Campus: San Francisco State University -- November 28, 2001
A first in the West
S.F. State Starts Master's Degree In Human Sexuality Studies
Decades after the sexual revolution, the study of sexuality arrives in academia
To better prepare practitioners and researchers in the changing role
of sexuality in today's society, San Francisco State University is launching
a master's degree program in human sexuality studies, the first program
in advanced study of sexuality in the western United States.
"This is a new frontier for sexuality today," said the program's
creator and director Gilbert Herdt. "The aging baby boom generation
will live longer and have longer sexual lives than any prior generation.
And we have a wide range of sexual diversity here in California and across
the country. These are issues that we are now just beginning to openly
The SFSU's 30-unit program, which will be housed in the College of Behavioral
and Social Sciences, includes courses on theory, methodology and policy
related to sexuality, the sociocultural as well as biopsychological foundations
of human sexuality, psychological sex differences, sexual cultures, sexual
diversity, disability and sexuality, sexual identity formation, and sexual
and gender role development and behavior. S.F. State has offered a minor
in human sexuality studies for years. The new degree program will prepare
students to continue their work in human sexuality studies for a doctorate.
The program is particularly timely because of recent focus on sexuality
and its impact on society. "The HIV/AIDS epidemic has forced society
and science to deal with sexual behavior. And there is also the issue
of sexuality and human rights," Herdt said. "And the Internet
and its openness is allowing young people to deal with issues of sexuality
at an earlier age."
SFSU's program stands out from others in its emphasis on issues of sexuality
and social justice, Herdt said. "There are many inequities in society
and many stem from a person's sexuality. We need to address social justice
and equity issues for sexual minorities and groups in our society who
traditionally have been socially and sexually oppressed. These issues
have given rise to incidents of anti-gay violence and homophobia,"
SFSU's new program signals further acceptance of the field of sexuality
studies in academic circles. A number of colleges have created courses
on aspects of human sexuality such as gender studies, gay and lesbian
studies, and sexual identity and social attitudes. For example, City College
of San Francisco has a department of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual Studies. New
York University students can take courses in humanistic study of sexuality
and gender. Columbia University offers advanced study in sexuality and
"We are proud to be at the forefront of this emerging field of study,"
said SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan. "Our new master's degree
in human sexuality is yet another outstanding example of San Francisco
State's academic leadership and curricular diversity. We look forward
to attracting and producing top scholars who will contribute greatly to
society's understanding of sexuality."
Herdt said that the new degree program would be ideally suited for professionals
such as social workers, counselors, teachers, ministers, nurses, health
care providers and others in similar professions.
Paul Hammonds, 24, is in his first year in the master's program after
graduating from Tennessee Technological University with a bachelor's degree
in social psychology.
"I believe this new degree program fills a void in the discipline
of human sexuality studies," he said. "You don't have many programs
that make a connection between the larger role that sexuality plays in
our society. I expect this program will give me a solid foundation to
do work and do important research in this field."
The new degree program was created by a group of SFSU researchers led
by Herdt, an anthropologist who came to the University three years ago
from the University of Chicago. Director for the Center for Culture and
Mental Health Research and a professor on the University of Chicago's
Committee on Human Development, Herdt has written numerous books on gender
development, sexual identities and gay culture in America and the Pacific
Herdt said he expects that interest in the new program will come not just
from the Bay Area but also from across the country and around the world.
"Many people are interested in this field of study but can't get
this type of knowledge and training in other areas Our location in San
Francisco puts us in the center of cultural change and openness, especially
on issues of sexuality," he said.
The first students will receive their master's degrees in human sexuality
studies from SFSU next year. Nine students entered the program in fall
2000 and another 12 entered last fall pending approval of the degree.
Herdt predicts dozens more will enroll each year.