Welcome to Better Sex With Dr. Lexx, a monthly column in which sex therapist, educator, and counselor Dr. Lexx Brown-James shares expertise, advice and wisdom about sex, relationships and more. View sex education as a lifelong endeavor – “from womb to grave” – Dr. Lexx (aka The #CouplesClinician) is your guide to shameless, medically accurate, inclusive, and immersive conversations for you, your partner, and your entire family.
In all my years as a sex professional, I’ve never heard a parent say, “I want my kids to have a crappy sex life when they grow up.” I also hear parents teach their kids things like how to fuck theirs washing genitals, or that no one should violate their personal boundaries (and should tell them when someone does). That tells me that parents are Teaching sex education and understanding the meaningful impact intimacy can have in relationships. Above all, parents want their children to be safe.
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The challenge, however, is that parents don’t have a manual — and most of us in the US have had poor sex education. This means that we are often undereducated, ill-equipped, and emotionally unready for the issues, issues, and information our youth are accessing today.
Currently, sex education in the US is poorly regulated and mandated. Of the 29 states and the District of Columbia that require sex education, nine states have policies that include education about the sexual orientation of LGBTQ identities or discussion of sexual health for LGBTQ youth. Six states now specifically require instruction that discriminates against LGBTQ people. Additionally, “13 states do not require that sex education or HIV/STI education meet any of the following criteria: age-appropriate, medically accurate, culturally appealing, or evidence-based/evidence-based.” This means that out of 50 states, only 17 provide our children with medically accurate, age-appropriate and provide culturally appealing information about sexuality.
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Factual information includes reproductive health and hygiene, preventing unwanted pregnancies, managing relationships related to consent, intimate partner coercion and violence, abstinence, safer physical sex practices, birth control and more. Possessing this kind of information can even delay the first sexual intercourse. Teens wait longer before engaging in sexual activity, according to the CDC’s 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. In their report from 2007 to 2017, the number of teens who reported being sexually active fell by 8 percent. Each year more and more information is collected and added to these curricula. However, in places where there are no sex education policies – where adolescents are compared to chewing gum, being taught that their bodies are for the use and pleasure of others – they are often ill-equipped to report any trauma, that takes place .
Additionally, in states with pure abstinence education and lack of access to sex educators in places like Planned Parenthood, unwanted teen pregnancies have increased significantly. States that only push abstinence are among the country’s top youth states for teenage pregnancies, including Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee. Sex education in the US is clearly problematic, and even more so when it comes to queerness.
The problem with sex education and Queer Sex Ed is we don’t have enough of it. The revival of the word “queer” by today’s youth has empowered most people. Queer is more inclusive than “gay” and has evolved from an insult to a celebration, an identifier and, as always, a political stance. Queer as an identity represents everyone who differs from the portrayal, such as boys and girls, men and women should exist. This can mean that an adolescent is born feeling more masculine or feminine than their assigned gender. It can mean they are attracted to the same sex, it can mean they have no romantic feelings at all. It can mean that they want a non-traditional relationship style or that they are interested in different types of pleasure. (I know! It’s hard to think about – but we got to to help our youth be prepared for these parts of their lives.)
Queerness is sorely missing from school curricula — but projects like It Gets Betters Queer Sex Ed seem to be filling the gap. Queer Sex Ed brings together friends of different social groups, body sizes, identities and relationship statuses to have conversations about navigating life. Featuring two sex professionals, Melina Gaze and myself (Dr. Lexx Brown-James), who frame the conversation by adding fact, recognizing when something is fiction, and supporting the queer narrative from mental health and global perspectives.
“…Queering sex education doesn’t have to be about taboo sexual acts. Instead, it’s about community building, self-love, healing, setting boundaries, and accessing joy of life beyond sexual intimacy.”
dr Lexx Brown-James
Showing young people people they can identify with gives them hope that a larger affirming community exists and reminds them that they are not alone. In this community, they could ideally build secure relationships while building the parts of their identity that are critical to them in creating a fulfilling life in adult intimacy. Queer sex education teaches parents and youth the actual world we exist in so our youth can make informed choices that keep them safe and thriving. And what parent doesn’t want their child to thrive?
Puberty can be difficult. Pre-teens explore their identities as individuals and as part of a group while dealing with new sensations and hormonal fluctuations. Think about what it’s like as a teenager to feel like they’re fundamentally wrong and being judged for feelings they didn’t choose. Or imagine an adolescent who has never seen healthy relationship, affection between people who love each other, or someone who has never met or seen another queer person. It gets better Queer Sex Ed is a series that helps highlight what young people actually experience when they engage in intimacy – and a great demonstration that queering sex education doesn’t have to be about taboo sexual acts. Instead, it’s about community building, self-love, healing, setting boundaries, and accessing joy of life beyond sexual intimacy.
Because overall, sex education is not just about sex. Sex Ed involves supporting a person in their entirety. Their self-esteem, their ability to form meaningful and secure relationships, their decision-making, and how comfortable they are in their own skin. True caregivers want to equip their child for success. The question is: are you ready (or willing to prepare) to equip your child with sex ed for success?
Before you go, check out our favorite mental health apps to give your mind, body and spirit a little extra care:
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