Sexual Health Education; are students getting the information they need?

by Alex Inman

Recently, while perusing social media on DASH’s behalf, I came across this link of sexual education videos from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. While some of the videos are outright hilarious, it got me thinking about how far sexual health education has come from those times, but also about how far we still have to go.

When I think back to the sexual health education I received during my middle and secondary school years, I think about the entire class studying the anatomy of the reproductive system, pubertal changes, and then daring each other to ask ridiculous and embarrassing questions followed by bouts of uncontrollable giggling. While I learned a lot about what to expect from my body when puberty hit and how a baby is made, I didn’t come away with much knowledge about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), birth control, or what a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship looks like. Come to think of it, most (if not, all) of my knowledge about sexual health came from my own personal research conducted online (via AskAlice or even other, less reputable, websites), and talking to friends and family.

In hindsight, I could have really used more information from high school about sexual health education. I understand that, currently, public health nurses (PHNs) play a role in sexual health education in schools. Since I never had the experience of a PHN coming in to my classroom for these sessions, I’m wondering how sexual health education has changed from my experience. Sometimes I wonder if lack of knowledge and insufficient information is what leads to many other women and men not protecting themselves from infections, unplanned pregnancy, and unhealthy relationships.

While I appreciate that sexual health education strikes personal chords with varying groups of people based on their own cultural and religious beliefs, I strongly believe that knowledge is power and by providing this information to children and youth we are providing them with the tools and skills to make informed choices and protect themselves.

What are your experiences with sexual health education? Did you feel that you learned everything you needed to know in middle or secondary school? Where did you get your sexual health knowledge from (e.g. school, online, through a friend/family member, from TV/movies)? What roles did educators vs. health professionals play in sexual health education for you? What do you think the differences in education could be depending on who is presenting the information? Leave your comment in the section below!

If you are an educator looking to explore sexual health education in your classroom, please visit the Healthy Schools BC portal for a great list of programs and resources available to you.

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