Think back for a moment and remember the sexuality education you received growing up. Maybe it was given at high school or at your youth club? Or did your parents sit down and have, “the talk” with you? Maybe you learned from stumbling across porn or erotic material? Or maybe you received nothing but silence and a message of, “We don’t talk about this”?
Did this sex education equip you to have positive, satisfying, and pleasurable experiences? Did it leave you feeling good about your body and empowered to say “No” to what you didn’t want? Did you feel you and your peers really understood and respected consent?
I highly doubt it. It’s up to us as adults to try and repair the damage to our sexuality and spirits caused by harmful sex education. I know it took me years to undo all the harmful messages I had internalized about sexuality.
Sexuality education matters because the messages you receive growing up will last a lifetime.
You’ll know that last year I went to Poland to attend an intensive sexology training. I made so many dear friends and contacts there and got a small feel for the political situation there. Recently, I’ve just seen in the news that the Polish government is trying to make giving sex education a criminal offense.
Can you believe this? A crime to give sex education?!
That means that my colleagues and friends there could potentially face jail time for doing their jobs: providing comprehensive sex education!
I shudder to think of what effect this will have on young people living in an already conservative country, and adults who have grown up with internalized sexual shame.
It’s not much better back home in the USA.
While sex coaches and educators won’t face jail time, we do face many barriers.
Did you know that only 13 states require sex ed to be scientifically accurate? With the current administration favoring and promoting Abstinence Only Until Marriage (AOUM) models of sex education and pulling funding for comprehensive sexuality education programs, the current state of sex education is depressing, to say the least.
Here are some more facts for you:
Research, public health experts, sex educators, medical professionals, and leading therapeutic and professional organizations all agree that Abstinence Only education is ineffective and more likely to be harmful to young people.
In fact, if you look at a simple map of the USA which shows the states and counties with Abstinence Only models of sex education compared to states and counties that teach comprehensive sexuality education, the difference is stark. Abstinence Only areas have higher rates of unintended pregnancies, rates of STIs, and people seeking abortions.
And yet, the federal government has put over $2 billion into Abstinence Only Until Marriage programs since 1981. In the last decade, we thought we were in the clear when this started to shift towards more holistic programs, but under the recent administration *cough cough*, it has shifted back to the old and completely ineffective model.
Despite the overwhelming evidence in favor of comprehensive sexuality education, the government is wasting millions of dollars on the newly branded, “Sexual Risk Avoidance” programs (SRA). *
It’s a new brand, but the same old and damaging content: sex should only be between married couples so you’d better just learn to sit on it and squash it right down.
Condoms? They don’t work! Contraception? That doesn’t work and will give you cancer! Masturbation? That’s a slippery slope that can lead to temptation! Do you think you may not be cis-gendered and/or heterosexual? We shouldn’t teach our kids about LGBT folk, it’s the homosexual agenda! Been sexually assaulted? Maybe it was your fault for leading them on. Had sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend and feel confused? You’re damaged goods now.
I want us to do better by the next generation, don’t you?
I want a world where kids can grow up knowing that they are in complete control over who touches, hugs, and kisses them, right from babyhood?
I want a world where kids can grow up knowing their bodies and not feeling at all ashamed or embarrassed to name ALL of the parts, including their genitals.
I want to see kids growing up with such an embodied understanding of consent, that it was just second nature to them. Where rape culture and #MeToo are viewed in the same way we now view segregation, women being denied the vote, and women being the literal property of their husbands: a relic of the past that we have now learned from.
I want a world where all sexual orientations and gender identities are embraced and loved. Where kids can know that it doesn’t matter who they love or want to be in a relationship with, as long as it’s with a relationship with respect, care, and honor.
I want a world where every teenager feels comfortable talking to their parents about sex, and parents feel confident and comfortable talking to them about it too. Where teens are responsible about their sexual health and using contraception, and treating each other with care and concern.
I just want a world where sex isn’t demonized or fetishized, it just is. A normal and natural part of being human, which we talk about and make legislation about as easily as we would any other part of public health.
Can you imagine that with me? What could you do to bring in that new world? Let’s raise the next generation sex positive, I hope you’ll join me.
Here are just a few simple ways to provide good sex education for your kids:
- Always, always, use the correct anatomical names for their genitals. Encourage them to use the proper names and to feel as comfortable saying them as they would the rest of their body. This simple piece of education can help alert you to any potential harm, and will make them empowered when they need medical attention.
- Embody consent for them from as early as possible. Never make them hug or kiss somebody they don’t want to, instead, encourage them to greet somebody in a way that feels good for them. If you are tickling or wrestling with them, ALWAYS stop when they ask you to.
- As they get older, keep reassuring them that you are a safe and welcoming person to talk to with any questions they may have about their bodies and sexuality.
- If you feel uncomfortable or don’t know the answer to any questions they ask, direct them to the resources I list below.
- Contact your local senator and your local school and tell them you support comprehensive sexuality education to be taught. If your county or state teaches Abstinence Only or Sexual Risk Avoidance models, do everything you can to campaign to change this.
- Consider supporting SIECUS and Planned Parenthood.
If you’re looking for support in providing good sex education to your kids, I highly recommend these resources:
The Mama Sutra: https://www.themamasutra.net/
The Center for Sex Education: https://www.sexedcenter.org/
*For more information, head here: https://siecus.org/