The following post comes to us via Tracey Sands, a graduate student at Arizona State University’s West Campus studying communication as it relates to advocacy. Tracey believes dialogue is an act of love and strives to empower others to find and use their voice. She is an education outreach intern at Planned Parenthood Arizona.
Growing up, I was under the impression that sex was making out naked. I thought condoms were only used for protection against pregnancy. I did not understand that sex was meant for my pleasure. I thought I was a bad person for masturbating. All of these misconceptions, and more, would have been answered if I had comprehensive sex education. If only my school understood that access to sexuality information and services does not lead to increased sexual activity or riskier behaviors. On the contrary, if sex education were provided, I would have understood the reproductive, physical, and emotional components of sex. And rather than feeling confused and unsafe, I could have been empowered with the information I needed to make healthy choices about my own body.
Finding reliable sex education resources that specifically speak to your needs can be a daunting task.
In Arizona, sex education is optional, which leaves our local schools to determine what, if any, sex education is taught in their classrooms. Schools either completely opt out of sex education, or if they choose to provide it, have the option to teach abstinence-only or comprehensive curricula. Unfortunately, more often than not, schools in our state choose to opt out. (Here is an updated list of sex education by state provided by the Guttmacher Institute.)
The other common choice Arizona schools make is to implement an abstinence-only curriculum. Abstinence-only programs not only remain ineffective at their goal of promoting abstinence until marriage, they also withhold potentially lifesaving information; promote dangerous gender stereotypes; stigmatize sex, sexual health and sexuality; and perpetuate systems of inequity. These curricula ignore or deny the sexuality of young people, which has real consequences. They often ignore the range of values, desires, and questions that teens have regarding sexuality in lieu of promoting one value system and one set of behaviors and the messaging consistently targets those that identify with the dominant culture (e.g., heterosexual, cisgender, white, Christian, without disabilities, etc.). In addition, the curriculum uses fear-based information that focuses on the imminent threats of STDs and pregnancy, while ignoring the preventive and empowering components of birth control and safe sex practices, including consent and healthy relationship building.
All of these problems accumulate to produce a large population of people who don’t fully understand human sexuality and reproductive health. Youth who are denied important information turn into parents who lack knowledge to share with their children, who in turn do not have access to this information in their schools. This cycle either keeps people in the dark or it pushes them to take control of their own sex education — which leads them to the most accessible, commonly used resource for sex education: the internet.
Sex education happens in the digital world. Quite frankly, it thrives in the digital world. But finding reliable resources that specifically speak to your needs can be a daunting task. As the go-to source for sex education, Planned Parenthood is proud to do the sifting for you by providing evidence-informed and comprehensive sexual and reproductive digital resources you can trust. And that is why Planned Parenthood Arizona recently revamped the resources on its website — so that you have access to the most current, inclusive, and reliable digital resources, including more than 80 resources for a wide range of audiences. From youth, adults, and educators, to more specific categories such as LGBTQ+ and español, we have resources for everyone.
We also understand that online sex education is not for everyone. For those who prefer intimate and collaborative small group settings, we offer sexuality and reproductive health programs for:
- Parents and Caregivers: Our parent/caregiver presentations honor the power of your role as the primary sex educator of your children. We know that sometimes these conversations can be awkward, but they don’t have to be. Sexuality is a natural, healthy, and lifelong aspect of being human and our workshops help parents and caregivers feel more at ease and confident in their critical role of helping their children make healthy, responsible decisions about sex, love, and relationships.
- Community Members: Our community presentations are offered to community groups or partner organizations that are looking for more information about various sexual health topics for those they serve — both adults and youth. Unless otherwise noted, these presentations are intended for at least a 7th grade audience.
- Professionals and Educators: Professional development trainings are targeted to adults who work with young people, and will boost their skills in providing formal or informal sex education and information. Our interactive trainings are designed for adult learners and adhere to best practices in sex education.
Our vision is to create health equity for Arizona youth through improved access to high-quality sex education and building supportive family and community connections that encourage holistic health-promoting behaviors. Planned Parenthood Arizona’s education team, SHARE: Sexual Health And Responsible Education, believes that sex education is a human right. We are here to support or supplement your sex education needs.