Written by Sam, RSEI Educator | Published May 24th, 2024

According to Guttmacher, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) worldwide (last updated Sept 2023):

  • 38 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and/or HIV education.
  • 26 states and DC require instruction to be appropriate for the students’ age.
  • 18 states require program content to be medically accurate.
  • 10 states require the program to provide instruction that is appropriate for a student’s cultural background and that is not biased against any race, sex, or ethnicity.
  • 4 states prohibit the program from promoting religion.

As we see, sex education in many states across the country remains inadequate, inconsistent, or entirely absent, leaving young people without the critical knowledge they need to navigate their sexual development safely and healthily. 

May is recognized as “Sex Ed For All Month: Accessing Power, Information, and Rights” (formerly known as “Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month”)– a time dedicated to emphasizing the value and significance of delivering comprehensive sexual education to individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and identities. However, it is important to note that this campaign has been rebranded after years of labor from youth, organizers, and advocates across the country, including “NoTeenShame” who in 2013 pushed back “against the narrowly framed falsehood that young parents are incapable, irresponsible, and unworthy of dignity and respect.” According to SIECUS, their efforts to better policies, messages, and attitudes around the autonomy of young people played a pivotal role in the re-branding of May into “Sex Ed for All” month. 

This initiative, also championed by health, reproductive rights, and education organizations including the Sex Education Collaborative, Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, Healthy Teen Network, SIECUS, and Power to Decide, uplifts the necessity of providing accessible, developmentally relevant, medically-accurate, and expansive sex education that is representative of our communities’ many diverse identities and experiences in order to support one’s health, wellness, and informed decision-making. 

The campaign is rooted in the belief that everyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, deserves access to quality information about their bodies, relationships, and sexual health in order to make the best decisions for themselves–especially when we know, there are direct correlations between those who have access to quality, comprehensive sex education and those who have affirmative health outcomes. 

Wait…aren’t some too young to learn about Sex Ed?

Nope. Justine Ang Fonte, a Philippine health and sexuality educator coined the phrase, “Sex Ed from the womb to the tomb” to uplift the value of discussing sex education with people of all ages; and of course, in age-appropriate ways. Why? Because we want our young people, of all ages, to have the tools, skills, and information needed to care for themselves, their bodies, and their relationships. 

In Elementary school spaces, we may discuss names of body parts, how those body parts might change, setting and respecting boundaries, how to say no, and encourage youth to reflect on the qualities they want in their friendships or relationships. In Middle school spaces, we may discuss consent, qualities of a healthy relationship, gender, and sexuality, types of touch and/or sex, as well as how pregnancy and STIs can happen and be prevented. While in high school spaces, we may discuss pregnancy/STI prevention, consent, types of sex and relationships, as well as sexting and porn literacy in more detail. 

Comprehensive sex education is intended to go beyond the basics of human reproduction. It encompasses a broad range of topics, including consent, healthy relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. By covering these areas, sex education supports individuals in making informed health choices, recognizing and respecting boundaries, and developing affirming attitudes towards different sexualities and relationships. Sex Education is essential for fostering a culture of respect, equality, and safety. 

Studies have shown that effective sexual education programs not only lead to lower rates of unintended pregnancies and STIs, but also reduce instances of sexual and interpersonal violence. By equipping individuals with the knowledge and skills they need to make the best decisions for themselves, comprehensive sex education directly contributes to community and individual wellness.

What’s my role within Sex Ed for All Month?

“Sex Ed For All Month” serves as an essential reminder of the ongoing need for advocacy and action when it comes to bodily autonomy and sexual health decision-making. It calls on educators, youth-serving adults, policymakers, parents, caregivers, and communities to advocate, support, and implement comprehensive sex education programs within their own learning spaces and communities. By ensuring that everyone has access to accurate, relevant, and representative information, we can reimagine a future where individuals, including our young people, are equipped and prepared to make safe and informed choices, foster fulfilling relationships, and navigate their sexual lives with confidence and dignity.  

Sex education should not be a privilege, but instead, a fundamental right that should be available to all. As educators and youth-serving adults, we have a responsibility to seek out any and all opportunities to offer comprehensive sex education to our young people and communities.