A sexologist is someone concerned with the scholarly investigation of human sexuality, from normal sexual development to pathologies such as sexual abuse. The field is highly interdisciplinary, incorporating knowledge from a number of academic pursuits, and sexologists can work in a range of settings. Some are primarily interested in conducting studies and clinical trials to understand more about human sexuality, for example, while others offer therapy to people with sexual dysfunction, drawing upon their experience to help people.
The study of human sexuality is ancient, as many ancient sex manuals attest, and humans have long been interested in the many facets of sexuality. A sexologist draws from a number of fields, including psychology, medicine, anthropology, sociology, biology, and epidemiology. Some colleges and universities specifically offer opportunities to study this discipline, while others allow students to create their own sexology degrees from within various academic departments. Someone interested in the biology of human sexuality, for example, could work from the perspective of biology.
Normal human sexuality covers a very broad spectrum, and many experts in this field are interested in the diversity of human sexuality, what contributes to sexual development, and the interaction between culture and sexuality. Others are interested in pathologies, and what causes people to develop abnormal or dangerous behaviors and attitudes. Sexual dysfunction is also a topic of interest for some professionals, with researchers studying the various causes and solutions for sexual dysfunction to improve quality of life for people who struggle with this problem.
As a student of sexual behavior, a sexologist can meet with some skepticism from people unfamiliar with the field. Many people are uncomfortable with discussions of sexuality, let alone frank and often clinical study of it, and sexologists sometimes meet with opposition when they present the findings of research studies, seek funding to assist with new studies, or even mention what they do at a dinner party. For some professionals, a large part of their work involves educating people about human sexuality and encouraging honest discussions about issues such as communication in relationships, healthy sexual development, and methods for preventing the spread of disease.
Some notable researchers in the field include Alfred Kinsey, author of the notorious Kinsey Reports, along with William Masters and Virginia Johnson. There are a number of avenues of exploration within the study of human sexuality for someone interested in becoming a sexologist, ranging from the sexual practices of ancient cultures to modern social attitudes that facilitate or hinder the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
How To Become a Sexologist?
The path to becoming a sexologist will vary depending on the work you want to do as a sexologist. If you want to be a sex therapist, approach sexology from the field of psychology. If you’re more interested in research on the physiological changes that happen during sex, you might start by studying biology.
In any case, sexologists need to be well-versed in human sexuality in all its forms. If you want to become a sexologist, you need to understand non-mainstream sexual fantasies as well as criminal sexuality such as rape, incest or pedophilia. It’s important to know that these behaviors don’t fall on a straight line graph, but instead on a bell curve where “normal” sexual activities are in the middle of the bell.
Studying literature, history, anthropology, biology, sociology, women’s studies, psychology, epidemiology and medicine can all be helpful if you want to understand sex in all its forms. Each field approaches the topic differently, giving you a well-rounded view of the breadth of sexual behaviors.
To become a sexologist, you need to have an advanced degree in one of these fields; very few programs specifically for sexology exist. While sexology isn’t licensed in the U.S., there are governing bodies through which you can become a certified sexologist. These include the Therapist Certification Association and the American College of Sexologists. Such organizations typically have a list of requirements to become a certified sexologist, including:
- An advanced degree (Master’s or Doctorate)
- A certain number of hours training in sex-related topics
- A number of hours spent working in the field of sexology
- Supervision by a certified sexologist
When Should I See a Sexologist?
There are many reasons you might want to see a sexologist. For example, if you’re experiencing pain or other physical issues when you try to have sex, you should see a doctor first to rule out any medical problems. If you’re still having problems after a doctor gives you a clean bill of health, a visit to a sex therapist might be in order to see if there are psychological causes.
Another example is if you and your partner have different sexual desires. If you want to explore BDSM or another kink, and your partner is uncomfortable with the idea, a sexologist can help you bridge the gap so both of you can walk away satisfied.
Sexologists’ services might be appropriate if you want to explore your sexual orientation, especially if you find yourself attracted to people of other genders than your partner. They can also help you if you feel you are asexual, lacking any sexual interest whatsoever.
It may be worth seeing a sexologist if you’re questioning your gender identity. While great strides have been made for transgender rights, there’s still a long way to go. Sexologists may help you negotiate societal expectations of your sex as assigned at birth. They can also help you get the documentation needed together to transition legally to your correct gender.
If you’re processing a sexual assault, a sexologist may be able to help you move through the process of having a healthy sex life again. That’s not to say a non-specialized therapist couldn’t help, but sexologists are specifically focused on helping you deal with feelings of sexual stigma, a lack of sexual interest and even enjoying sex after an assault.
How Much Does a Sexologist Make?
Sexologists’ salaries can vary wildly depending on the work they do. Sexuality researchers can earn between $62,497 and $66,845 per year. Sex therapists earn an average of $52,727 to $62,603. If you hold a doctorate of any kind, you can expect to bring in between $94,646 and $99,388 as a sexologist.