Reflections of a 20-Year-Old: Sexuality Education

Women’s empowerment begins with education, so why isn’t more emphasis placed on sexuality education?

Growing up, the politics of school and meeting new people made me realize that sexuality plays a strong role in navigating social relationships and embracing your sense of self. A strong sexuality education program can aid in making smart decisions about one’s health and can also provide a safe space to discuss confusions and queries about traditionally uncomfortable topics. However, this idealistic view of sexuality education has highlighted how inadequate the actual programming is and young women like myself are realizing it.

If I’d had better sexuality education, I would have felt more confident, I would have had more pride in being a woman, and I would have been able to better navigate puberty. ~Insha, 21, Nairobi, Kenya

By definition, sexuality includes healthy sexual development, gender identity, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, and body image for all adolescents, including adolescents with disabilities, chronic health conditions, and other special needs. Unfortunately, my sexuality education solely revolved around anatomy, reproduction, and frankly...male lust.

One thing I think was lacking was discussions about female sexuality. In high school gym class, our male teacher spoke about guys getting “excited” when they see a girl in a short skirt and potentially getting an erection, which I found degrading. ~Grace, 20, Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario

As a young woman learning about all of this in a professional setting for the first time, my options seemed limited. Was the only way to avoid pregnancy by using a condom? Does maintaining a healthy sex life rely on detecting and avoiding STIs and STDs? Do females masturbate too? These questions were not being answered, and honestly, I didn’t even think to ask them.

Especially as women, we don’t learn enough about the various methods of birth control nor are we taught about masturbation, given that it is such a norm for men. There’s a double standard there that needs to be broken down. ~Jenny, 21, Calgary, Alberta

With four years of high school, three years of university, and all the life lessons that have come with it now under my belt, 20-year-old me realizes that I could have benefitted from a more comprehensive sexuality education. To teach young women how to understand power dynamics in relationships, identify harmful sexual behaviours, and navigate worrisome, but common issues, such as UTIs and yeast infections is to better prepare them for the challenges that inevitably await.

I wish I knew more, at a younger age, just so that I was prepared. I do feel like it would have helped me navigate my social relationships better, especially since a lot of my guy friends knew a lot more about sexuality education than I did - I just felt lost. ~Insha, 21, Nairobi, Kenya

Inadequate sexuality education affects all women, everywhere, and its consequences often stick with us long after the programming has been received. With the empowerment of young women at the forefront of countless social movements, we must realize that our classrooms carry power too. Educators play strong roles in the lives of individuals and the responsibility to teach young women how to proudly claim their sexuality, and everything that comes with it, should not be taken lightly.

When governments fail young people, we must work together to hold them accountable, and speaking up is just the first step.

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