The Shame-Free Future of Comprehensive Sex Ed

 

What experience did you have with sex education? Did you come out feeling the joy of finally understanding your body? If you live in America, you'll almost certainly say, no. The curriculum of most subjects taught in the U.S.A. strives to be enriching and accurate, intending to give students tools to excel in the material. However, if you look at sex education programs in the United States, you'll find it's littered with inaccuracy, shame, fear-based propaganda and seldom adequately prepares students for the reality and complexity of sexuality and sexual health.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, or AOUM, have been implemented in U.S. schools federally since 1966. However, this type of ' sex education ' laid the foundation of sex-ed programs in America, beginning in 1904.

Even though politicians continue to taut the importance of abstinence-only programs, the data shows us that these programs don't work. Considerable scientific evidence accumulated over the past 20 years shows that AOUM programs are not effective at preventing pregnancy or STIs, nor do they have a positive impact on the age of first sexual intercourse, the number of sexual partners, or other behaviors. Not only are they ineffective, but many scientists also state they do more harm than good.

Thirteen leading experts in adolescent sexuality research and policy, including Guttmacher Institute researcher Laura Lindberg, reviewed the scientific evidence accumulated and concluded that AOUM programs are not only ineffective but are also stigmatizing and unethical. In fact, the language in many AOUM programs causes harm specifically to young women. AOUM educators build the idea of "good girls" into the curriculum. The educators include demonstrations about girls being 'worn out' from too many partners, resulting in analogies that are dehumanizing and demoralizing. These analogies include comparing women to a chewed-up piece of gum, a worn-out piece of tape, and a pair of dirty shoes. Can you imagine what that does to the burgeoning sexuality and self-image of girls? Nothing good. Typically, they feel disheartened and ashamed of their sexuality and destined to live a painful or unfulfilling sex life. While we might be sending rockets to space, it's time for them to innovate sexual health education that actually prepares children for the responsibilities and life-affirming joys of sex.

When girls grow up feeling safe and confident in their bodies, they grow up to be women who are confident and creative in life. Healthy, shame-free sex - which can include masturbation or partner sex- has multiple health benefits, both mental and physical.

While some women fight to reclaim healthy sexuality for themselves after the damage done by repressive ideologies, culture, schools, or inherited family patterns, the new generation of parents can make different choices and give their children a better start. We cannot wait another 100 years and expect schools to do it for us. Parents must take this responsibility into their own hands, and I'm here to help you find your way.

I present to you, the shame-free future of sex education: early comprehensive sex ed!

Sex education is a curriculum-based process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values that will empower them to prioritize their sexual health and well-being; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their actions affect their own well-being and that of others, and understand and ensure the protection of their rights throughout their lives. This type of education empowers young people to make responsible choices when it comes to their gender identity and sexual relationships and helps them navigate a world fraught with sexual violence, gender inequality, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

Comprehensive sex education sheds light on the risks that young people might face while giving them positive associations with sexuality. Many parents worry that teaching a young person about sex will lead to a loss of innocence. In reality, a lack of high-quality, age and developmentally-appropriate sexuality and relationship education is what leaves children and young people vulnerable to harmful sexual behaviors and sexual exploitation. Sex education helps eliminate shame before it begins, reinforces respect for all genders and people, and highlights the importance of consent and boundaries. Make this a reality by starting with yourself, at home, and in your community.

The federal government not only funds abstinence-only-until-marriage programs but continues to appoint AOUM lobbyists to high power positions, in turn cutting positive & effective education like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program and actively works to remove requirements that sex education programs be based on scientific evidence. Do we have a large problem that will require long-term reform but the opportunity that begins right now? Parents and community members get to step up and share sex ed directly with their children. Turns out, American parents should take some tips from the Dutch! In the Netherlands, Early Sex Education is considered normal, yielding a lot of positive results. Even looking at the relationships between American parents & children, compared to Dutch parents & children proves we have a thing or two to learn. In the book Girls & Sex, Peggy Orenstein's research revealed, "The American moms had focused on the potential risks and dangers of sexual intercourse, while their dads if they said anything at all, stuck to lame jokes. Dutch parents, by contrast, had talked about the joys and responsibilities of intimacy." Unlearning the messages constantly pumped into your brain by society is a tall order. But if you work to approach sexual health positively, while helping your kids prepare for the risks, they will create positive relationships with their bodies and sexuality. Showing your kids that when they become curious about sex that they can come to you without shame, will inspire lasting bonds and trust. It's up to you to give your children a better idea of sex, sexuality, safe sex, and the pleasure and life-giving force of having a body.

My Little Yoni creates products and content to help parents teach their children sex ed in a shame-free way. My job as a vagina superhero includes finding solutions to the problems I see daily. Young women struggle to find a positive connection to their bodies. Sex education program helps young people make positive associations to sex, a natural part of life, in addition to preparing them to handle sexuality responsibly. Help make this new normal a reality!