Sexual Health Education and Pleasure Project (SHEPP)

By Singh, Carrie | Our Schools, Our Selves, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Sexual Health Education and Pleasure Project (SHEPP)


Singh, Carrie, Our Schools, Our Selves


Moving towards a more inclusive sexual education for youth

Working in a sex shop and education centre in Toronto I sometimes feel like a fly Canada's sexual wall. I get to see how savvy people are (or aren't) when it comes to sexuaUty, the old myths and misconceptions that just won't go away, but more importantly - what people want to know.

As I walk curious customers through a sometimes unfamiliar world, the "oohs" and "ahs" and "oh now that makes sense" reveals a lot about the level of the sex education Canadians enter into adulthood with. Of course everyone comes armed with a different level of knowledge, but what seems clear to me is that if you want to be educated about healthy sexuaUty, it must come through your own personal journey of exploration and educating oneself through a variety of conventional and not-so-conventional resources. For some this may make perfect sense - after aU, sex is a highly personal subject that should be kept in the bedroom. Or should it?

Like many of my customers, my "real" sex education was not learned in school. Before I got this job, no one told me that lube could make my sexual endeavours safer and more pleasurable. Intercourse appeared to be the only sexual activity between partners that mattered or constituted "real sex". And I was always told to use condoms, but I wasn't told how to negotiate condom use or how to account for the reaUties of my social location. The sex ed. I learned in school gave me the very basic of knowledge, and being from a South Asian-Carribbean family, the topic of sex was almost nonexistent. So what if I never took this job and learned the things I did? Would my sexual relationships look any different? And would I be able to make the empowered decisions that I do today? Would I have the knowledge to protect myself the way I am able to now? I feel extremely privileged, for I have access to knowledge that protects my health and allows me to enjoy a fulfilling sexual life.

Despite the changing demographic face of Canada and emerging trends, few educational programs have changed to address the needs of youth of colour or employ culturaUy competent methods. Young women of colour are experiencing increasing rates of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections while schools continue keep sex education to a conservative minimum. As a student in the 1990's, I don't remember receiving much more than an anatomy lesson in gym class and a being told to always use a condom. Speaking from my own cultural reaUty, it is assuming a lot to inform young girls and women to simply get their male partner to wear a condom. Traditional methods of sex education assume a generaUty of experiences based on a white, heteronormative standard. This disregards many reaUties for youth, including the cultural and reUgious values and norms that impact sexual behaviour and self-image, as weU as social location.

Canadians of aU backgrounds are informed by Western, patriarchal notions about sexuaUty.

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