Sex education, when done right, transforms lives, communities, and society at large. Sex education should be taught by trained educators and cover a wide range of topics, including relationships, decision making, communication, gender identity, body image, birth control, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Just like other subjects, sex education should begin early with foundational and age-appropriate material (like names of body parts, friendship, and boundaries) that builds over time. It should teach equity and inclusion, be anti-racist, and trauma-informed. Young people need and deserve opportunities to explore their values and beliefs about sex, identity, and relationships, while also gaining skills to navigate relationships and manage their own sexual health.
Everyone deserves access to sex education.
But too few people get it because a patchwork of inconsistent laws and policies makes access to it inequitable. What kind of sex education young people receive, or whether they receive it at all, often comes down to where they live or what school they attend.
The irony is most Americans think young people should receive sex education in middle and high school that covers a wide range of topics. And lots of people assume schools are already providing good sex education (even when they’re not).
Too many people aren’t getting any sex education at all, or they’re getting unhelpful, shaming, or abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs. We can do better.