Welcome to Analyze This, where I put all of the big things I learned through this research into a few sentences and paragraphs. Did you know sex education sucks and the Internet rules, despite the drawbacks? Now you do. So where do we go from here?
As stated, queering sex education is no longer simply an “option.” Think back on some of the discoveries made throughout this research project: that eleven percent of young women have had same-sex experiences, that queer people and people with queer experiences feel isolated by sex education curriculums, that young people are disengaged from sex education that they find irrelevant, and that the Internet is the singular relied-upon source, throughout various forms of research, that queer youth point to in their own lives for information on their sexual well-being.
Queerness has been up for debate for far too long in the worlds of policy and academia. It is now thoroughly agreed upon that queer people aren’t going anywhere, and that there’s nothing to be done to ‘fix us.’ And yet we remain invisible inside of our classrooms, confused about our place in our individual worlds, and clueless about how our sex lives should look. The silence is deafening throughout sex education programs, and the ramifications are real: queer people will stand without models of healthy relationships, without information about safe sex and responsible sexual behavior, and without examples of successful queer lives until someone stands up.
So let us stand.
Queering sex education involves simple steps, and many can be observed online. The Internet is an important vehicle for young queer women when they want to learn about their sexuality and sexual health. The information provided by websites like Autostraddle, Scarleteen, and SugarButch are extremely popular – and it isn’t because of the girl galleries, the hilarious writers, or the free erotica. It’s simply being acknowledged, feeling real, and not feeling ashamed. The first step to queering sex education is acknowledging and affirming that queer sexual relationships are valid, healthy, and real. By giving young queer women information relevant to their sexual lives, we re-engage them in sex education and give them a clinically-approved approach.
Second, a queer sex education space is a space free from judgment, gender idealization, and secular beliefs that interfere with the psychological well-being of queer people. Students know they are being silenced, and it leads often to self-harm, low self-esteem, and even suicide. No longer. Teachers must make sure they are providing accommodating and welcoming spaces for their students.
Third, as a vehicle for information, the Internet and social media specifically have provided young people, and especially young queer women, with a unique learning environment related to sex in which questions are welcomed, answered genuinely and kindly, and lead to greater dialogue and learning for all members of an online community. By making classrooms more participatory, safe, and interactive for queer students, all students will benefit.
For queer people, what I’ve laid out above will not sound revolutionary, but it will sound wonderful. Learning about sex online was perhaps less awkward than a classroom, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Asking questions to people online can be gratifying, but where were my charts, my diagrams, my stories? Where was lesbian sex on television? Why couldn’t I read about it in magazines? And why did none of my teachers let me know it was real? I have experienced the very real institutional silence mandated on queer sexual relationships, and it affected my own coming out process by rendering my feelings about women invisible even to my own self. Students learn more than the facts in classrooms – they learn social scripts. And the longer we deny young people the knowledge that experimentation and all sexual preferences and desires are healthy, normal, and possible, the longer we deny them whole lives.