Sex Ed Everywhere: Because We Learn More Than What They Teach

On Valentine’s day, May and I went to the movies. May asked a question, we had a conversation. I had a realization, which May turned into an idea. We went to brunch, and we told our idea to some friends. They gave their opinions. We went home, wrote up a proposal, and submitted it to the International Women’s Health Coalition Young Visionaries competition. If we win, we will have $1000 USD of grant money to fund the idea that came from a question and a realization.

The question May asked was: Why can’t somebody do for sex education what the “truth” information campaign did for education about smoking and big tobacco?

The realization I had was: Most of what I learned about sex, I did not learn in a classroom. I learned from my sister in her room, from my friends on the school bus. I learned from men who were good to me or bad to me. I learned from stories online, and from conversations online, and from sex online.

And not all of what I learned was quite accurate. It took me a long time to figure out that “sex” didn’t to refer to any meeting of male and female genitalia. I had this idea that nudist colonies must involve quite a bit of accidental sex when coming around corners.

It took me a long time to learn about the penetration part of intercourse. I can’t actually recall anybody sitting me down and telling me I was wrong – and if anybody did, I’m sure it was my older sister, not my health class teacher.

While having a shaky grasp of the mechanics of sex is unfortunate, it’s pretty benign. But a lot of young people “learn” more dangerous inaccuracies about sex. Like that you can’t get pregnant your first time (or if you stand up or do jumping jacks afterwards), or that barrier methods are more effective if you double up on them, or that if someone takes advantage of you while you’re too intoxicated to do anything about it it’s your fault for being so intoxicated, or that it’s not ok to say no to sex with someone you’re dating.

Many of us learn the truth about these misconceptions eventually, but have few opportunities to pass what we’ve learned on to other people still suffering from confusion, ignorance, or fear. So many more of us never learn, or learn one of a thousand different Hard Ways.

The proposal we submitted was: An online sexual and reproductive health information campaign, based around an educational video competition and an opportunity for people, and especially young people, to share what they know about sex.

Here is an excerpt from that proposal:

With the $1000 grant from the IWHC Young Visionaries contest we will fund a sexual health education and empowerment video campaign that highlights the reality that we learn about sex from disparate sources in many locations. The heart of this campaign, which we call SexEdEverywhere (“SEE”), will begin with a competition calling for submissions of 30 to 90 second videos that will be reviewed and featured on a network of 5 (or more) microsites over time. The campaign will be based at, a website that will actively engage the people to whom it will speak: women and youth across the globe.

Each microsite will portray a scene in which real-life sexuality education happens, such as a doctor’s office, the back of a school bus, a mobile phone conversation, and many more recognizable places. We would subdivide the $1,000 grant into funding and prize money for the best 5 videos as based on creativity and educational impact, among other criteria. The winning videos would receive $100 and be posted on one of the first 5 microsites along with other vetted entries. There will also be a second phase, in which all entries are tracked over a set period of time. The video with the most views during that period will receive a $150 award for “going viral.”

I believe in frank and open discussion of sexual pleasure and sexual and reproductive health. I believe we should share information and talk to each other. We all have a lot to learn about our, and other people’s, bodies and as we navigate and explore there are a lot of decisions to be made. We need to be empowered, and to empower each other and our youth, to make these decisions wisely and based on sound information. We need to learn what is right, and good, and fun for ourselves and for others. I believe that Sex Ed Everywhere is an opportunity to share our information and spread truths, and I will do whatever it takes to help this project succeed.

And you can help. Please, vote for SexEdEverywhere, and spread the word to all of your supportive friends an acquaintances – help take control of sex education, and make something vital into something vibrant.

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