The History of Sex Ed: From Awkward and Exclusionary, to Affirmative and Empowering
SIECUS’s History of Sex Education narrates the trajectory of sex ed over the last several decades, revealing how mainstream curricula responded to specific economic and political objectives.
SIECUS Outlines the History of Sex Education
As tweens and teens, most of us had little awareness of the ideologies and imperatives shaping what we learned in the sex ed classroom. Even as adults we may not fully grasp how the social and political agendas of the day permeate sex education. Recently, the nonprofit organization, SIECUS: Sex Ed For Social Change, issued a report detailing the evolution of sex ed curricula in the United States. Launched in March in honor of Women’s History Month, the report surveys the history of sex education from the early 20th century to the present.
Founded by Dr. Mary S. Calderone in 1964, SIECUS has worked to transform sex education into a critical tool for social justice. Their mission acknowledges “sex ed sits as the nexus of many social justice movements—from LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive justice to the #MeToo movement and the urgent conversations around consent and healthy relationships.”
Their newest resource, History of Sex Education, provides an accessible overview of the field’s evolution, as well as its future directions. As the report narrates the trajectory of sex ed over the last several decades, it reveals how mainstream curricula responded to specific economic and political objectives. For much of the early 20th century, sex education served to maintain social order and reinforce the interlocking systems of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy. For example, the earliest sex educators used moralistic and “social hygiene” teachings to combat what they saw as the “social ills” that threatened public health, reproduction and traditional marriage.
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