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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » What "works" for you in sex ed?

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Author Topic: What "works" for you in sex ed?
Executive Director & Founder
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When people are debating sex education, often then will talk about what "works." Often they will do so without defining what exactly that means.

Now, it's common for that to mean "works" at reducing unwanted pregnancy and STIs, and/or at delaying when a young person starts having sex.

Now, I personally have a different, and much broader, idea of what "works" means with sex ed, but what I'm curious about is what "works" means to YOU with sex ed. I find it inane that notions of what works or doesn't for young people all too often are decided by adults, with no input from young people themselves about what THEY want out of sex ed, and when THEY feel a program has worked for them.

So, whether we are talking about school-based or community-based sex ed, something like our service here, or what parents or other adults provide for you when it comes to sex ed, what criteria do YOU have when it comes to feeling like a given kind of sex ed worked for you? Is it just about helping you to prevent pregnancy or STIs, or helping you to hold off on sex, or is it bigger than that? What does "works" for you include?

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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I've thought about this too. I guess for me it's a whole range of attitudes as well as preventing unwanted pregnancy and STIs. I'd say a curriculum "worked" better for Group A than for Group B if, say, Group A came out with more progressive ideas about gender and Group B held on to stereotypes. Or if Group A learned about consent while all Group B got was "no means no". Or if Group A could locate a woman's clitoris and Skene's glands while Group B couldn't. That sort of thing.

"What's the point of wearing your favorite rocketship underpants if no one asks to see 'em?"

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Sex ed that works for me includes:
- Introduction to human sexual anatomy. Learn the parts of the genitals and what they do.
- Information different types of sex & their risks
- How to prevent STDs and pregnancy and how to use these methods correctly. Also how/where to obtain these methods.
- Mentioning of GBLT sex (remind people they still need to do things to protect themselves from STDs when having partnered sex with the same gender among other things)
- Overview of rape: what it is, how to prevent it, how to tell if someone is giving consent.
- How to tell if you are ready for sex
- Explanation and examples of a healthy relationship as well as unhealthy ones. What to do if you find yourself in a unhealthy relationship.
- Information about more resources for the students/teens to use for additional information or if they have questions.

I find so many of my peers don't know about these things so I think its really important that they are taught them and provided with additional resources that they can reference to review/expand what they have learned already. I'm sad to report I've learned less than half of the things on this list from my school sex ed programs.

- Kaydee

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence. - Albert Einstein

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Annabel Lee
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Anatomy! I managed to get through public k-12 without anything other than clinical diagrams shown. Pictures of actual genitalia are excellent.

A *thorough* review of birth control options--IUD, the pill, condoms, whatever. Include how it's used, who it's best suited for, how to get it, and what the risks are with using it. Talk about what the STI/D testing process is like for both sexes. Emphasize the need to get tested if one is sexually active. When talking about menstruation, talk about more than just disposable pads and tampons--menstrual cups, cloth pads, non-bleached tampons.

An emphasis on preventing rape--not violent force rape (I mean, yes, cover it, but it's a very small percentage of rapes), but "she was really drunk and didn't say no" rape. Emphasize that active, positive consent is required. Make sure this gets taught to male-bodied people as something they are actively in control of, not the "how not to get raped" stuff that's often spewed at girls.

An emphasis on the fact that sexual desire is normal in both boys and girls, and that just because you're horny doesn't mean you are owed/need to be engaging in partnersex. An acknowledgment that female masturbation exists.

An overview of relationship and sex readiness kinds of things--how to recognize an abusive relationship, that kind of thing.

A list of local resources and STI prevention information for GLBTQ kids.

Most of all, though, something I never got at school was the sort of tone that Scarleteen manages to hit really well--acknowledging that kids may not have information they need while not talking down to them.

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What works for me-

Oh, please, for the love of any and every power that runs the universe, actual science. Even actual facts would be nice.

Honest discussions about "So what is the best way to go about being physically and emotionally safe if we do decide to have sex?"

Allowance for people that aren't heteronormative or gendernormative.

And one thing that we actually did have in one class that really did work: giving us a way to ask anonymous questions.

"Cut her down."
"She is a witch!"
"But she's our witch. Cut her down."

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Keeping religion out of sex ed, when my sexuality is recognized as individually mine and coming from within me as opposed to being awakened by others, when my ownership of my body is acknowledged and unviolated, accurate factual information without condemnation about being LGBTQI, contraception, abortion, masturbation, sexual desire, arousal, various kinds of sexual activity and whether they carry a pregnancy or STI risk and if yes which STIs and how you can safely engage in this activity, menstruation, pregnancy and sexual anatomy, plenty of information on STIs and how to prevent them, discussions of how to build healthy relationships and an emphasis on the importance of mutual consent for all partnersex including that no-one is ever being petty or unloving by refusing to have sex with a partner who won't use condoms/dental dams/other barrier methods of contraception/STI prevention or who won't support a partner who's having sex with a pregnancy risk in taking their hormonal birth control or support them in whatever decision they make with a pregnancy inside their own body. Discussion of gender roles and body image and the way the two interact (such as association of a large penis with being masculine and the unrealistic and low self esteem encouraging presentation of femaleness by the beauty industry and other media). I also think the anonymous question box is a good idea, though I'm aware there are those who ask questions they already know the answers to just to make the teachers cringe... tee hee.

I've probably missed something but I guess I can always come back and add more.

[ 02-23-2010, 05:25 PM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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In my opinion, a sex ed plan works if the what's taught in the class gets used in life by the students. if 80% gets used, that program gets a B. if 90% gets used, an A, and so on.
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Margaret 1974
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I think we all educate our kids based on our own feelings about sex. I have had a number of relationships over the years when my girls were little and have tried to teach my girls about their bodies and feelings, and relationships in age appropriate discussions. Now that both are teens they know that sex can be a wonderful experience if it is consensul and done with the respect of both partners..and of course safe sex. In our house sex is not a dirty word and we have had ongoing talks about it over the years. Both my girls have known they could come to me with any questions no matter what the subject and both have turned into smart, healthy and sexually aware young ladies.
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I agree with everything that has been said but something that hasn't been mentioned yet, and that I wasn't taught in any of my sexual education courses, was what to do if one experiences an unplanned pregnancy. Most people know what options exist but don't actually understand entirely the repercussions of each choice. I appreciate that I was taught safe sex and how to prevent pregnancy but no form of birth control is 100% effective and so I found it strange that we weren't taught what we could do in the event we did become pregnant.

I believe the reason for this is there is so much controversy around abortion and whether or not it is ethical, because some people do not agree with abortion whether because of religion or just personal beliefs. However, I do not believe that the education system has the right to withold information because of that and they should simply deliver the facts so that each person is able to make their own educated and informed decision. I think this would help many young girls who are having trouble with an unplanned pregnancy. I also find girls have unrealistic ideas of the costs of raising a child as well, and many don't understand the emotional sacrifice it may be to give a baby up for adoption. Each option should be talked about extensively in a sexual education course because while most of us want to prevent pregnancy sometimes that does not work out.

Something else I have found frustrating about some sex ed courses is that teachers are sometimes very conservative about sexual matters. I believe it is important that only non-biased people should be educating teenagers about sex, because even though the teacher may be providing the facts they are skewing them to give the impression that certain sexual acts are inappropriate and bad. I believe that this subject should be taught like any other science. I don't see how learning about the reproductive system is any different than learning about say the digestive system. It is simply a part of our bodies that we need to understand.

[ 07-12-2010, 11:59 PM: Message edited by: Kristy-nnn ]


Susan B Anthony
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Owned, raped, sold and thrown
A woman was never her own

Elizabeth Cady
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One thing that's always bugged me is that Sex Ed classes do more "fear" teaching than actual teaching of the anatomy and practices of sex. I don't feel as though fear helps with anything. It keeps teens as well as adult from experiencing the joys of sex. It's better to simply educate and keep them on their toes. Education leads to prevention of STD's and pregnancy by teaching teens and adults to protect themselves.

Of course, we also need to realize that not everyone is going to listen. Some people are just plain ignorant and will do whatever they want. Many people blame the parents and teachers in that situation, and yes, they probably do carry some sort of blame. However, we also need to realize that some teens are out of reach and need special attention.

how much is plan b at walmart?

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I had an amazing sex ed experience in 9th grade, but there was one thing, just one that could have been improved.

I think quite a few people, especially young people (I was one of them) don't realize there's two Herpes viruses-one that many of us are exposed to as children. One of the kids asked about a girl he knew with a cold sores around her mouth, asking if it was in she had had sex and gotten it from that, and the instructor assured us that yes, that was Herpes, but didn't mention that many of us have simplex virus 1 (I think) from when we were much younger.

So...I had had cold sores (and not sexually active in any way), and was really confused.

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When I was in high school our sex ed teacher(interestingly he taught sex-ed and religion) made us get into teams and prepare an oral presentation to last a whole period on the topic of our choice. We all thought he was just being lazy and didn't want to teach, but actually that was the best sex ed I ever got. People did topics like busting myths surrounding sex, the challenges of unplanned pregnancy, drugs and sex, GLBTQ and sex... My friend and I (I don't know how we had the guts to speak about this in front of the whole class) did it on "the clitoris and her friends" - or female sexual pleasure (with or without a partner).
Not only did we learn tons, but our class had this amazing moment where it seems all the shame and embarrassment we had a bout sex jut dissipated, and we actually stayed in class during recess for an intensely honest question and discussion period. It was an empowering experience, maybe sex ed should always be student led... but for that to happen it has to feel 100% safe and free of prejudice

[ 04-20-2011, 11:00 PM: Message edited by: gazelle123 ]

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It sounds like you had really great classmates and an amazing teacher, Gazelle. I don't think that would work in the classrooms I've ever been in, though. The topics of choice during my sex-ed class would have been very heteronormative, very penis-in-vagina intercourse, and as many "giggle words" (as my sixth-grade teacher called them) as possible...because these were the girls who spent one day in 8th grade giggling "we'll all come up with names. So, like, you'll be Pe, and I'll be Nis, and she'll be Va, and she'll be Gina" and so on. And this was maybe five months before the actual sex ed class. The girls in my class were not very mature at all. Topics would likely have been several red-faced carbon copies of "how to have sex", with a lot of giggling. I was the least embarrassed person in the 9th-grade girls-only sex ed class aside from the teacher, I think because my parents and school never restricted my reading and I'd already read several explicit stories, because after all...they were books and I was bored.
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It's not like my class was exempt from all the silly stuff... but we were a little older in this particular class (about 16 I think) and although it wasn't perfect, I think my school really did try to encourage independent thinking and critical thought.

I gotta say though that I think it was one of those once in a lifetime moments

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