Ending the stigma and sparking change: How to talk to your friends and family about comprehensive sex education
By Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund, Inc. | Oct. 25, 2021, 4:33 p.m.
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.
While we know the many benefits of comprehensive sex ed, North Dakota state politicians have worked to undermine access to this essential education. During the 2021 legislative session, politicians attacked Planned Parenthood’s nearly decade-long partnership with North Dakota State University to deliver voluntary, age-appropriate sex education to hundreds of North Dakotans. Currently, North Dakota schools are required to teach abstinence in their sex ed programming—but schools aren’t required to teach sex ed that is medically accurate or that includes consent.1
So how do we make comprehensive sex education a reality for everyone? We start by talking about it with our friends and family. We make others aware of the current gaps in sex ed standards and empower each other to take action. Through conversation, we can put an end to the stigma and shame that surround sex education.
Discussing this topic can sometimes be a bit awkward to navigate. But don’t worry—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 talk with 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 North Dakota and what comprehensive sex education is. Need some inspiration?
Read from fellow North Dakotans who spoke up about the importance of comprehensive sex ed in our state.
Why do YOU care about this issue? Why should someone else? What points do you feel are more 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 you want 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 and passionate about this issue. Consider sharing a time when sex ed felt insufficient to you. Try discussing how comprehensive sex ed could benefit both your life and theirs to help show how deeply 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 them how they can be involved to keep them motivated.
- Encourage them to 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.
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 talks 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.