For the past two years, I’ve been filming a documentary that explores how to build a healthy sexual culture. So since the Orlando massacre, I can’t stop thinking about sexual shame. That’s because (ready for a shocker?) research shows that anti-gay zealots are often deeply sexually repressed.
Study after study after study show that those who say they hate homosexuals are likely to be repressing the urge to enjoy the many flavors of the rainbow (see: Ted Haggart, Larry Craig, many, many, many others). There’s no evidence Omar Mateen was gay. Instead, he seems to have been radicalized by antigay, extremist dogma. So this begs the question: to what degree does the sexual ignorance we allow in the US—and the shame it breeds—lead to oppression and violence?
Last year, the United Nations released a 48-country global analysis on sex education and confirmed a simple yet radical conclusion: in order to enjoy a life of freedom and safety, every child, woman, and man needs access to comprehensive sex education. It confirmed that access to good sex ed isn’t just nice to have—it’s a fundamental right that’s essential to protecting health and equal opportunity.
That’s why I keep repeating: would things have been different if Omar Mateen had received comprehensive sex education?
What is comprehensive sex education?
The United Nations defines three guiding principles for comprehensive sex education:
1. It’s medically accurate
In the US, only 20 states require sex education to be accurate. So in the other 30, you get schools teaching students that condoms don’t work.
2. It’s skill based
Sexual consent is a skill to be learned. But first, it must be taught. Comprehensive sex ed can help by encouraging critical thinking, communication, negotiation, decision-making, and assertiveness. Students should learn about how to articulate their right to withhold consent.
3. It’s positive about sex and pleasure
That means sex educators shouldn’t lecture students that you’re a “good girl” if you abstain from sex. Or that homosexuality is not acceptable. It does mean that sex educators should nurture shame-free, nonjudgemental, and positive attitudes about sex and pleasure, REGARDLESS of gender, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.
U.S. leaders don’t consent to good sex education
Despite ample evidence that comprehensive sex education prevents unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (turns out condoms do work!)—as well as empowers women to stop unwanted sex and take control of their bodies—leaders ranging from legislators to school officials actively reject efforts to provide access to comprehensive sex ed. (Only California mandates comprehensive sex education.)
I understand the pushback. Sex comes with risk, and people think they’re protecting kids from harm.
But what we’re doing isn’t working.
What if Omar Mateen had learned that two men kissing was a perfectly healthy expression of sexual pleasure? Let me put it more personally: what if my school had taught me that same-sex attraction was natural? (And boy, does it feel natural!) Would I still have lived a decade of shame-fueled depression and anxiety? How would all of our lives have been different if we received this education? How much abuse, suicide, and suffering could have been prevented?
I’m fed up with these questions, which is why I’m seeking answers in my documentary—A Sexplanation. I want to give audiences a taste of how well-designed comprehensive sex education could not only significantly reduce sexual risks, but also help us all have the pleasure-positive sex lives we deserve.
Check it out…
If you want to see a shame-free, pleasure-positive exploration of sex education, consider contributing a tax-deductible donation to A Sexplanation’s Kickstarter and help bring our film to audiences everywhere.