Everyone deserves access to sex education that is scientifically accurate, LGBTQ+ inclusive, consent-centered, culturally responsive, and shame-free. Comprehensive sex education is proven to improve health, relationships, and decision-making. In fact, sex education saves lives.
Acknowledged by experts as the preferred curriculum, comprehensive sex education programming equips young people with the knowledge they need to navigate relationships and make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health. Learn more about the comprehensive sex education programming at Planned Parenthood here.
In Iowa, most children receive sex education via their family and consumer science class and even then, the class may only cover the content for a few weeks before moving on to the next lesson. In many cases, those classes are not taught by teachers with expertise and fail to include any education about sexuality, gender orientation, consent, or reproductive development. Youth leave these classes without the critical information they need to understand the changes they are going through and sexual and reproductive health in general. By not covering these topics, it only breeds and feeds on the existing stigma around sexual orientation and gender identity.
To make matters worse, lawmakers targeted the state’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood, passing a law barring the organization from receiving state funds to deliver sex education. This targeted attack puts as many as 13,500 young Iowans at risk of losing access to comprehensive, medically accurate, and inclusive sex education.
Instead of comprehensive sex education, several school districts have contracted with crisis pregnancy centers—fake health clinics that prevent people from accessing the full range of sexual and reproductive health care options—to provide this programming instead. The consequences leave young Iowans without the information and education they need to make healthy decisions.
We must normalize talking about comprehensive sex education in Iowa.
So, how do we make comprehensive sex education a reality for everyone? We start by talking about it with our friends and family. By starting conversations about sex ed, we can make others aware of the current gaps in sex ed standards in our state, talk about its benefits, and empower others to take action. Talking about sex education also helps end the stigma and shame surrounding it.
Discussing sensitive subjects such as sex and reproductive health care and development can sometimes be a bit awkward to navigate. So, how can you make it easier to talk to your friends and family about comprehensive sex education? We are here to help! Here are some tips to make your conversations comfortable and successful.
1. Create a Plan:
Brainstorm possible scenarios where you could speak to a friend about comprehensive sex education. Perhaps you are going out to lunch next Friday or meeting up for a workout class later that week. Sex education does not need to be the reason you get together but planning to talk about it when you meet up can get you in the right mindset to start the conversation.
If you’re planning on talking with family, ask yourself if you’d rather speak as a whole family about comprehensive sex ed, or just one or a few members. This can change the environment you may want to create for the conversation to be more comfortable.
2. Envision the Conversation:
Take a moment to think through everything that you know about sex education in Iowa and what comprehensive sex education looks like. Want to learn even more? Read about the recent court decision that allowed the Iowa legislature to block organizations that provide abortions from state funds for sex education programs.
Why do YOU care about this issue? Why should someone else? What points do you feel are most compelling to you and will be to your friend or family member? It can be easier to speak to other people when you sort through your own thoughts and then formulate some ideas of how to express them.
3. Make it Personal:
Most likely there is a reason comprehensive sex education is important to you, perhaps you even have a story of how it has impacted you. Opening up and explaining its significance in your life can help others feel more connected to and passionate about this issue. If there was a specific time you can remember in your education when sex ed felt insufficient, this may also help. Try discussing how comprehensive sex ed could benefit both your life and theirs to help show how deeply and long-lasting this issue can affect people.
4. What can they do:
Once you share your thoughts and experiences on comprehensive sex ed and have a discussion with your friend or family member, leave them with something that they can think about and act on. If you sparked inspiration in them, it can be great to help show how they can be involved to keep them motivated.
- Encourage them to learn more about comprehensive sex education so they can advocate for it at the local and state level or sign up to stay connected with Planned Parenthood
- If they are new to advocating, offer to join them or ask for their support in your efforts.
- Not everyone is ready to advocate right away. If that’s the case, continue engaging in conversations with them about the importance of comprehensive sex education.
5. Important Takeaways:
Don’t be discouraged if the first conversation doesn’t go as planned! Hopefully, you were able to learn and will be even more prepared for your next conversation. Remain calm and positive, these emotions may rub off on your friend or family member.
The entire conversation regarding comprehensive sex education doesn’t need to happen in one breath either. Starting with a simple talk about their high school experience may lead to a smoother connection to sex education, followed by the overall idea of comprehensive sex education.
Remember to reflect on the conversation, how it went, what you liked and disliked about it, and how you can take what you’ve learned to improve the next conversation. Last but not least, be proud of yourself for starting the conversation and putting yourself out there!
6. If you need more help:
Deciding you want to have more serious conversations with friends and family about comprehensive sex education is a first great step. If the time comes and you get stuck, you can always refer to the Planned Parenthood website. Getting accurate answers is the most important.