Think back to the sexual education that you were offered in middle school and high school. Was it helpful? Did you feel comfortable asking questions and well prepared to explore your sexuality? Today in the United States, only 29 states require sex education in their school curriculum and HIV education is the basis of the courses. We need information, not a lecture. The good news is, there are so many student activists around the country advocating for better sexual education and inspiring others to do the same.
Let’s start with Clark Wilson. When he was in 8th grade, Clark Wilson noticed a big flaw in the sexual education he was being offered: it was mostly about practicing abstinence. Clark noticed that these abstinence-only classes were not preparing him for any of the changes he was about to endure, so he passed legislation that blocked abstinence-only sex ed curriculim in Colorado. This legislation required that all sex ed curriculum was updated to include consent, what it means to be in a healthy relationship, and created a $1 million grant program for schools in Colorado that lacked the money to teach sex ed.
Ashley Benson is the program manager of Advocates For Youth, an organization advocating to improve youth sexual health and right to honest information. Ashley runs youth leadership and activism programs about all things sex ed including information about abortion, sexual health, and condoms. Ashley got involved with Advocates For Youth when her eyes were opened to the sexual health inequity involved in a lot of sexual education curriculum that inspired her to help provide affordable health services for all.
A group of seven 8th grade girls created a podcast called Sssh! Periods to normalize and create a casual conversation around girls getting their periods. Teachers in their school would dance around the word “period” and create a stigma around the topic in whole. They realized that so many girls their age were ashamed of having their periods and set out to normalize talking about it. By covering topics like PMS, tampon tax, and telling stories about their own period experiences, this group of girls sent a message to their peers and school faculty that it’s okay to talk about your period and that it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
Gia Parr is a founding member of the Human Rights Campaign and is working to create a more LGBTQ inclusive sexual education experience in the classroom. Gia was the first person in her middle school to come out as transgender and wants her peers to feel comfortable with their sexuality as well. She founded GenderCool, a youth-led movement providing resources and information for transgender, non-binary, and LGBTQ individuals.
When she was 12 years old, Maeve Stanford-Kelly passed a bill that required consent to be included in all sex ed classes in her home state of Maryland. This was in 2016 and Maeve was inspired to make a change by the #MeToo movement. Backed by research, her goal was to strengthen education on relationships and consent to change the culture. A 2018 study found that teaching consent and refusal skills in sex ed helps protect students from sexual assault later in life, which is exactly what this bill worked towards.
At Stix, there are no dumb questions about sexual health. We’re here to educate and encourage open conversations about topics we wish we learned in sex ed. Head to the Stix Library for more resources like this or submit questions you want answered to firstname.lastname@example.org.