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New Year, Same WHY

Our Thoughts on Why Sex Ed Matters 


caricature of Sam Akers

By Sam Akers

February 23, 2023

“What do you do?” I was asked by my family when I went home… “Well, I work in sex ed!” *Brace for impact* “and I LOVE what I do, because it matters.”

Going home for the holidays can bring up…interesting discussions for anyone. For those of us in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health, our conversations with family can be especially compelling. So, what do we say when people question our field? What do you do and do you like it? Why does sex ed matter?

In my opinion, sex ed matters because it’s the RIGHT of young people to know about their own bodies. We teach young people about math, biology, and literature in schools, but when it comes to sexuality, it feels like a different ball game. But,  According to a 2017 study of both Republican and Democratic parents, 93% of respondents reported supporting sexuality education in schools. Of these people, 89% wanted classes that covered puberty, healthy relationships, abstinence, sexually transmitted infections, and birth control. The majority of people agree, we need sex ed in schools.

After reflecting on this over holiday break, I came back and asked our staff, “Why does sex ed matter?” and their responses beautifully showcase the WHY behind the work we do at Healthy Teen Network.

Deb says, “You know when your teacher says, “you’ll need this in life”? Well, unlike diagramming sentences (which I LOVE to do…no, actually, I really do love to diagram sentences), health and sex ed ARE something you’ll need in life.”

“We all deserve affirming, inclusive, accurate and comprehensive information about being the human (sexual) beings that we are.”

Mac mentioned, “We all live in bodies and make decisions about them. We all experience intimacy with ourselves and others. We all seek pleasure. We all touch. We all communicate. We all hold a number of identities, some chosen, some not. We all have needs, wants, desires, and boundaries. We are all curious. We are all seeking connection and want to be loved. If all of these things are part of the human experience, then sex ed, when done right, gives us the tools, language, and skills to navigate our humanness!

Mariah believes “Sex ed matters because it can be a tool for violence prevention. As a college sexual assault survivor, I wish that my younger self had access to comprehensive sex ed—instead of the abstinence only sex ed that I was given—because I would have been better equipped to understand what happened to me wasn’t my fault and that I had rights as a survivor under Title IX. Young people have bodily autonomy, and if we don’t give them all of the tools and information they need to feel confident making decisions about their own body and relationships, then we’re doing them a serious disservice.”

Rooting ourselves in WHY we show up and do the work we do can help us stay committed to our pursuit of a world where all adolescents and young adults lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

What’s YOUR why? What encourages you to show up each day for the young people in your life? What is the dream world you’re pursuing? Most importantly, how are you connecting with your purpose and role in this work?

If you’re feeling a renewed sense of purpose and dedication to this field this year, come take care and take action with us at #HealthyTeen23 in Portland!

Sam is an experienced facilitator of curriculum focused on sexual health, puberty, safety, and relationships for adolescents. She has expertise in outreach, communications, and strengths-based critical thinking. Sam is passionate about the ways in which trusted adults can provide skills, knowledge, and support so adolescents can make informed decisions. Sam is dedicated to the advancement of justice through collaboration and co-creation. Read more about Sam.