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Inclusive Sexual Health Matters

September is Sexual Health Awareness month and access to sexual health is a social justice issue. Even more than that, representation within sexual health field is a social justice issue. Comprehensive sexual health education helps achieve reproductive justice. I’ve described the need for sexual health education in previous blogs (right here and here) and noted that we live in a culture where messaging around identity and sexuality is often harmful. We are inundated with constant messaging about sex, sexuality, and body image with a goal that is shame-based leaving us feeling less-than, inadequate, or even broken. Across the United States, there are serious disparities in what type of education folx receive, whether or not it is medically accurate, and if LGBTQ+ folx are even allowed to be acknowledged within it. In most areas, the only information that is presented centers on STIs. Sexual health is so much more than STI information and basic anatomy. Sexual health means masturbation, body image, and pleasure. Sexual health is a vehicle for teaching about consent, sexual and domestic violence prevention/intervention, and equitable relationships. Sexual health means understanding how harmful gender norms make people more likely to experience violence.  

While people in general have trouble accessing this information, the problem is much worse for people with marginalized identities. If folx do have access, then it’s likely that the information or resources presented will not be representative of their lived experiences.  Black and brown youth experience higher pregnancy and STI rates because they have less access to comprehensive sexual health information than their white peers. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) folx also experience higher rates of reproductive coercion and sterilization than their white peers. There are still disabled folx who are completely left out of the education and conversations about sexual health. This exclusion helps create a narrative that people with disabilities are not sexual and don’t need these essential services. According to a  2020 study by the Guttmacher Institute, they show that only 17 states require medically accurate information and only 9 require culturally appropriate and unbiased information.  In 3 states, if sex education is taught, only negative information on same-sex relationships can be presented. 

When looking for resources to build a sexual health training, I had to spend hours to find images of black vulvas that could be used because almost every educational image was white. This was compounded when looking for representation for people with multiple marginalized identities. It took incredibly specific searches to get queer, disabled, BIPOC images, articles, and videos. If, as a sexual health professional, I am finding barriers to get this information it is likely that people doing work in community are also having trouble. Sexual health is a right for all. It is on all of us to make this field more accessible and inclusive. We have so much work to do. 

It’s on all of us to demand that sexual health information not be whitewashed, heteronormative, and ableist. Comprehensive, affirming, intersectional sexual health information, policies, and education can help end violence. We must demand information that is equitable. It is up to us to advocate for accessible, comprehensive sexuality education for people of all identities. 

Let’s raise up folx who are doing amazing, intersectional sexual health work. Check out some of these sexual health resources: 





Sonalee Rashatwar 

Cat Killjoy 

Just Beginnings Collaborative  

Hablemos de Sexo y Amor  

La Eroteca 

Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health 


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.