Opinion: Why it’s important to teach sex ed through a pleasure perspective

Pleasure is glaringly absent from sex education curricula around the country. Educators should encourage healthy dialogues around sexual pleasure, not teach abstinence and stunt children’s sexual development.



In addition to basic sex ed, Rhode Island state Sen. Tiara Mack is advocating for a new form of sexual education, calling for programs focused around pleasure that are inclusive of nonbinary students. (Staff Illustration by Camila Ceballos)

Aarna Dixit, Staff Writer

Sex education is crucial to building healthy relationships and social interactions, but our society often fails to provide comprehensive sex education. Nineteen states in the United States educate using abstinence-only curricula, and as such practically ignore sex. It is time for society to realize that consensual, healthy sex is an important, relevant aspect of human interactions and that there’s nothing taboo about it. 

Sex education must start at a young age so that youth can be informed about boundaries and healthy sexual relationships. Teaching abstinence and limiting conversations about sex doesn’t change the fact that most young adults engage in sexual activities. Rather than treating sex as a forbidden act, we should be educating children so that they have the tools they need to form healthy sexual relationships.

A purely abstinence-based sex ed curriculum is simply not productive. Abstinence can be a valid option for many people, but not everyone. It shouldn’t be portrayed as the only option. When sex ed is taught from an abstinence perspective, there are no conversations about consent, boundaries or protection, which leaves young people uninformed and unable to have safe sex. Most of us will probably engage in sexual activity at some point in our lives, so it’s strange that our society stigmatizes around sex and refuses to talk positively about sex.

There are steps being taken to include pleasure in sex educatiom curricula. On Feb. 8, Rhode Island State Senator Tiara Mack announced that she plans to introduce legislation to amend state sex education laws to include discussions of gender and sexual orientation alongside “affirmatively recogniz[ing] pleasure-based sexual relations.”

Sexual pleasure is rarely ever discussed. When sex is talked about positively, it is as a means of reproduction. In recent years, younger generations have become more sex positive, but the overall societal stigma still prevails. We rarely learn about sexual pleasure and how sex should make us feel good. Pleasure is inherently a good thing, so it’s strange that our society sees sexual pleasure as something sinful or forbidden. It’s important to start conversations about sexual pleasure so that sex is seen as something to be enjoyed — not as an obligation or something you can be forced into. The more conversations we have about sexual pleasure, the more emphasis will fall on important topics like consent and boundaries.

Sex education is the cornerstone of social relationships as it should teach us about consent and boundaries. It is crucial to have comprehensive sex education, including discussions about pleasure. It is time for our society to see sex as an act of good and pleasure, rather than as a forbidden obligation. If sexual pleasure is learned about in classes, young people will grow up viewing sex in a healthy manner and as something that’s supposed to make them feel good. Learning about pleasure and being sex positive is important for us to be a sexually empowered society, therby enabling people to make the right decisions for their bodies and themselves.

Contact Aarna Dixit at [email protected].