by Lauren Cikara
One of the first things people share with me when they find out that I teach sex education is their own experiences (or lack thereof) with sex ed while they were in school. The second thing they tell me is that I have a cool job and that they wish they had someone like me teaching their sex education class. And then the questions begin! Good thing I like talking about sex, as a sexual health educator’s work does not stop at the end of the traditional work day. And they are right; I do have a cool job!
Reading Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Mythsolidified my decision to become a sexual health educator. While abstinence-only-until-marriage programs continue to receive federal funding, it is important to me to advocate for and provide comprehensive sexual health education. I have always been sex-positive and have been amazed by the number of people I have encountered who never received any sort of formal sex education. I am lucky since my parents were very open and honest about sex and sexuality while I was growing up. Dinner table talk normally featured something about puberty and how babies are made. Topics were discussed from a medical and pleasure standpoint, which I think shaped my openness with discussing sex and sexuality.
As a sexual health educator, my goals are to provide a safe, sex-positive, and accurate platform to explore sexual activity. Every person deserves respect and the right to information about sex and sexuality free of fear and shame. Sex is a normal and a healthy component of everyone’s growth and development. Teaching sex education also allows me to play a part in helping to shift the societal dynamic that women are the gate keepers of sexual morals when there should be equal responsibility and consequences for all people when they choose to engage in sexual activity.
There are two things I tell participants over and over again when I teach: communication is sexy and consent is sexy. Exploring these concepts is one of the things that I like most about teaching sex education. Another part of my job that I really enjoy is answering questions from the participants in my classroom. Working with the participants to explore the answers to their questions is amazing. Having honest and fun conversations about sex and sexuality is important to not only the participants in my classroom but also for my own development as a sexual health educator. I feel very fortunate and thankful when I get to have these experiences. My cool job allows me to give back in a way that I feel is important in providing people with the tools to make the choice to be or not to be sexually active and therefore make their exploration of sex and sexuality safe and positive.