Sparing the Doctor’s Blushes: The Use of Sexually Explicit Films for the Purpose of Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) in the Training of Medical Practitioners in Britain During the 1970s

Article Summary by Rob Irwin

How best to prepare healthcare professionals to address their patients’ sexual health and wellbeing concerns is a question still in need of an answer. This article describes an early educational approach, the Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) seminar, that was used in some British medical schools during the 1970s to prepare doctors for talking about sex. These seminars typically involved showing sexually explicit films, followed by small-group discussions, in which medical students were encouraged to share the feelings they experienced in response to the films and to consider the potential impact of their sexual attitudes and beliefs on their future professional practice. Drawing on a range of publications and archival materials, this article examines the aims of SAR seminars and considers some of the barriers to the more widespread use of such seminars in medical education in Britain.  SAR seminars were typically used by medical educators in the 1970s to support the development of a ‘permission-giving’, educative approach to sexual counselling in medical practice. This approach to sexual counselling was very different to the more psychoanalytically informed, ‘interpretative’ form of sexual counselling provided by some Family Planning Association doctors from the late 1950s onwards. An analysis of published writing by doctors who were advocates of each of these therapeutic approaches reveals contrasting perceptions about the role of doctors’ feelings in sexual counselling and suggests some reasons for why sexual counselling remained very much on the margins of medical practice.

 

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities journal website.

 

Dr Rob Irwin is a Reader in Applied Psychology at Bath Spa University. His research interests include sexual health psychology, sexuality education, and the histories of sex therapy and psychosexual counselling in Britain.

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