“Why I Teach Sex Ed: Because I want to…” With Ashley Gaunt

Ashely Gaunt
Educator, Planned Parenthood of
Central and Greater Northern New Jersey
Sex Ed was something that I have known about since I was a kindergartner. My best friend and I used to stay up late and watch the Sunday Night Sex Show with Sue Johensen without our parents knowing. We would sit there, starry eyed and mouths open- shocked, excited, and always ready to learn more! Health had always been my favorite subject. 

I got caught once when I was a kid looking up “sex” in the encyclopedia and got scolded for it. What I remember clearest of that incident was how there was a pencil drawing of a man and a woman having intercourse. It wasn’t until I got a little older and really started studying sex and sexuality where I remembered how detrimental that drawing was for me. Sex means different things to different people, and I was so excited to dive into this field with my eyes wide open.

Through discovering my own sexuality, I started taking more and more classes about sex. I started to become interested in making some sort of change, or at least getting into some work where there were people with open hearts, open minds, and a lot of smiling faces.  I wanted people to know that there is not ONE kind of person or ONE kind of sex. I wanted people to understand that the box, we often put our gender expression in, is a lot bigger than many of us were taught growing up. I wanted to make a difference, in even just one life. My 3rd year of college, I sat in the class taught by Michael McGee, where I learned that he was once an intern for Planned Parenthood, and moved up and up the ladder steadily. That was the first moment where I realized that I could do this for a living. I, in fact, could not even believe why anyone wouldn’t want to do this for a living- what a cool job! I began looking shortly after than for an internship.

At the time I was working with special need children, and hosting birthday parties on the side while nannying whenever I had a free night or weekend. I was struggling to make ends meet- but young enough to understand that with a lot of hard work, eventually, things would fall into place. I had a lot of older friends express to me how they were unable to find jobs in their field after college. They graduated with a degree in history and were waiting tables at the local Red Lobster. I broke down some things in my head. I started to realize that every side job I had, related in some way to sex or sexuality. Kids are super curious about sex, boundaries, privacy, and bodies. The special needs children and their families I had been working with were concerned about their children learning about privacy, puberty, and OK/Not OK touches. The lights started going off in my head. I knew that I wanted to work as hard as I could to land myself in this field somewhere. It was relevant to everyone’s lives, but just a subject that most of my family and friends considered taboo.

The more classes I took, the more my eyes widened and my brain elasticized. I worked my way out of the field of special ed, and into the field of sex ed. I landed an internship with Planned Parenthood of Central NJ, and 2 days before it was up, I was offered a temporary gig wherever they needed me to be. That turned into some work in the clinic and a permanent position- which eventually turned into Community Health Education for what is now Planned Parenthood of Central and Greater Northern New Jersey. This is where I wanted to be all along. This field is so innovative and exciting, I can hardly stop myself from bragging when I go out with friends. They love what I do just as much as I do. I can tell, because every now and then I will get a sex ed question to my cell, from a friend of a friend. Not enough people in the world can say they love what they do the way I can. I am so thankful for the opportunity to infuse passion into the work that I do every single day. I am one lucky person. I speak to hundreds, possibly even thousands of students a year. These students come from all different ages, races, socioeconomic statuses, sexual orientations, gender identities, etc. etc. I think long and hard about how to meet this huge melting pot of individuals right where they are at. 

I know that I am not perfect, not a sexpert, and will never be either of those things, but when I get that letter from a student every once in a blue moon saying “Thank you, I don’t know how I would have known about this without you coming in,” it makes me remember the reason why I teach. I may not impact every single person’s life that I come across, but if I can impact just one, I will know, I made a difference. I teach Sex Ed because I love it. I teach Sex Ed because I want to.