Do teens really want to talk about sex? According to these teenagers who started The Sex Ed Initiative, the answer is a resounding yes.
This is a contributed post from Irene Sooah Park and Sarah Wheeler from The Sex Ed Initiative
From potty jokes as toddlers to talking about menstrual periods with your doctor, discussing the more intimate parts of our bodies has undoubtedly been a little awkward.
For parents, even thinking about giving “the talk” may bring a blush to your cheeks.
We get it – it’s not easy. As today’s youth, it can be difficult to understand why we need to learn about our bodies; however, as high schoolers who have never received comprehensive and stigma-free sex education in our schools, the answer is all too clear: we need to make healthy, informed decisions.
High school students need fact-based information about sex and their bodies beyond the Internet
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 55% of adolescents have had sexual intercourse before the age of eighteen. Yet, the vast majority of youth are forced to seek out their sex ed from the internet – a result of our schools (and parents) leaving us with far more questions than answers.
Teachers assigned to teach sex education are often uncomfortable with the topic, largely because they never received the proper training or curricula to teach their students.
The lack of education is not fair to either because the students learn how to react to this content from the teacher. For example, if the teacher stands in the back of the classroom during your sex ed unit because they don’t want to make eye contact with you, you will inevitably learn to shy away from the topic and not to ask questions.
It’s not about blame, it’s about making a change regarding educating teens about sex.
From teacher to student, the cycle continues again and again, and we never truly break free from the societal stigma and shame associated with talking about sex.
Teens leave their schools to perpetuate the stigma again, passing it down to their children.
No one person is to blame, but the consequences of this enablement still need to be addressed.
Above all, it is important to recognize that sex education is more than the word “sex.”
Sex ed is more than explaining the birds and the bees. It should also teach lessons about:
- healthy relationships
- STI protection.
Actual talk about the act of sex itself is not the sole focus of sex education, even if its name puts sex at the forefront of its image. This is often the basics of what is taught at home.
In receiving comprehensive, inclusive, age-appropriate, culturally-appropriate, and trauma-informed sex education, youth will gain a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.
Truly comprehensive curricula that addresses these topics can equip us students with the resources to identify assault, prevent sexual manipulation, and redefine what “virginity” means.
Why these students created The Sex Ed Initiative
As students tired of waiting for adults to recognize the importance of sex education, we came together to write our own curriculum.
Pulling elements from Illinois Senate Bill 818, we created Shattering the Taboo: A Guide to Comprehensive and Inclusive Sex Ed, a guide to sex education for high schoolers and beyond.
We included the topics we hope to see schools across the country teach in addition to discussion questions and worksheets. Sex education in this handbook is not merely a compilation of facts and statistics; rather we hope that this can allow teens to reflect on themselves and their actions by asking questions like,
“How do gender stereotypes frame sex ed?” and
“What do you value most in a relationship?”
As the recipients of this sex education, we believe these elements make sex education more engaging and useful, allowing us to be confident walking out of adolescence.
The Sex Ed Initiative (SEI) is a youth-led organization founded in 2021 to reform sex ed curricula to be more inclusive and comprehensive. To achieve this goal, SEI is offering Shattering the Taboo, a handbook created by youth for youth, to teach the foundational concepts of sexual health education. Divided into eight major sections, the handbook offers medically-accurate and easy-to-understand information on topics including anatomy, healthy relationships, STIs, and more. Each section is accompanied by a worksheet and a list of discussion questions.
If you are interested in partnering with our organization or simply want to ask questions, please don’t hesitate to email us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow our Facebook @thes3xedinitiative, Instagram @thesexed_initiative, TikTok @thes3xed_initiative, and YouTube: The Sex Ed Initiative for updates.