.

Elifson’s research has dated back to the Vietnam War when he begun studying the habits of American servicemen. That study showed that 10 percent of servicemen visited male prostitutes. His study prompted that CDC to work with him in 1991 when they were investigating the outbreak of HIV and AIDS that was happening within the gay population.

Stombler is working on a study about oral sex. Her research based in education theory has yet to be published.

The Senate questioned the value of these and other studies because of funding. reports:

“How do I go back and explain to the 7,500 veterans of this state that we have money to pay for male prostitution experts and oral sex experts, and queer theory?” he asked. “How do I go back and explain to the 7,500 veterans that we have money to pay for these things but not for veteran housing?”

Both Elifson and Stombler’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health. That didn’t stop Charlice Byrd and Calvin Hill from saying that students are being taught classes on oral sex. They were wrong on that declaration.

Press Release 365 reports:

“CNN missed the real story. Scientific research is the underpinning of effective policy and prevention-especially in areas such as healthy sexuality, where misinformation and stigma flourish,” said NSRC director and San Francisco State professor Dr. Gilbert Herdt. “It is not only shameful to ridicule and undermine sexuality research, it undermines our national health. The public’s sexual literacy depends on it.” In fact, the NSRC has its own journal, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, whose primary goal is to translate research into policy.

State Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta) and Sen. Seth Harp (R-Hull) both acknowledged the value of the studies.

“Learning about your work with the national security connects the dots and shows how important your work can be,” Orrock said.

Within 48 hours the National Sexuality Resource Center was able to garner thousands of signatures from advocates and sexuality researchers around the world in support for the professors.

Dr. Deborah Tolman, Professor of Social Welfare at Hunter College School of Social Work and the Graduate Center, CUNY, spoke out for the need that these studies provide.

“Identifying and understanding developmental differences are critical to sound educational and social policy to support healthy development. Research can challenge myths and determine what, in the words of Bristol Palin, is realistic for adolescents and young people to know about their choices and expectations about oral sex.”


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