What Do Students Want Their Sex Education to Look Like?
We’ve been having sex since the beginning of time and we still haven’t managed to find a way to talk about it, especially to young people. It’s awkward, clumsy and uncomfortable (the language, not the sex). But it doesn’t have to be, and not having the conversation is causing more harm than good. Young people are surrounded by sex and thoughts about sex in the media, in school hallways, in their pants... we still see the squirms, the red cheeks, the awkward giggles and uncomfortable silence. The reality is that young people are having sex or thinking about having sex and they aren’t getting the tools and information to navigate this part of their lives.
Sex education in California sucks. And here’s why:
- Oakland has some of the highest rates of STDs in California.
- The teen pregnancy rates are three times that of the national average.
- The number of people living with HIV and AIDS in Oakland is through the roof.
- Oakland has an unfortunately thriving sex trade industry where the average age of entering for young women is 12 years old.
- Homophobia and heterosexism is potent in high schools according to LGBTQ high school students in Oakland.
Forward Together Youth Program developed and conducted a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project, which surveyed over 500 Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) students. Additionally, six focus groups were conducted to ask students about the sex education they are currently receiving, and what they would like their sex education to look like.
The results were shocking yet not surprising given the stats previously mentioned. The survey reported that 62 percent of students said they did not receive any sex education in the last year, and 63 percent said they do not receive sexual health information for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) students, which by California law the district is required to teach if they are teaching sex ed. More importantly, 64 percent of students are in favor for more sex education.
As co-founder of ImMEDIAte Justice I am working with my team to change this. We are a movement to inspire a new youth-driven media conversation about sex, gender, love and relationships. ImMEDIAte Justice has teamed up with Forward Together Youth to carry out their recently launched campaign in Oakland, called Sex Ed the City: More Than Just Protection.
The goal of this campaign is to get comprehensive sex education into the schools of Oakland and get the community talking about sex in a healthy way. We are doing this to ensure that students in Oakland have the information and resources they need to make the best decisions for themselves about sex, sexuality, gender and their bodies.
We have begun this campaign by working with youth to create the Sex Ed: the Saga video series, where youth wrote, shot, animated, acted, and directed three films. The first video to be published, 20 Condoms, was created by Asian youth in Oakland & imMEDIAte Justice. This video’s goal is to get young people, caregivers, teachers, and mentors to start conversations on topics like healthy decision-making, sexual orientation, gender identification, and acceptance. The video series is created by youth and for youth and it’s a way to empower young people to lead conversations.
Creating a more conscious society starts with becoming comfortable in our bodies. It starts with conversations around negotiating what we want and discovering what we truly desire. Please share our story to support comprehensive sex education for youth.
You can view the full YPAR report and its list of recommendations to reform sex education for youth here.
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