Our Philosophy

We feel sexuality education for young people is best guided by what we consider our core values and aims:

  • Recognizing young people as the experts of their own needs; listening to and trusting young people’s expressions of their own wants and needs, and creating and providing education that seeks to meet those wants and needs first and foremost.
  • A foundation of equality, respect, dignity, fairness, consent⁠ , liberty, freedom of thought and expression and other core human rights.
  • Materials and services which are wholly optional and highly expansive, interactive and easily tailored to each users unique wants, needs and life experiences. These are guided by what young people themselves ask for and are delivered with care and courtesy based on current, medically-accurate standards of physical and emotional health and well-being, including the understanding that the development and expression of sexuality is a part of typical and healthy human and adolescent development.
  • Content and interaction which seeks to provide developmentally and culturally-relevant sexuality education and information that reflects the diversity of people and sexuality; that aims to serve all sexes, genders, economic and social classes, sexual⁠ orientations and relationship⁠ models, types of embodiment and more, including information on contraception⁠ , safer sex⁠ and sexual health, reproductive choice, masturbation⁠ , anatomy⁠ , sexual orientation⁠ and other aspects of sexual identity⁠ , gender identity⁠ and equity, pleasure and human sexual response, body image⁠ , sexual and love relationships, communication⁠ and negotiation, sexual and other interpersonal abuse⁠ , self-esteem, care and compassion all of which centers those in their teens and twenties.
  • Respectful messaging that encourages reflective and critical thought, care for oneself and others, helps counter shame or fear; which suggests and supports non-participation in sexual activities until an individual wants to participate in those activities and has the capacity to understand them, and feels prepared to manage and handle them well, including care for physical and mental health, strong self-esteem and the ability to recognize and enact the import of mutual consent and benefit.
  • A nonjudgmental and unbiased attitude of acceptance, tolerance and understanding for young people, whatever their sexual lives entail (or don’t), to best educate and to best support positive self-esteem, agency, personal identity and well-being.
  • Encouragement to be as educated and supported as possible to have the ability to make sound, informed, and compassionate individual choices.
  • Open, ongoing, moderated and guided conversation about sex⁠ and sexuality in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment with an aim to educate and to help foster critical thinking, civic engagement and the ability to engage in kind, open, respectful and honest discussion of sex and relationships with peers, partners and adults⁠ .
  • Clear acknowledgment that expressions of human sexuality pose potential benefits but can also pose potential harms, and education and communication about sexuality that recognizes both, providing information that makes risks of unwanted, negative or harmful outcomes clear and educates learners on how to reduce their risks as well as how to sustain sexual well-being.
  • A flexibility of thought and approach, understanding that no one kind of education or delivery of information is ever best for everyone, that information about and the study of human sexuality is still in many ways in its infancy and that human sexuality is highly diverse. We are always ready to adapt, revise or shift how we do what we do to stay as pioneering as we have always been, and to best meet young people where they are, in ways they find and express work best for them.

As with previous generations, many young people in their adolescence or emerging adulthood today have begun or desire⁠ to soon begin enacting their sexuality with others, often with little to no accurate and inclusive sexuality and sexual health information. We know that comprehensive sexuality education has long been proven to have positive outcomes, whatever choices young people make, such as lower rates of sexual violence or coercion, increased condom⁠ and contraceptive use, lower rates of unintended pregnancy⁠ , and a decrease in sexual debut that occurs earlier than youth may want or be prepared for.

It is always our hope that sexuality education and support like Scarleteen provides will be only one part of the sexuality, sexual health and relationships education and support system for a young person. We feel what we do is made all the better with other kinds of learning, accurate information, support and engagement from and with parents and guardians, school, community services and care providers. While Scarleteen is intended primarily for young adult use, it is also an excellent resource for those providing care for young people, be they parents, teachers or doctors. While we strongly support and advocate for a wider comprehensive and inclusive sexuality education for young people than just what we provide, we also recognize that there are many young people without that access.

During our tenure, after the advent of abstinence⁠ -only education, many states and schools began to reject abstinence-only programs -- programs that are misleading, inaccurate and ineffective -- and reopened some federal funding streams for comprehensive sex ed, but those trends have been reversing. As of September 2023, 39 states and DC require that information be provided on abstinence: 29 states require that abstinence be stressed and 10 states and DC require that abstinence be covered. Internationally, some nations fare better than others, and areas with the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease, unintended pregnancy, maternal mortality and/or sexual abuse also often lack accurate, comprehensive and/or complete sexuality education. In the United States, around 3.1 million students are homeschooled. In 2021 alone, over 2 million students over the age of 16 in the United States no longer attended (and did not complete) high school. Transgender and other gendervariant youth, lesbian⁠ , gay⁠ , bisexual⁠ queer⁠ and/or questioning⁠ youth -- around 10% of all young people -- are rarely included or addressed in sexuality education, even in comprehensive in-school programs. Even with the best in-school programs young people can and do attend and access, the school environment itself creates limitations in sexuality education for students, teachers and administrators.

Young people at home often don't fare much better. A 2021 study found that 25% of young people don’t talk about sex with their families at all, and a 2016 study found that only 28% of young people were happy with the sex education they received from their parents. A 2014 study found that, “the vast majority of parents know when their teens are having sexual intercourse⁠ , but not when they are having oral sex⁠ . Among teens and young adults 15-21 who reported having vaginal sex, 91 percent of their parents knew. However, among teens having oral sex, only 40 percent of their parents knew.” A national survey published in 2014 by Planned Parenthood, Family Circle Magazine, and the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health found that half  of all teens feel uncomfortable talking with their parents about sex compared to just 19 percent of parents who feel uncomfortable talking with their teens. Another national survey showed that only around 50% of parents had talked with teens about issues like contraception, STIs and safer sex, sexual readiness and negotiation, and that male teens often go without in-home discussion more often than female teens. Unfortunately, many teens go without discussion of sexuality at home at all, and many who do have talks are often not given accurate information as many parents have not had good or recent sexuality education themselves.

Young adults clearly -- and very unfortunately -- cannot rely on school nor their families alone for comprehensive, accurate sex education.

We want the sexual choices young people make to be well-informed choices. We feel belying judgment, affording respect and furnishing teens with the facts and context they feel they need, whether or not they are or intend to be sexually active⁠ , supports them in learning to best make and own their own choices and lives. We feel humane, accurate, holistic and interactive education, made as pertinent and appropriate to the wide diversity of young people, greatly aids them in making their best sexual choices. We know that sexual choices made during this time of life can often have a particularly strong impact. Sex education at a time of life when negative outcomes can be particularly hard to manage, and in a time period⁠ in which people are often very interested in (and thus best retain) sex and sexuality information is key. But we aim to educate not just for this time of life, but to help provide a sound foundation for a lifetime of sexuality. Whether Scarleteen is a young person's only source of sex education, or whether we play but one part, we want to do what we can to provide young people with the accessible sexuality information, support and discussion they want and need now, and may very well benefit from for a lifetime.