There is so much information on the Internet about sexuality that it can be hard to know where to start, and who to trust. There are even those claiming to teach sexuality from an LDS perspective, but are they really? It can be difficult to know what sites are credible.
These suggestions (mostly) come from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011).[i]
1. Who runs the site? Any good website related to sexuality should make it easy for you to learn who is responsible for the site and its information.
2. Who pays for the site? The source of the site’s funding should be clear. The funding source can affect what content is presented, how the content is presented, and what the site owners want to accomplish on the site.
3. What is the purpose of the site? An “About This Site” link appears on many sites; if it’s there, use it. The purpose of the site should be clearly stated and help you evaluated the trustworthiness of the information.
4. Where does the information come from? If the person or organization in charge of the site did not create the information, the original source should be clearly labeled. This identification allows others to easily find original sources of information.
Never trust an article that doesn’t cite its sources. This is especially true if the author claims to have a degree. The degree doesn’t excuse them from stating their sources; it makes the responsibility to cite their sources greater.
5. What is the basis of the information? The site should describe the evidence on which the material is based. Facts and figures from valid research should have references. Also, opinions or advice should be clearly set apart from information that is based on research results.
6. How is the information selected? Is there an editorial board? Do people with excellent professional and scientific qualifications review the material before it is posted?
7. How current is the information? Websites should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis, and the most recent update or review date should be clearly posted. Even if the information is still accurate, you want to know whether the site owners have reviewed it recently to ensure that it is still valid.
8. How does the site choose links to other sites? What is the policy of the website owner about how links to other sites are established? What are the criteria for the sites that are linked to the website?
9. What information about you does the site collect, and why? Any credible website should tell you exactly what it will and will not do with personal data gathered about you. Many commercial sites sell data about their users to other companies. Don’t sign up for anything you don’t fully understand.
10. How does the site manage interactions with visitors? There should be a way for you to contact the site owners with problems, feedback, and questions. Information about the terms for using any site services should be readily available as well.
11. (Bonus) Is their information and advice in harmony with the gospel? I’m adding this suggestion because of concerns I’ve had and concerns that have been expressed to me. Be wary of anyone who claims to be an LDS sex educator, including me. Putting “LDS” in front of your title carries the added responsibility of not only teaching about sexuality from an LDS perspective, but also that those teachings should be in harmony with the gospel and doctrine of the Church.
I am wary of anyone who openly refutes the teachings of General Authorities and/or attacks their character, words or actions. I am also wary about anyone who condones ideas that are in direct conflict with the law of chastity and the guidelines in the For The Strength of Youth.
Some examples of this that I’ve seen are teachings that modesty should never be expected from teenagers, that parents should condone their youth masturbating[ii], the idea that profane erotica is a healthy and acceptable for married LDS couples to engage in, or that we should expect the General Authorities’ teachings will eventually catch up to modern scientific discoveries and current social trends.
Such teachings are not in harmony with the gospel, and the Spirit can help us to know that, if we will listen.[iii] If we feel confused or conflicted when listening to or reading someone’s information, you may want to find another source.
[i] Greenbert, Jerrold S.; Bruess, Clint E.; Oswalt, Sara B., Exploring the Dimensions of Human Seuxality 5 Ed., Jones and Bartlett Learning, 2014, 39 -40
[ii] Kimball, Spencer W., President Kimball Speaks Out on Morality, Ensign, Nov. 1980, https://www.lds.org/ensign/1980/11/president-kimball-speaks-out-on-morality?lang=eng “The early apostles and prophets mention numerous sins that were reprehensible to them. Many of them were sexual sins—adultery, being without natural affection, lustfulness, infidelity, incontinence, filthy communications, impurity, inordinate affection, fornication. They included all sexual relations outside marriage—petting, sex perversion, masturbation, and preoccupation with sex in one’s thoughts and talking.”
[iii] Moroni 10: 3-5