The month of May has historically been known as Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) month, but this year reproductive health and rights groups launched Sex Ed For All Month: Accessing Power, Information and Rights. The new awareness campaign, which will replace TPP moving forward, is an attempt to help young people obtain and understand the information they need in order to make the best decisions when it comes to their health and their sexuality.
The changeover is partially in response to the limited amount of federal funding available to teach comprehensive sexual education across the nation.
According to a press release provided by Planned Parenthood, the hope is that Sex Ed For All will also provide important information to groups that are traditionally overlooked by sexual education courses. The program hopes to reach LGBTQ students, and those in other marginalized communities — including immigrants, and students living in rural areas were evidence-based sexual health education isn’t always offered as part of the school curriculum — to provide a comprehensive sexual education.
Currently, only 24 states and the District of Columbia have mandated sexual education classes, according to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski. The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) certified sexuality educator and counselor tells Parentology even within states where sex ed is mandated, there’s no comprehensive curricula. Additionally, she says of the United States, “37 states require abstinence-only education and only 18 require comprehensive sexuality education.”
The reason for such large disparity across the country may be because of politics. “Sexuality education in America is sporadic and politicized.” Podgurski says, while quality sexual education will always include postponing sexual involvement, there’s a political movement behind the desire to push abstinence-only education, which she defines as abstaining from sex until marriage.
In schools were this policy is taught, information on safer sex may be forbidden. Podgurski says this places educators in a position where they’re required by the school board to teach methods not inclusive to all young people.
While education in the classroom is vital, she says parents should also be communicating with their children at home, and doing so sooner than they probably think. “Starting with a ‘talk’ at puberty is awkward and doesn’t encourage open conversation through the child’s life.”
“My opinion is young people need more than typical anatomy lessons and fear-based messages about pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections).” Podgurski’s own teachings focus on sexual health and includes consent, communication, relationship skills, decision-making and problem-solving skills, with an overall message of worthiness.
“Sexuality is part of the our entire lives and includes so much more than intercourse or sexual acts,” Podgurski says. With the launch of the new Sex Ed For All Month, that sentiment may soon be reaching a wider audience of students.