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Position on Sexuality Education

In 1976, the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) acknowledged sexual health as a core component of well-being. The statement reflected the importance of individuals’ ability to understand, accept, and appreciate their own sexuality. It also addressed the need to respect others’ sexual identities and choices. AASECT members who are professionals in sexuality education, counseling, and therapy help individuals and partners find meaning and purpose in their sexuality and optimize their sexual self-esteem and pleasure.

In 2019, AASECT recognizes that high quality, comprehensive sex education optimizes lifespan sexual well-being and minimizes negative consequences. Sexuality education helps children, teens, and adults learn that sexuality can be life-affirming and pleasurable when people understand and accept their own and others’ sexual identity and orientation and when sexual interactions with others are consensual, developmentally appropriate, equitable, and respectful. AASECT also recognizes that coercion, intolerance, negative media imagery, and violence are damaging to sexual health.

AASECT affirms that limiting access to comprehensive sexuality education equates to violence against individuals across the lifespan. The alternative to comprehensive sexuality education, i.e., abstinence-only programming, leads to myriad negative consequences including increased rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (Santilli et al., 2017). These programs are shame-based and harmful to sexual minorities. Also problematic is the dearth of comprehensive sexuality education developed for populations such as older adults, the disabled, individuals with special education needs, and those who would benefit from culturally specific curricula.

AASECT acknowledges the problems inherent in sexual health education identified by the Sexuality Information and Education Counsel of the United States (SIECUS, 2014) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO, 2018). Likewise, AASECT agrees with the aforementioned organizations’ calls for expert-led sexuality education that is culturally competent and comprehensive and which takes a holistic approach to addressing public health concerns (Douglas & Fenton, 2013).  AASECT seeks to help shift the national culture away from sex negativity and Puritanism and toward pleasure-inclusive and rights-based sexuality. Toward that end, AASECT endorses evidence-informed sexuality education that incorporates the perspectives of anti-oppression, equity, inclusivity, and polyculturalism.

AASECT trains and certifies sexuality educators who enhance the efficacy of their work through affirming the following standards: 

  • information must be scientifically accurate and appropriate for the ages, abilities, cultures, and life-experiences of the learners with whom they meet; their work focuses on facts, skills, and attitudes that respect and celebrate the human sexual experience across the lifespan by exploring topics such as anatomy and physiology, biology, boundaries and consent, contraception (and contraceptive technology), decision making, fertility, gender (expectation, expression, identity, and role) pleasure, relationship skills, reproduction, risk assessment and reduction, sexual health (including prevention and management of sexually transmissible infections), and sexual orientation; 

  • delivery must follow a scope and sequence that is ability-aware, age-appropriate, culturally-sensitive, evidence-based, socially-just, and trauma-informed;   

  • educators’ goals and learning objectives must align with the National Sexuality Education Standards, which include accessing information, advocating for self and others, analyzing influences, communicating, making decisions, and setting goals;

  • educators must be ever-growing in their knowledge of anti-oppressive, anti-racist, consent-affirming, culturally-sensitive, intersectional, pleasure-inclusive, and trauma-informed approaches above and beyond their training. In addition, their methodologies must be intentional and suitable to both their intended learners and identified outcomes.

AASECT’s certified sexuality educators have the training and experience to serve not only their intended learners, but also to guide and collaborate with the sexuality counselors, sex therapists, healthcare providers, public health officials, clergy, policy makers, school board, and countless others who rely on them in their day-to-day work. 

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References

Douglas, J.M., Jr., & Fenton, K.A. (2013). Understanding sexual health and its role in more effective prevention programs. Public Health Reports, 128(1), 1-4. doi: 10.1177/00333549131282S101

Santelli, J.S., Kantor, L.M., Grilo, S.A., Speizer, I.S., Lindberg, L.D., Heitel, J., . . . Ott, M.A. (2017). Abstinence-only-until-marriage: An updated review of U.S. Policies and programs and their impact. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(3), 273-280. Doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.05.031

Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). (2014). Ensuring equitable access to high-quality sexual health care services. seicus.org. Retrieved from SIECUS here.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). (2018). International technical guidance on sexuality education: An evidence-informed approach. UNESCO. Retrieved from the UNESDOC Digital Library here