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On the need for comprehensive sexual education post-Roe: ‘We need spaces where we're developing those skills’

Shaashawn Dial stands in front of a governmental building holding Planned Parenthood signs.jpg
Rebecca Smith

Shaashawn Dial is the Director of Education and Community Relations with Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which is the local affiliate serving Mid-Missouri.

She spoke about the need for quality, comprehensive sexual education especially now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and Missouri’s trigger law, which bans nearly all abortions has gone into effect.

Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words.

Shaashawn Dial: That was so common right of sex ed[ucation] – it was often taught by folks that this was not their primary skill set. Whether that was a health instructor or teacher or the science teacher, who was told,” You're gonna go ahead and do this subject.”

And so that's something that's changing, right? There's a lot of people who are getting very comprehensive, intensive, reflective, introspective training in order to be a sex educator.

The best sex educators are always on a sex education journey themselves.

And so, yes, we are excited about launching and implementing what we call “Exemplary Sex Ed,” and that was created by a cohort of Planned Parenthood affiliates.

But it is kind of those seven elements.

So, it's comprehensive, meaning we're talking the lifespan, right? And we're talking about healthy relationships. It is medically accurate. We want to use the terms of the body, as we should.

And that can be the next part, which is age and developmentally appropriate. It's kind of like we think, “Okay, we'll just kind of wait till Middle School,” but children are being exposed to things before that, and they're going through developmental stages, right?

"We need to make sure that we are creating skills for youth and adults because – Youth. We want them to have different sex ed than what you and I had, and for those adults who had crappy, we want them to be able to unlearn, relearn."
Shaashawn Dial

Where they are exploring their own bodies. It's nothing sexual about it. It's just the stage of development. They realize that they have these body parts that do different things.

And so, we can give age appropriate, developmentally appropriate messaging at those ages.

We have to make sure that this is culturally responsive. There isn't one culture fits all. We've all gotten messages from our unique ethnicities, nationalities about that.

Because racism is real. Sexism is real. Ableism is real. And that impacts us.

It is not sitting over here in some island by itself where it's objective and neutral. No. Sex ed needs to talk about consent because we live in a non-consenting culture.

Sex ed needs to talk about your body and your body's abilities because every body is different. There is no universal body.

It's got to be trauma informed. So, we've got to be talking about sexual violence and interpersonal violence and boundary setting.

And we need spaces where we're developing those skills because that's what I think of sex ed as – it's skill building, and we don't know what we don't know until we get exposed to it.

And then it's got to be sex positive, right? We need to stigma bust and shame bust and laugh and embrace awkwardness as we try to put a condom, you know, or to dildo or something.

We need to make sure that we are creating skills for youth and adults because – Youth. We want them to have different sex ed than what you and I had, and for those adults who had crappy, we want them to be able to unlearn, relearn.

Because just because they might be sexually active, doesn't mean that they're being safe and healthy, and we want folks to be safe and healthy and make their own decisions. That is a piece of reproductive autonomy.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.