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What happens when you take the sex out of sexuality education

Posted Nov 09 2012 11:01am

I recently attended the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s annual conference and learned all sorts of interesting things and had great conversations with lots of people! Several of the sessions I attended were about language and how to discuss sexuality education in ways that calms people’s nerves, opens them up to further conversation, and really identifies exactly what sexuality education can do for them.

First order of business: Don’t say the word “sex” or any derivative thereof. The other big message is that “evidence based” makes people think of skewed statistics while “fact based” is great. Also, the term “personal responsibility” is key.

I was very frustrated at the conference when I was given this information. Partly because the researcher giving most of the presentation is not a sexuality or sexual education expert. He does most of his research for politicians and advertising companies, and I have very little patience for the kind of linguistic gymnastics that these movements put forth. After some thought, I’ve come around. Describing sex education in a way that makes it more approachable to the general public can only lead to good things. I just need to make sure to stay true to the comprehensive nature of my classes as I choose my words more carefully.

Taking all of that into consideration, I have re-tooled the description of my class for middle school students:

Dr. Karen Rayne presents age-appropriate, fact-based health education classes. These classes support young adolescents so they can understand the decision-making challenges and heightened level of personal responsibility that comes with puberty, budding romantic interests, and increased media and digital interactions. The classes include a broad range of information and skill building activities in order to allow young people to respond to tough situations with maturity and a strong sense of self.

What do you think? It fully and honestly describes the class even though it uses a completely different set of buzzwords from my previous descriptions.

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