Pop Culture Representation of Sexual Education

More and more studies are coming out that show the importance of comprehensive sexual education. Earlier this year, our governing body (the Illinois Coalition against Sexual Assault) encouraged agencies to participate in Sex Education National Week of Action. The coalition views comprehensive sexual education as a form of sexual assault prevention education (for more information, please contact Sean Black). This may be as a result of more and more youth demanding that they receive adequate comprehensive sexual education and more and more people are lamenting the fact that they did not receive proper sexual education. 

On top of that, society is receiving more and more information about comprehensive sexual education via TV shows and movies. Not only that, but these pop culture moments are providing the evidence that comprehensive sexual education is important. Popular TV shows like Euphoria, Sex Education, and Big Mouth are diving into this previously taboo topic. And I, for one, would have loved to see this when I was in high school.

As stated by Anna Silman, “Teenage sexuality has hardly been absent from TV, but its depiction has tended to veer between one of two poles — either idealized, melodramatic romance that doesn’t come close to capturing the sloppy awkwardness of real life, or quasi After-School Specials replete with sexual assault, diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and all of intercourse’s worst consequences.”

If these are the two options that you have, you are gonna be left confused and disoriented. Left with questions like: What is the right way to go? Is there a middle ground? Or do I have to choose one way and just stick with that? This leads to a culture where words like prude, promiscuous, dirty, clean are thrown around and often directed at female and non-binary identity students. I would have loved to see myself referenced in the material that I was learning. Representation matters! Seeing yourself matters! Sexual education has long been focused around white, European, upper class values that have long commodified the bodies of People of Color. 

Comprehensive sexual education sets out to alleviate this divide. It does not advocate for the youth to be having sex whenever or however, but just like any other subject it gives students the tools and techniques they need when they are “out in the real world.” They might not experience sex in high school, but I also never used many of my calculus skills until I got out of high school and those were still taught to me during my time.


View this AWESOME explainer video:


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Written by Cassidy Herberth, Prevention and Education Specialist.

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.


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