by Niala Terrell-Mason
I teach sex ed because someone has to. I work for a large Planned Parenthood affiliate that covers three counties in Southern California. My particular area, Western Riverside County, has some of the highest teen pregnancy and STIs rates in Southern California. It is also, not surprisingly, a largely conservative area. To be a proponent of comprehensive and positive sex ed in my area is to intimately understand the Greek myth of Sisyphus and the rock. It’s all uphill, baby. It continuously blows my mind that nearly every school in the surrounding 3 districts is experiencing epidemic levels of teen pregnancies, yet The Powers That Be are still adamantly “abstinence only.” They talk round and round about what can be done about this horrible social ill (/sarcasm), but ignore the answer staring them in the face: Comprehensive, non-shaming, affirming, and accurate sexuality education in schools and homes. I am extremely grateful for the teachers that risk their colleagues and bosses (along with parents) ire and invite us into their classrooms to speak to their students. They do it because they care. They care about the well-being of the teens put into their trust. They care about their health and their future. They care about them as young adults capable of making good decisions when given the tools to do so. So do I/we. A common question I get in classrooms from students is: Why do you do this? People find it hard to believe that someone would willingly talk about sex, one of the most uncomfortable and OMG Awkward! subjects ever, for a living. What I tell them is this: First of all, this is fun! I get paid to talk about sex all day long! Second, I am grateful that I to get to talk to people about sexuality and, if I can, positively impact teens and have some hand in helping them make some of the most important decisions of their lives. This is a calling just like anything else. I *know* how important the work I do is. It’s hard, often disappointing and frustrating; but someone has to do it.
“Why I Teach Sex Ed” profiles sexuality educators throughout the nation. This column appears each Monday. If you teach sex ed and would like to tell your story, send your submission, in 350-700 words, to Bill@SexEdStore.com.