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Sex Education Matters  Series (Part One)


This is part of a series of blogs for Sex Ed For All Month and International Masturbation Month. Amanda is a Sexual Health Educator, Sex Therapist, and Violence Preventionist at MCEDSV, hoping to generate a conversation to discuss increasing access to age-appropriate, evidence-based, accurate, and affirming sexual health information 

I carry with me stories of so many who have been deeply harmed by lack of sexual health information. The number of survivors who told me that they were explicitly told that they were to blame for their assault. So many pregnant people who had to learn about their bodies for the first time while being pregnant. The expectation that folks with disabilities are not presented with basic information on their bodies, let alone information on how to have pleasurable and satisfying sexual experiences. I carry with me my own experiences navigating systems that could have looked so different if I would have had access to better sexual health information.  


The organization that promotes Sex Ed for Social Change (SIECUS) notes here that effective sex education should include information that is medically accurate on “consent and healthy relationships; puberty and adolescent development; sexual and reproductive anatomy and physiology; gender identity and expression; sexual identity and orientation; interpersonal and sexual violence; contraception, pregnancy, and reproduction; and HIV and other STDs/STIs.” I would go even further and say that you cannot have these conversations without discussing intersectionality, privilege, and oppression. Although SEICUS’ requirement for complete sex education is the model, in another article we will look at what the reality is for sex education in schools and other places. 

We need sex education as an ongoing process that ideally starts as early as possible and continues throughout the lifespan. Sex education is sometimes framed as “the talk” but all of the information that we need about our sexual health and function could not possibly be brought up in one conversation.  

We need sex education because it can help dismantle harmful gender norms, increase bystander intervention skills and empathy, promote healthy relationship skills, teach accurate sexual health information, and prevent unwanted pregnancies and STIs. When done right, comprehensive and intersectional sex education actually has been shown to delay sexual activity. 

We need sex education because we live in a culture where messaging around identity and sexuality are often harmful. We are inundated with constant messaging to make us feel shame and inadequacy about our bodies.  

We need sex education because accessing sexual health information on the internet can be tricky and problematic. Sometimes folks will push back when I discuss the ever-present need for accurate, accessible sex ed information with “but kids today have access to the internet and can get a lot of their questions answered.” While I don’t deny the many benefits and privileges that the internet brings, I disagree with the notion that simply having the ability to have access means that people are getting the right information. 

 When was the last time you looked at some of the information that is presented to young people about sexual health? If you just spend 15 minutes looking online, it is likely that you will have to sort through hundreds of images and videos of sexuality explicit content in order to find information that is potentially inaccurate. It is also likely that most of the depictions of genitalia that will be showcased will be white, shaved, enhanced and symmetrical (thanks, porn culture) and that marginalized folks will either not be represented or if represented are fetishized. Google does not know everything and the search results that come up when looking for even the most basic sexual health information often produce results that are harmful and counterproductive. We need to sex education because it shouldn’t be up to each person to navigate this alone.  

People deserve to grow up with affirming messages about their bodies. They should have access to accurate sexual health information that fits with their values. They should have spaces where they can ask questions and get information without shame. We can’t create a sex-positive future without making sex education for everyone a priority. I honestly believe that having sexual health conversations can help change the world. I know that comprehensive, affirming, intersectional sex education is not the only thing needed to end violence or create equity, but it’s a damn good start.  

If you aren’t familiar with these amazing sexual health organizations check them out:  

HEART Women & Girls 



Planned Parenthood 

The Guttmacher Institute 

Advocates for Youth



Amanda McLain Barratt  is a Senior Program Manager at the Michigan Coalition To End Domestic and Sexual Violence. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual violence, our trained advocates are available to talk 24 hours a day toll-free at 1-855-VOICES-4 (1-855-864-2374).



The Michigan Hotline VOICES4 project supports a 24-hour hotline, text, and chat line in addition to publications to support the needs of survivors and those who support them. All services are confidential and free of charge. Advocates are trained to provide immediate crisis counseling, advocacy, and referral. Regardless of the option, each survivor has an opportunity to not only be heard and share, but to be believed.  


Hotline:  1-855-VOICES4  


Text: 866-238-1454.