Thea Eigo is the exact kind of teen who could have benefited from comprehensive, evidence-based sex education at her Phoenix high school. In the months leading up to the class, the 16-year-old was questioning her sexuality. She was curious about hooking up with both girls and boys. And she was desperate for information. But when she finally found herself sitting in a sex ed classroom, the teacher not only failed to accurately educate her about her sexual health—she made her feel ashamed for being interested in sex at all.
“The teacher used scare tactics and showed us the worst possible case scenarios for STIs, and then didn’t tell us how to prevent any of them. The young people in my class felt like we didn’t get the education we deserved,” said Eigo, who now identifies as bisexual. Worse, “it wasn’t LGBT inclusive whatsoever. One person asked, ‘If two girls are having sex, how do they protect themselves?’ And [the teacher] said, ‘Oh, I can’t answer that,’ and moved on.”
Unfortunately, Eigo’s experience is common in this country. Twenty years after public schools first started receiving federal funding for abstinence-only instruction, sex ed tends to be a hit or miss experience. In the right state, in right school, with the right teacher, it can be transformative, providing young people with the tools they need to make healthy decisions about sex and relationships. But in many cases, the experience falls short. Too often, sex ed curricula are fear-based, they fail to provide contraception instruction, and they’re largely heteronormative—not to mention void of any mention of sexual pleasure.
Against this backdrop, a growing number of online sex ed resources have popped up, providing frank, accurate information and going places most school-based sex ed classes wouldn’t touch with a ten-inch dildo. The latest and perhaps most inventive yet is AMAZE, an online library of short, funny sex education videos geared toward teaching middle schoolers about puberty, gender identity, sexual orientation, and healthy relationships. Launched last month, AMAZE is produced in partnership with the advocacy and educational groups Youth + Tech + Health, Advocates for Youth, and Answer. The site strives to be engaging, non-judgmental, and supportive of young people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.