Lack of quality human sexuality education contributes to:
- Child marriage. UNICEF reports that 5% of the world’s girls are married by age 15 and 21% by age 18 (these numbers are 12% and 40%, respectively, in the least developed countries).
- Intimate partner violence. The WHO reports that 30% of all women experience physical or sexual violence by their partner, with the numbers ranging from 23% in high-income countries to 38% in some low-income countries. That these numbers are so much higher than the incidence of violence against women by a non-partner (7%) clarifies that violence against women is primarily a relationship-specific issue.
- STI transmission. The WHO estimates that there are 357 million combined new infections of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis every year, 500 million people living with herpes, and 290 million women infected with HPV, and UNAIDS estimates that there are currently 37 million people living with HIV.
- Stigma, bigotry, and violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation. The Williams Institute reported that out of 141 studied countries, 57% have experienced an increase in acceptance of LGBTQ+ people since 1980 while 33% experienced a decline in acceptance. However, FBI data from 2016 indicates that even in the US, which has seen a substantial increase in acceptance, LGBTQ+ people experience the highest rate of hate crimes of any minority group, twice that of people of color.
- Unwanted pregnancy. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that 44% of pregnancies worldwide are unintended, 25% of all pregnancies were ended through induced abortion, and 45% of all induced abortions are unsafe.
Where other curricula falls short:
- They’re emotionally manipulative. Participants are likely to shut down and not take in any information when a curricula tries to emotionally manipulate them into particular behaviors (like abstinence-only or abstinence-plus curricula). If you tell someone that it is a fact that you will contract an STI the first time you have unprotected sex, and that participant has already engaged in that behavior, then they know you are using scare tactics instead of medically accurate information. Why should they then believe anything you have to say?
- They focus exclusively on teenagers. Yes! Teenagers need human sexuality education. And all people need to have access to information about sexuality across their entire lives. In school, we don’t expect children to pick up a college level book and read it cover to cover. Rather, we nurture their love of reading from board books up to high school literature classes and hope that they will continue to read for learning and enjoyment through adulthood. Why, then, do we expect people to have safe consensual sexual relationships without any—or very brief at best—sexuality eductation?
- They’re not culturally relevant. Most curricula are required to be taught with absolute fidelity, which ignores individuals’ and communities’ educational needs. The reality is such that different groups need more information on specific topics than others. Ignoring this is a diservice to the communities and individuals we are trying to educate.
- They’re not inclusive. LGBTQ+ identities are either left out entirely or are relegated to identity-specific units rather than being interwoven throughout all content areas. These methods help reinforce heteronormativity, rather than inclusion and acceptance across the spectrum.
- They’re not trauma-informed. Teaching topics such as sexual violence without being trauma-informed has the potential to actively harm and re-harm participants. Because there is such an emotional component tied to sexuality, there is also an emotional component tied to teaching about it. It seems like such a simple concept, and yet it is not always accounted for in other curricula.
- Their facilitators lack information. This prompts them to provide incorrect or outdated information to students.