Sexuality education in Canada- Reports data

Sex educators often don’t have the time or resources to keep up to date with scientific research. But it is super important that those findings get to the people who are actually doing the day to day job. So let’s get all of us nerds united to transmit snippets of what we read…It can make a world of difference for those who have only a few days to write a grant request and need to have data and quote on hands for political lobbying. The original posts can be found on SEX-ED + Facebook and Instagram pages.

What is comprehensive sexuality education?

“Comprehensive sexuality education is a process of teaching and learning about the cognitive, emotional, physical and social aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to: realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others; and understand and ensure the protection of their rights through their lives.”

Excerpt from: Comprehensive sexuality education youth assessment. A for-youth, by-youth report on the state of sexual health in Canada. International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, 2021.

What is comprehensive sexuality education about?

“CSE is not just about sex, it’s about so much more than that. It’s how someone feels about their body, understanding the changes that are occurring on one’s life, consent, boundaries, impact of technologies on body image, sexuality and pleasure…CSE should start as early as possible. People care about physical health. So why not care about sexual and reproductive health as well? The taboo associated with the topics is not an excuse to not share knowledge and skills regarding SRHR with youth. CSE will make society healthier, safer and happier.”

Excerpts from : Comprehensive sexuality education youth assessment. A for-youth, by-youth report on the state of sexual health in Canada. International Youth Alliance for Family Planning, 2021 IYAFP Canada

What do parents think about comprehensive sexuality education?

A lot of apprehension exists when implementing sexuality education programs, because of the fear of parent’s reactions.  Media are in part responsible for it because they give a lot of space to those who are opposed to it (the famous “we need to balance the coverage and give a voice to all’). But the fact is that most parents are happy to have professionals talk to their kids about bodies and relationships. Because they sometimes are not that comfortable doing it themselves, or don’t know how to do it.  Sexuality education is an ongoing process that involves all those contributing to raise the young ones, and healthy collaboration between adults is key to healthy, happy and empowered kids and youth.

Parents across the country (85%) support sexual health education in the schools and endorse sexual health education programs that are comprehensive: parents want sexual health education to include topics related to both the enhancement of sexual health and the prevention of sexual health problems.

Excerpts from: Attitudes towards sexual health education in schools: A national survey of parents in Canada. Wood et al. 2021

What do youth want out of comprehensive sexuality education?

Youth express a desire to learn more about positive outcomes associated with sex and relationships. When lessons are predominantly negative and prevention-focused, this often contribute to feelings of shame and guilt surrounding decisions to engage in sexual activity or to become sexually active.

To illustrate, a participant noted, “ It made me feel like [sex] is a bad thing, but that I’m weak because I’m going to succumb to it. I feel like if I had learned a little bit more about that it actually feels good and it’s healthy to do, that would change things.”

Excerpts from: Let’s talk about sexual health education: Youth perspectives on their learning experiences in Canada.  Erin K. Laverty et. al., 2021.

What’s more important in comprehensive sexuality education?

“It’s important to learn about anatomy but there may be a bit too much focus on the internal anatomy and all the technical terms that people might not necessarily remember or that they might not find useful, when actually going through their day-to-day lives, when actually engaging with sexuality, I think learning about healthy relationships deserves more focus than learning about where exactly in the testes is semen created.”

Excerpts from: Let’s talk about sexual health education: Youth perspectives on their learning experiences in Canada. Erin Laverty et. al., 2021.

What do educators need to know before delivering comprehensive sexuality education content?

You don’t learn how to teach sexuality education in a moment…Well actually that is not true, a lot of people (teachers for example) get thrown into it without training. And most will do their best to deliver the needed content. But good intentions only goes so far. Sexuality education is a complex subject to teach- there is content- there is pedagogy- there is the deconstruction of who you are, where you come from and how it taints your views about sexualities- there is the comprehension of social contexts and how they shape and affects experiences. And lastly, but very importantly, there are the people you deliver your content to. And their needs. And their expertise.

“Our findings suggest that a first step to training could involve providing information and ensuring that educators are aware of the perspectives of youth in Canada so that they can understand and acknowledge youth needs and existing education shortfalls. This study shows that youth have very important insight on sexual health education in Canada, and that their perspectives need to be reflected in the curricula and delivery decisions affecting them.”

Excerpts from: Let’s talk about sexual health education: Youth perspectives on their learning experiences in Canada. Erin K. Laverty Rachel MacLean Shireen Noble Antonella Pucci, 2021

What has social justice got to do with comprehensive sexuality education?

Comprehensive sexuality education is not just talking about bodies that intertwines. It’s talking about living in a social context that impacts bodies and relationships. About access to food, water, decent housing, health services. About autonomy and the capacity (or not) to make decisions about one’s life, body and family. It’s talking about the policing of Black, Brown, Handicapped or Queer bodies. It’s tackling issues that are real and painful and touches the very core of our intimacies. And that is why, if done properly, comprehensive sexuality education has got the power to be emancipatory and truly liberating.

As one participant wrote “comprehensive sex-ed has a role in shifting cultural scripts and challenging shame and stigma while advancing reproductive justice, dismantling patriarchy and white supremacy, and advocating for dignity, respect, and healing for marginalized youth and adults”.

Excerpts from: Together for Sex-Ed: Outcomes Report, Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights , 2021

What about pleasure and comprehensive sexuality education?

“Pleasure-driven programmes were found to deliver the most information about relationships and about sexual violence (…) it is consistent with the literature suggesting that conversations about pleasure are critical (…) and may serve to prevent sexual violence by helping people own their experiences and understand what they do and do not want.”

Excerpts from: School context and content in Canadian sex education. Dana Levin, Amy Hammock, 2020.