“Let’s Talk”: Parents as Sexuality Educators

The following guest post comes to us from Planned Parenthood Arizona’s education staff. Contact them at education@ppaz.org.

parent child talkingOctober is “Let’s Talk” Month. Do you remember your parents giving you “the Talk”? If you were unlucky, “the Talk” was an uncomfortable event that was never spoken of again. If you were really unlucky, your parents didn’t talk to you at all. If so, maybe you got some ideas on your own, or from your friends, from your coach, or from health class. If you were LGBTQ, maybe you saw a horrifically homophobic video like this. However, if you were lucky, you didn’t receive “the” Talk but instead had many conversations with parents who were open and honest. Maybe it was a bit awkward, like this. But hopefully they gave you accurate information and answered your questions as they came up. If so, good for them!


Being an “askable” parent helps keep the door to conversation open.


Having “the Talk” can be uncomfortable, or even hilarious. But if you’re a parent, make sure you do talk — early and often. At Planned Parenthood Arizona, we recognize that parents are the best sexuality educators for their children. Children get their first messages about sexuality from their parents, and they start wondering about sex earlier than you might think. It’s important for parents to talk about sex so they can be sure their kids understand their family’s values and beliefs. Kids begin collecting information about sex at a very young age — they get messages from the media, from their friends, and from teachers. Parents should ensure the ideas their children have are accurate and in line with their own values. Parents want the best for their kids, and can encourage them to make healthy choices that minimize risky behaviors. Although they might not seem to be listening, most teens say their parents are their biggest influence about sex.

If parents don’t talk about sex, kids get a clear message — that it’s not OK to ask. That’s bad news — If parents aren’t approachable, kids will find information from other sources. Would you want your teenager to follow their friend’s advice? Would you prefer if your children ask you a few uncomfortable questions, or that they go searching the Internet for facts? Continue reading

Breaking Down Myths About Comprehensive Sex Ed

The following post was written by Julie, a Planned Parenthood Arizona intern and an Arizona State University student majoring in biological anthropology and women and gender studies. She has a passion for reproductive health, and hopes one day to pursue medical school and become a provider for an organization like Planned Parenthood.

Opponents of sex education take many forms. Some are large organizations with a broad mission of promoting conservative values, while others are small, local groups who work to establish abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in schools. They cite anything from “reversing the decline in moral values in our nation” to “restraining evil by exposing the works of darkness” as a mission statement, but they all share a common theme: the mischaracterization of sexuality education programs through inaccurate descriptions of research, and the use of fear tactics to promote their own agenda.

Below, you’ll find some of the common myths that opponents preach about comprehensive sexuality education, plus the research-based facts that debunk them.

Myth: Sex education only encourages teens to have more sex.

Fact: Evidence shows that teens who receive sexuality education wait longer to have sex and have fewer partners than teens who don’t. Young people going through puberty are naturally curious about their sexuality, especially when they’re bombarded with sexual imagery through TV, movies, and the Internet. Comprehensive sex education doesn’t pique their interest, it gives them the tools to understand and interpret the sexual messages they receive on a daily basis.

Myth: Premarital pregnancy and STD rates have skyrocketed since sex education began in the 1960s.

Fact: This is a blatant untruth that opponents of sexuality education can’t even back up with data. Teen pregnancy rates increased slightly in the mid-20th century, but CDC reports show that national averages have been on a steady decline since then. In fact, states that require comprehensive sex education in their classrooms have the lowest rates of teen pregnancy in the country. The numbers don’t lie — comprehensive sex ed works. Continue reading

Abstinence-Only Is a Failure to Educate

Editor’s Note: The following post was written by Julie, one of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s interns. Julie is an Arizona State University student majoring in biological anthropology and women and gender studies. She has a passion for women’s reproductive health, and hopes one day to pursue medical school and become a provider for an organization like Planned Parenthood.

college studentsHow well do college students feel their sex education prepared them for navigating relationships in college and coming into their sexuality?

Though many young people begin dating in high school, college is the time when a lot of relationships flourish and students begin to explore their own sexuality. The experience can be exhilarating, like navigating a battlefield of hookups and breakups without the threat of a curfew.


Abstinence-only programs fail students, who need accurate information to make informed decisions to protect their health.


Facing the dating scene in college can be scary as well, especially for those who didn’t have the chance to learn about sexuality or how to form healthy relationships while still at home. Many schools across the country teach only abstinence to students, and this can leave them ill-prepared to make healthy decisions when they face real-world situations.

Bailey W., an ASU women and gender studies student, describes her experience with sex ed in primary school as anything but comprehensive. Her school provided the abstinence-only education common in schools across Arizona and many other areas of the country. These programs advocate for heterosexual, monogamous marriages as the only appropriate settings for sexual interaction.

For Bailey, this created an unhealthy mental perception of sex that followed her into college. “I felt guilty about my sexuality because I was always taught that there are only two options: Don’t be sexual and stay safe, or be sexual and put yourself at extreme risk of ruining your whole life.” She admitted she didn’t know much about birth control until she came to college, and her first boyfriend basically taught her about her own anatomy. Continue reading

Teen Talk: Your Sexual Education

Flashback: I remember standing in the girls’ bathroom at school during fifth grade recess while my best friend explained to me how babies are made. I was shocked! Suddenly I had lots of questions about these “facts” — and no one to ask. Talk to my parents? NO WAY! That scenario was out of the question. Even if there had been an understanding adult around who I trusted talking to about big stuff, I’m sure I would have been much too embarrassed to start that discussion.


In the age of the Internet and free-flowing information, almost everything is out there for you to find!


How did you first learn about sex? Who did you ask those intimate and embarrassing questions about your body and the new feelings you were experiencing? Where did you go to get the truth about sex, reproduction, relationships? Who explained how to use contraception or what sexually transmitted infections are — without judgment? Or are you still trying to find the facts you need?

If you are fortunate, your parents may have initiated early and open conversations with you about healthy relationships, sexuality, and reproduction. Surveys have shown that 36 percent of teen girls get information about sex and reproduction from friends and family. But even some of the most progressive parents may find it hard to talk about sexual relationships and intimacies outside of their own beliefs and experiences. And older teens are really not that interested in discussing sex with their parents, no matter how good a relationship they may have.

My public school “sexual education” continued later on in sixth grade when my mother and I were invited with other girls from my class and their mothers to attend a movie explaining the changes in our bodies and our upcoming entry into womanhood — read: “menstruation.” Also known as: “your period.” I don’t recall receiving any information about sex, relationships, or contraception along with this movie. Perhaps it was supposed to be a starting point for my mom to have the “sex talk” with me. That didn’t happen, by the way. And I don’t know if the boys in my class received any similar information that year. Continue reading

Sex Ed Isn’t Scary, But the Lack of Sex Ed Is!

The following guest post comes to us via Kate Thomas, community sexuality educator for Planned Parenthood Arizona. Kate has her master’s degree in public health from the University of Arizona and a passion for ensuring that people of all ages have access to the information, resources, and support they need to be sexually healthy.

screamEarlier this month, I gave a presentation about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to a group of teens in Tucson, Arizona. This is a presentation I have given many, many times. As a sexuality educator, I’ve heard almost every question and comment there is related to sex and sexuality, so I’m not normally affected by what I hear from students in a classroom. But at the end of this particular workshop, one student said, “Oh my god, I’m so scared. This is so scary. I don’t like this.” In fact, several of the teens in this particular group listened to the information I was sharing with shocked looks on their faces.

At Planned Parenthood Arizona, we do not use fear or scare tactics when we talk about sexual health. We believe that sexuality is a natural, lifelong aspect of being human, and our workshops teach about sexual health in ways that give medically accurate information, promote healthy behaviors (including abstinence), teach risk reduction, and encourage all individuals to take charge of their sexual health and well-being by getting annual reproductive health exams and routine STI testing.

So, when a workshop participant says, “This is so scary. I don’t like this,” it makes me reflect on what could have scared them so much in a presentation that is meant to be sex-positive. It didn’t take me long to realize what the issues were for this particular group. Continue reading

Hey Nikki, Let’s Talk!

The following guest post, written in observance of Let’s Talk Month, comes to us via Annet Ruiter, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

mother daughterShe’ll turn 21 this month, my amazing daughter. No longer our little girl, but a young woman trying to successfully transition into adulthood.

Sure, we have our struggles: I expect too much, I am too demanding, and I don’t trust her enough. She, on the other hand, doesn’t try hard enough, doesn’t care enough … You probably know what I am talking about. But, in spite of it all, we manage to nurture our special relationship, based on love and mutual respect.

And I’m still the first one she calls when she is in trouble.

October is Let’s Talk Month — a month where parents are encouraged to engage in conversation with their children about sexuality and relationships. Planned Parenthood promotes such conversations, and has been a great partner for Nikki and me throughout her life. Continue reading

Russell Pearce Misses the Point: Starting a Dialogue on Sex Education

The following guest post comes to us via Kelley Dupps, political engagement coordinator for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

teacher and studentsMuch has been made of the repugnant remarks made by former Republican lawmaker Russell Pearce regarding poor women and birth control. Mr. Pearce — assuming he was head of welfare — made comments on his radio show September 6 saying he would force women to have birth control implants or undergo surgical sterilization to access funds. So many regimes have used this rhetoric, and some have enacted policies like these to control the reproductive lives of women. It seems the definition of insanity that we’re having this conversation again.

Let’s be clear about one thing: Politicians have no place in the health care choices of Americans. All health care decisions should be made between the patient, the doctor, and the patient’s family — and politics should play no part in that.

Let’s also remember, birth control prevents abortion. In fact, birth control allows young people to finish high school — which is especially important here in Arizona since we have a high teen pregnancy rate and subsequent increased high school dropout rates.

But really what it comes down to is education. Government cannot force birth control on its citizens. Governments cannot legislate to impose morality or healthy decision making or regulate hormones. What governments can do is educate their youth on abstinence and contraceptive behaviors to help keep them safe from unintended pregnancy and STDs. Schools can teach medically accurate information on anatomy and biology and facilitate conversations on the importance of healthy relationships. Finally, communities can help advocate against bullying and raise awareness about dating violence and ways to address it.

Since sexuality education is not a mandatory subject in Arizona schools, it’s important to understand that accuracy and truth matter. School boards, local schools, and communities can take action today by simply asking teachers, principals, and administrators: “What is my kid learning when it comes to sex ed?” Facebook and Twitter allow public platforms for town-hall-like discussion to take place directly with officials. Have you ever wondered what your child is learning — if anything — about sex? Maybe it’s time to find out.

To learn more about starting the conversation on comprehensive sex education, please download our flier.