Scarleteen’s Heather Corinna on the Future of Sex Education
Originally Published: August 21, 2014
Revised: April 3, 2017
Growth and change happen at an exponential rate, and it can seem impossible to predict what the world will be like in 10 or even five years in the future. In the third part of Sex, Etc.’s interview with Scarleteen’s Heather Corinna, she talks with us about the future of sex education.
Sex, Etc.: Where do you see the future of sexuality education in 10 years and how could our generation help to achieve that?
Heather Corinna: Don’t let older people set the sex ed agenda for you, whether they are parents, schools, foundations that fund sex ed or governments. Speak up and out loud about what you want and need, and what is totally unacceptable to you. Be real and be brave with this: your own voices are so much more powerful than anyone else speaking on your behalf or in your place.
By all means, speaking out around anything to do with sex and sexuality can open you up to some criticism or even some harassment, but I think speaking up about a need for accurate, inclusive and comprehensive information about such a central part of so many people’s lives is a very positive risk very much worth taking. It’s one that can really pay off when it comes to radically improving the quality of your life and experiences with sexuality, and everyone’s lives and experiences with sexuality.
Sex, Etc.: What do you want your legacy to be as an activist for comprehensive sex ed and as a sexual health advocate?
HC: What I truly hope happens is that well before the time I’m done or gone, more people have come around to see that learning is a real partnership, where the learner is just as engaged and has just as much say in both what and how they are learning, as anyone doing the teaching. Personally, I’m hoping that shift happens with every kind of education, but sex ed is certainly no exception.
Additionally, I also hope that in the future, we start seeing more and more kindness and compassion brought to the table with anyone providing sex ed. We have an unfortunately long history when it comes to sex ed of scaring people on purpose, with the aim of shaming them into making a set of choices someone else decided, are the “right” choices. But no one makes sound decisions through fear, and sexuality isn’t something anyone should be scared of. Whatever role sexuality plays in someone’s life, it should be a place of pleasure, joy, adventure and comfort, not a place of anxiety and fear.
Sex, Etc.: What are some ways that teens can be sexual health advocates? Do you have advice for a teen who wants to become an advocate for comprehensive sex ed?
HC: As you probably know, often before a teen talks to a teacher, a parent, a doctor or even a sexual partner about sex, they most typically talk to friends. And unfortunately, often friends will pass on misinformation. So, I think the absolute best place to start—and honestly, this may be the most powerful and effective sex ed there is—is doing what you can to learn about sexuality from accurate sources and with a very open mind, so that when friends have questions, you have good answers.
Get connected with all your local resources for sexuality and sexual health, and be the friend who everyone knows is the one to ask when they need help accessing resources—like a clinic. Be a supportive and accepting friend when it comes to sexuality and sexual choices. Be an ally and be actively supportive of your friend’s choices. For example, you should be just as supportive for the friend who does not want to engage in sex as you are for the friend who wants to do so and is chomping at the bit to explore their sexuality with others.
The great thing about starting here is that it is a way to become an advocate for accurate sexual health information and this can not only have a really powerful impact, but it is also within reach for any young person.
We were lucky enough to get to hear Heather’s viewpoint on comprehensive sex ed and being a sexual health advocate as well as feminism and sex ed. Thanks to Heather Corinna for speaking with Sex, Etc.!
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