The Shame-Free Future of 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 certainty say, no. The curriculum of most subjects taught in the U.S.A. strive to be enriching and accurate, with the goal of giving students tools to excel in the material. However, if you look at sex ed programs in the United States, you’ll find it’s littered with inaccuracy, shame, fear-based propaganda and almost never adequately prepares students for the reality and complexity of sexuality and sexual partners.
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 show that AOUM programs are not effective at preventing pregnancy or STIs, nor do they have a positive impact on age of first sexual intercourse, the number of sexual partners or other behaviors. Not only are they ineffective, many scientists 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, they are 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 girl? 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 the to innovate sex ed programs that actually prepare children for the responsibilities and life affirming joys of sex.
*For more information on the history of sex ed, check out this video.
When girls grow up feeling safe and confident in their body, 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.
* Please see our article on the 10 Benefits of Sex for Women to learn more.
I present to you, the shame free future of sex education: early comprehensive sex ed! Comprehensive sexuality 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 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 sexuality 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 children 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. Comprehensive sex ed helps eliminate shame before it begins, reinforces respect of all genders and people, and highlights the importance of consent and boundaries. Making 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 ed be based in scientific evidence. We have a large problem which 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 Comprehensive Sex Ed 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 sex, 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 sex in a positive way, while helping your kids prepare for the risks, they will create positive relationships to 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, 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 body. Comprehensive sexuality education helps young people make positive associations to sex, a natural part of life, in addition preparing them to handle sexuality responsibly. Help make this new normal a reality! Sign the #yoni4president pledge, and you’ll receive our 13 essentials free sex education guide.