If sexual activity is a prickly issue for discussion in society and our daily lives, it appears no less so as a research topic in some areas of the scientific and medical communities. The very definition of the word sex seems troublesomely elusive for many researchers when it comes to classifying their investigative efforts and obtaining the funding to support them.

Although it is a widespread field of study, sex research-- particularly that dealing with human sexuality--is still subject to stigma, many scientists agree.

"It's okay to use sex for advertising--Pepsi, beer, and Calvin Klein jeans--but when it comes to research, sex is still a bad word," says Robert Friar, a professor at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., where he teaches anatomy and physiology and a course on human sexuality.

That this stigma comes hand in hand with difficulties in obtaining research funds is a reason that many...

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