Scarleteen All Growed Up: Karyn

A friend of mine, also a sex educator, once remarked to me that it seemed like pretty much everyone who becomes a sex educator falls into one of two groups: either they got really amazing sex ed growing up and want to pass it on, or they got absolutely awful sex ed and want to make sure other people are spared the same fate. I’m not sure how true that is – sex educators are probably as diverse in the kind of sex ed they got as any other group – but it certainly rang true for me.

My experience of sex ed was not great; sex certainly wasn’t something that was talked about very openly in my family and school didn’t help: what little information I got in health class was of the “have sex and you will get an STI and get pregnant and DIE” variety. Thankfully, I discovered Scarleteen early on in my time at university, and I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that it changed my life.

Until that discovery, I had been planning on a career as a physician. (Or a marine biologist. Or a forensic anthropologist. Definitely something science-y.) But in the midst of my first serious pregnancy scare, frantically googling, I found the amazing wealth of information and the wonderful people that make up Scarleteen. I gained the knowledge I needed in that moment, but I also found a topic that was fascinating and perfectly blended my interests in human behaviour and the human body. I started taking any sexuality-related class my university offered, and when I decided that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, it wasn’t in marine biology or forensic anthropology or medicine. No, I went to the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society in Melbourne. Throughout all of that time, I was a volunteer at Scarleteen, work that kept me anchored to the reason I chose to pursue a career in sex education and research in the first place: it makes such a difference in people’s lives.

Although I am no longer a Scarleteen volunteer, I use Scarleteen as a resource in the human sexuality class I teach, and it is a wonderful feeling to be able to introduce my students to a such a fabulous source of information. The eleven years I spent here taught me so much about how to do sex education in a way that is accepting and inclusive, and about my own values and priorities.

Happy birthday, Scarleteen! Here’s to 20 years of changing lives, and many more to come.