The Importance of Inclusive Sex Education

The way we learn about sex and relationships can have an impact and play in a part in our lives as we develop our own relationships as adults. We should be using sex education as a platform to learn more about sexual and gender identities, as well as safe sex practices, sexual health and consent. But what I’ve often found is a lack of diversity and intersectionality within the sex education space. This conversation feels even more prominent with the ongoing Black Lives Matter campaigns and J.K. Rowling’s recent transphobic comments. Sex education is key for young people, so how can we ensure it is relevant and educational for all, no matter what your race or identity? How can we promote inclusive sex education?

illustration of inclusive and diverse group of people

Delivering sex education through an intersectional and diverse perspective recognises the complex identities of those we are trying to educate. We’re honouring the ways that different parts of our identities – cultural heritage, ethnicity, race, religious beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, politics, socioeconomic status, education level etc – make us who we are, and recognising how these factors influence our decision making and experiences with regard to sex and relationships.

To continue to promote inclusive sex education, we need to constantly assess the ways we are teaching young people about sex and relationships and ensure that everyone can feel like they are part of the conversation. This means educating on a variety of different family structures, on differing religious beliefs with regards to sex, including a variety of bodies of all genders, colours, shapes and sizes in our sex education to raise a generation that is informed and has a sex positive approach.

Here are a couple of practices that I have read up on that can make sex education more inclusive:

Use diverse and inclusive sex education resources

It’s a bit of a given, but using diverse resources can be really helpful to not only help those in the room see themselves in these scenarios, but also to educate others on a broader range of gender identities and sexualities. You can also try to include resources created by women, people of colour and minority groups, trans people, and non-academic grassroots sources. Some good examples include Ericka Hart, Jimanekia Eborn, Calum McSwiggan and Kenny Ethan Jones.

Get on the same level as those you are trying to educate

This essentially means speaking in the same language as those you are trying to educate. Sex and relationship education is often more well received when given in an informal tone, rather than a more formal style. Use scientifically accurate vocabulary, yes, but also remember to use words that are more accessible and relatable, and relate personally to who you are speaking to. Depending on the setting, it can be useful to start discussions where you share lived experiences, and craft learning around conversations rather than lectures. Think about how easy it is to talk about sex and relationships with your friends – this is the open dialogue we should be aiming for with inclusive sex education.

Be aware of who is in the room

It’s important for young people to learn that others may have differing opinions. Allowing that open discussion is really important and it will not only educate those involved, but the whole group. Create a intersectional space that is safe for everyone by allowing the conversations to happen under guidance, whereby you can lead the discussion with everyone still sharing their view. Obviously any negative comments should be addressed, but even this is an opportunity to educate that individual on any bias or misunderstanding that they may have.

Address diverse family structures

It’s just as it’s important to make note of single parent homes and adoption as it is the classic two parent family. It’s also crucial that sex education doesn’t assume a cis, hetero, two-person, married household when talking to young people about what makes a family or a valid partnership. These conversations should be age appropriate, but think about ways in which you can discuss things such as open relationships, polyamory etc.

Teach gender expressions and sexual identities

Again, a bit of an obvious one but don’t shy away from teaching young people about the wide range of gender and sexual identities. Whether you identify as gender fluid, masculine-of-center, butch, femme, or whatever, young people should be taught that gender expression is a separate identity from their sexual orientation, and why it is important.

This ties in to being inclusive of sexual orientation and include LGBT+ education. It’s really important that young people understand sexual orientation not in terms of gay and straight but in terms of a continuum. “Bi-erasure” happens too often, and for young people questioning their sexuality, learning that there are viable options beyond the binary can be life-changing. Teaching safe sex practices for LGBT+ relationships is also a must.

What are your experiences of inclusive sex education? Do you recall being taught about LGBT+ or trans issues, or being introduced to different relationships styles? I’d be really interested to hear your experiences in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Sophie Wentworth says

    It would be absolutely incredible if this is what sex education looked like. Looking back, I honestly have no idea how my friends and I learnt anything. We didn’t have any sex education in school beyond ‘if a girl has started her periods, she can get pregnant so here’s how to put a condom on’. It was so bad. I really hope it moves on so all aspects can be spoken about in an open and safe way x

    Sophie

    • whatabigailsays says

      Yes it was exactly the same for me too! I do hope it’s moved on a little since we were at school but from my research and speaking to young people now, it’s improved a bit but still has a long way to go to be fully inclusive and diverse x

  2. Emma | Your Best Life Advice says

    Absolutely couldn’t agree more! I’m so glad to have seen Brighton introduce LGBT inclusive sex education in their schools! While I was at university I delivered a specific LGBT+ sex ed class in a secondary school and the kids asked lots of questions, listened and left the class thanking me – amazing experience!

    • whatabigailsays says

      That sounds like an amazing experience, I would love to hear more about it sometime! And well done to Brighton, although I’m not surprised as they always seem very on point with LGBT issues

  3. Nyxie says

    Fantastically written and informative post. Thank you so much for sharing. I 100% agree that we should have more inclusive sex education, but sadly in a conflicted country like Northern Ireland we can barely get sex education let alone inclusive.

  4. Hannah says

    Love this!! Our sex education lessons at school were shocking – all we were taught is ‘use a condom’ and the different types of STIs. Consent, same-sex relationships and gender NEED to be included at the very least!

    Hannah
    http://www.writtenbyhan.com

  5. Stefanie says

    Very well written post! You’ve expressed a lot of good ideas that should be included in sex education. I hope that theses topics can be taught in schools going forward.

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