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My Sex Doctor: The smartphone app aiming to revolutionise sex education

6th September 2013

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A new app is hoping to answer the sex questions that everyone from teenagers to those in their mid-20s are too afraid to ask.

My Sex Doctor is designed to address the full spectrum of issues concerning sex – from puberty to unhealthy relationships to sex itself, all the way to abortion, pregnancy and parenthood.

Along the way it offers advice on sexual orientation, anal sex and HIV. With its aim being to address the difficult to broach issues, nothing is off limits.

Founded by computer science graduate Fabrizio Dolfi, who also has an MBA from New York University, the app comes in two versions: My Sex Doctor Lite, aimed at those aged 13+, and My Sex Doctor, which caters for everyone up to the age of 25 and includes more detailed information on sex.

Fabrizio had the idea for My Sex Doctor after reading an article on young people and STDs, which pointed out that many may be too embarrassed to go to the doctor and as a result often try to self medicate – making their problems worse.

The piece also pointed out that boys have little real information about the facts surrounding STDs, while girls’ failure to get checked out may come from worries about being judged, being assumed to have a kinky sex life, and/or their parents finding out.   

Fabrizio says: “Probably the fact that I was reading that piece on my mobile helped me make the connection between the two things. I thought that many young people carry this powerful instrument with them every day, a number that is only going up; therefore mobile phones seemed to me the ideal platform to use.

“Initially, I wanted to do something to help people with STDs, to find a way to bypass their hesitations and facilitate their access to consultation and treatments.

“But the more I learnt about the subject the more I realised that trying to prevent infections in the first place was going to have a much bigger impact. That's when I start considering the idea of an educational app.”

Traditional forms of sex education have failed, says Fabrizio – in fact, they are “grossly inadequate.”

He says: “People are stuck discussing whether sex ed programmes say too little or too much and fail to realise that first, sex is everywhere - advertisements, TV shows, movies, music.

“Second, that lack of adequate information about sex and sexuality has never stopped anyone from becoming sexually active and having a sex life... the unfortunate consequences of this approach are widespread and undeniable. 

“And third, that pornography, that thanks to widespread distribution of smartphone and tablets has never been easier to watch, is increasingly feeding the gap in people’s sex education, creating a distorted image in young people’s minds of what real sex and sexuality should be.”

On the subject of parents discussing sex with their teenagers, Fabrizio believes that we need to be realistic.

“I am totally pro parents discussing sex with their children,” he says.

“But once again, we have to look at reality... first, let's face it - we are not Dutch; our culture, despite how evolved and liberated we think to be, still has serious problem in openly discussing sexual matters.”

He adds that parents are generally unprepared for the conversation, creating awkwardness and embarrassment.

The answer, he says, is a non-judgmental guide that is on-hand whenever a query comes up – and that’s where My Sex Doctor, created with the help of high school and college students and structured in a way that follows the natural evolution that every young person goes through, comes in.  

After consultations with the teenagers resulted in the gathering of 2000 questions Fabrizio enlisted a friend, a PhD student in sexology, to put together the answers.

The most comprehensive version of the app costs £1.49 whilst the Lite version, containing less information, is free. Asking users to pay for information that he felt should be free is something that Fabrizio struggled with, he says:

“I needed to deal with the age limit restrictions required by both the iTunes and Google Play stores. In fact, whatever is considered "too sexual" needs to be restricted to people 17 and older, and although I needed to respect that, I knew that part of my app (body changes, sexual orientation, abusive relationships) could be made available to younger people - addressing issues that they definitively have at their age.

“In the end I chose what I considered the lesser evil, to create two apps and charge a small price for the full app. This way, whoever is after reliable information on sexuality and sexual health can do it at no cost, and whoever wants more detailed information on various sexual activities can have that too but for a small price. And given that the light version is primarily about body changes and sexual health I could make it available to people 13 and older.”

What does he hope to achieve?

“The ultimate purpose of the app is to offer young adult a new way to access reliable information about sex and sexuality. To free them from embarrassing conversation with parents or relatives, from hours spent on-line reading lot of stuff they are not even sure they can trust, to save them from getting the wrong ideas from misinformed friends or adult entertainment,” he says.

Fabrizio is also quick to point out that the app tries to be as gender neutral as possible, avoiding terms such as boyfriend and girlfriend, using instead the term partner.  

He adds: “There is no specific chapter on homosexuality because we do not see it that way. For us, homosexuality is just one of the various aspects of human sexuality and therefore you'll find it mixed with other topics.  So when we talk about sexual orientation we talk about homosexuality. When later we talk about sexual acts, we also cover how men have sex with men and women with women.”

The nature of an app is that it can be private, something that was important in the development of My Sex Doctor – on the smartphone’s homescreen it is entitled MYSD.

“We know that while some people might have no problem in letting others know that they are reading about sex, others might prefer to keep the thing for themselves,” Fabrizio says. “Both the app’s icon and the name just below it (MYSD) give no hint of the app’s content. In addition, users have also the option to set-up a pin-code that will prevent unauthorised access to the app.”

For more information on My Sex Doctor visit the website.

The app is available from Google Play, iTunes and in the App Store.

Visit the Facebook page here.

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