How to Answer Students’ Sex Ed Questions

Last week, I was part of a workshop about sex ed, facilitated by adolescent sexuality expert Dr. Nadine Thornhill and hosted by Toronto-based consent organization Bad Subject. I took several pages of notes on how to talk with young people about sex, consent and relationships, which is awesome.

One thing that I wanted to share was when Nadine described how and when kids learn. She said that generally speaking, when youth are presented with information they can’t handle, they don’t hold onto it. She gave the example of responding to her young son’s inquiry about tampons with a detailed answer about menstruation and pro-feminist body positivity, only to find that all he really retained was that it was ‘for when you are bleeding from your vagina.’

The point that Nadine made was that—aside from it being a funny story—providing information is far less harmful than preventing access to it, particularly when responding to a young person’s questions. I guess it’s not rocket science, but it was certainly impactful to hear that from an experienced and highly educated expert on child and adolescent sexuality.

If you’re in Ontario, you should check out Nadine’s #SaveSexEd video series about the Ontario health curriculum. If you’re outside Ontario, check out her YouTube channel for more.

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Written by Next Gen Men Program Manager Jonathon Reed as part of Learnings & Unlearnings, a weekly newsletter reflecting on our experiences working with boys and young men. Subscribe to get Learnings & Unlearnings delivered to your email inbox.