Sex Education

Recent posts

Our Whole Lives – Sexual Language Lessons for 8th Graders

One of my joyful duties as a sex educator is to help teach the Our Whole Lives (OWL) curriculum at the Unitarian Universalist congregation that I attend. The OWL curriculum provides a chance for eighth graders to examine their ideas and attitudes about sex and relationships, practice friendship and dating skills, and learn facts about pregnancy, contraception, and STIs that will help them stay safer when they do become sexually active, if they haven’t already. A favorite session of mine occurs early in the curriculum, where we talk with the youth about the different types of language one could use when talking about different sexual acts and body parts. And since OWL is an activity-based curriculum, we can’t just talk about it, we also need to do an activity. The facilitators read aloud some words for sex acts and body parts and the youth write down all the synonyms they have heard for that word. Continue Reading →

Sex In The Media Affecting Teens How?

Research from Dartmouth suggests that teens who are “exposed to more sex on screen in popular films are likely to have sexual relations with more people and without using condoms.” Jezebel suggests that instead of parents trying to keep sex out of the Netflix queue, “talking to teens about sex (or, more appropriately, how ridiculous movie sex really is) [would] go a long way toward mitigating the danger that those teens would forgo condoms.” Obviously obviously obviously (I can’t say this enough) having universal, comprehensive, and truthful sex education is essential for helping young people make informed decisions (as studies from Europe and elsewhere have proven). However, I’m going to veer into confession territory and explain why I don’t think that sex in the media is inherently a bad thing. When I was growing up, my mom explained that she’d rather we see movies with sex than movies with violence. Continue Reading →

The Sex-Positive Parent: An Interview with Founder Airial Clark

Airial Clark has an MA in Sexuality Studies and is the founder of The Sex-Positive Parent. She writes about the intersection of sex-positivity and parenting for multiple media outlets, teaches workshops for parents who have alternative sexualities, and offers one to one coaching for parents looking for sex-positive strategies and support. I first met Airial when we were both studying Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Who knew we’d both follow careers in sexuality education? When I learned about Airial’s amazing project, The Sex-Positive Parent, I couldn’t wait to share her inspiring message with the MSP community. Continue Reading →

Thanks, Tennessee Legislature!

Dear Tennessee Governor Haslem and the Tennessee legislature,

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you.  Due to your hard work at drafting and passing the HB 3621 and SB 3310 law, my sex therapy practice will continue to be profitable for years.  While your law outlawing the teaching of  ”gateway sexual activity” and “non-coital sexual activity” is on the books, thousands of Tennessee teens will be taught that their sexual feelings are bad and that they need to refrain from any kind of affectionate touching until their relationship is recognized by the state, and the only way to be sexual with someone is through coitus in marriage.  And my fellow sex educators in your state have their hands tied in terms of giving these confused teens options and speaking frankly about things they could do to deal with these sexual feelings in a way that lower their risks of making their partner or themselves pregnant or contracting STIs. So, thank you, because as a sex therapist, I will reap the benefits of this law for many years.  People will come to me confused as to why the sex in their marriage has fallen apart, or asking how they can stop being attracted to their same gender because they were never taught that same gender attraction was possible, or that any kind of sex exists besides coitus in the context of marriage. Perhaps I’ll even get a chance to meet with a young man who is diagnosed with HIV because his school didn’t address the type of sex he was having, and the risks involved with that. In short, your legislation will allow many more people to be undereducated about sex and relationships, which will lead to problems down the road, even in their state-approved marriages.  They will come to my sex therapy practice to talk about their deep dissatisfaction with their sex lives which may have been prevented were it not for your legislation. Thanks also for helping people think that sex should be painful and scary, and not the pleasurable, wonderful thing that it can and should be.  Those people will need counseling in the future when they don’t want to have sex because they simply don’t like it, or because their head is so filled with sex-negative messages that even when they want to enjoy sex, they can’t get to the point where it feels good. Continue Reading →

How The Germans Do It

When I was coming of age and starting to ask my parents questions about sex and puberty, they did their best to educate me.  Like many good Midwestern liberal parents, they sat me down, looked me in the eye…and handed me a book. The “What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys” allowed me to learn about the changes in my body and mind, and read about masturbation, body growth, and attraction.  This book was my entryway not only into my pubescent years, but also into my lifelong interest in sexuality and sex education.  However, as I grew older and learned that many aspects of sexuality made people in the USA uncomfortable, I found I was interested not only in what this seminal book contained, but also what it omitted. So, while studying abroad in Germany, I acquired a book called “Weil Wir Jungen Sind (Because we are boys)” that was also aimed at teens trying to figure out what to do with their growing bodies and feelings.  After a decade spent with the American version, I was surprised by how open and detailed the German version was about some aspects of sex that my book simply glossed over. Topics covered in detail in the German book, but conspicuously absent even in the latest edition of the American book include:

Anal Intercourse
Coming Out
Erogenous Zones
Sexual Positions (with line drawings!)

I found myself thinking, “Why can’t we have such detailed sexual health information in the United States?”  And I realized that any book marketed for teenagers in the US and containing these topics would be quickly attacked and accused of being pornography.  One of the reasons I love to travel and explore is to notice these cultural differences, and see what I/we can learn from them.  Maybe from the Germans, we Americans can learn to be a little more open when talking about sexuality. Continue Reading →

What Would Good Sex Ed Look Like?

This piece in the New York Times documents a one-of-a-kind sex education class for teenagers at a private Friends’ high school in Philadelphia. In contrast to classes that teach students that abstinence is the only viable option (having pre-marital sex apparently just might kill them) or that teach only a handful of basics about contraception, STIs, and pregnancy, the “Sexuality and Society” class creates a comfortable environment in which students are encouraged to ask anything and everything about sex. It’s a long but worthwhile read, so I’ll summarize a few main points. The article contains some historical tidbits about sex education in the U.S. (apparently in the 1970s and 1980s sex education wasn’t a politically divisive issue, and was almost universally taught in schools), in addition to ruminations about the current sad state of affairs. According to one estimate in the article, 70 percent of teenagers have had sex by their 19th birthday, which can have negative consequences if they are as woefully unprepared as a lackluster sex education curriculum (perhaps only spanning a few class lectures) might leave them. Continue Reading →

More On Sex Education In Europe

Greetings from Tartu, Estonia! I’ll be living here for most of a year and continuing to blog for while working on my dissertation. While traveling through the Netherlands for a few days prior to coming to Estonia, I picked up some interesting facts about sex education there. Longtime MSP readers will recall that I’ve written about attitudes toward teenagers having sex in the Netherlands (more laid back attitudes and lower teen pregnancy rates seem to correspond), contrasting European and American attitudes toward sex, and studies showing that abstinence-only sex education seems to correspond with higher teen pregnancy rates. Naturally, while I was in the Netherlands, I took the opportunity to talk to people I met about their experiences of sex education, just to informally gather some information and see if it connected with studies I’ve been seeing online. Continue Reading →

Sex Education in India

Greetings, MSP readers! I just returned from 3 weeks in India, and I can’t wait to go back! While I was mostly occupied with sightseeing and attending talks at a conference in my home discipline, folklore, I was also attuned to what was going on with sex education and sexuality in India. Here are some interesting facts that I learned while there. Sex education is not universally offered in Indian schools. Continue Reading →