Funny or Informative? Mom Video Blogs Sex Education

Nikol Hasler's approach to teaching teens about sex is both funny and blunt.


Jan. 24, 2008 — -- Forget the awkward silences, snickering and the boring videos -- 28-year-old Wisconsin mom of three Nikol Hasler has a totally different way of teaching teens about sex.

It's upfront, funny and, depending on whom you ask, kind of offensive.

Hasler -- who describes herself as "horribly sarcastic" -- is the host of the "Midwest Teen Sex Show," a video blog that unabashedly tackles sexual health issues such as homosexuality, masturbation and birth control.

"What's not funny about sex?" Hasler said. "What we're trying to do by making a joke out if it is making it more of a commonplace thing to talk about. We're not trying to take every important aspect out of it and make it into something to giggle about, we're just making the same jokes that kids are making at the back of the sex ed classroom."

With more than 70,000 subscribers to the show on the online music store iTunes, the show is a hit. But even Hasler admits that the information she presents is more personal opinion than fact. And that has left many critics concerned that the sex talk Hasler dishes may do more harm than good.

Hasler said her own experience with teen pregnancy is one of the motivations for hosting the show. She lived in 15 foster homes growing up, gave birth to her first son at age 19 and spent her 21st birthday "pregnant and at Chuck E. Cheese's."

With the help of actress Britney Barber, whom Hasler found on Craigs List, along with co-creator, director and high school friend Guy Clarke, Hasler pokes fun at sex to, she hopes, demystify many of the misconceptions teens encounter. In one video she listed the best places to do it -- "the backseat of a car" -- and another included a particularly memorable scene of two teens applying for a "fornication license," answering questions to determine whether they are actually ready to have intercourse.

But sexual health experts, parents and even teens are conflicted about whether Hasler's sex show is too funny to actually teach young adults about sex, and some question whether the seriousness of safe sex is lost somewhere amid the laughter.

The Midwest Teen Sex Show "is the worst example of how kids should be taught about sex. There's no education in this at all," said Judy Kuriansky, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist. "I love humor, but this has no definitive, responsible or credible advice -- it all leads toward acting out."

Kuriansky told that she was most offended by the episode on syphilis, which shows Hasler and her co-stars violently slitting each other's necks at the thought of acquiring the sexually transmitted disease.

"Using a blog is a good way to give responsible education in a humorous way, but this isn't it," said Kuriansky, who said her advice for sex education would be for parents to sit down and talk to their kids face-to-face. "She has no credibility."

On the show's Web site, Hasler identifies herself as a "former expert practitioner of teen promiscuity" and does not have any professional experience teaching sex education.

When asked how she reacts to the criticism that her jokes may send the wrong message to teens, Hasler said she "likes funny jokes" but also hopes that teens will take away a sense of "personal responsibility." She said she intends to have professionals appear on future episodes.

While some, such as Kuriansky, are turned off by Hasler's lack of experience, others said her style was a great way to get through to hard-to-reach and know-it-all teens.

"[Hasler] has a very nonacademic approach, but if her goal is to educate teenagers in a way they will find relevant, I think she'll be more successful than the traditional stuff out there," said David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet Behavior and an expert on sexual behavior.

"Most of the sex education that's out there is horrible because it's boring," said Greenfield. "The humor in this will get people to watch it, not take away from the seriousness. Kids don't think sex is serious to begin with anyway."

Barbara Dehn, a nurse practitioner and women's health expert at Stanford University, told that she appreciates the humor of Hasler's videos but also questions some of the factual accuracy.

"Some of the information is misleading, but in some ways there are going to be teens who are going to relate to the language and scenes in the videos," said Dehn. "The key is that this is something parents can use as a springboard for more conversation."

The reaction of mothers and teens after watching the sex show varied from shock and disgust to laughter and appreciation. One 18-year-old boy told that while he didn't learn from the video, he thought it was really funny.

But Alison Rhodes, a child safety expert and TV's Safety Mom, said that her jaw dropped after watching the videos.

"They are trivializing the issues," said Rhodes. "I wouldn't want my daughter learning about sex by watching these podcasts."

But Joanne Bamberger, who blogs about parenting on her D.C. Metro Mom's Blog, disagreed with Rhodes, saying the videos were "refreshing" and "honest."

"The show is a good way to present teenagers with information about their bodies that they might not listen to from their own parents or a high school health teacher," said Bamberger. "I sure would have appreciated a show like this when I was a teen."

Mike Dehn, an 18-year-old from Annapolis, Md., was reluctant to say he learned anything from watching the sex shows but did say that he found them informative.

"It had a lot of information, but the way it was presented I wasn't sure it was supposed to be serious," said Dehn. "I can see how someone could learn something from it and think it was funny at the same time."

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