Sex Ed

Gillian Jerome teaches Sex Ed in Vancouver public high schools, most recently to students in grades 10, 11 and 12 at Templeton Secondary School. She has completed the Sexual Attitude Reassessment (SAR) course at Options Sexual Health, an entry point to their Sexual Health Educator Certification. The research that Gillian draws upon in her work with teenagers comes in part from a course she has taught since 2014 at UBC called “Love in the Time of the Internet: How Are Digital Technologies and Their Applications Changing the Ways We Think, Behave and Make Relationships?” where she and her students read and discuss scholarly and argumentative prose on texting, sexting, hook-up culture,  Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc., and Sexually Explicit Internet Material (SEIM) otherwise known as Internet Porn, and its effects on empathy, attention, political action and other dimensions of human connections.  

She has designed eight Sexual Health workshops to help B.C. teens make safe, informed choices. Each lesson lasts the duration of one public school block (1 hour and 20 minutes) and can be amended for each grade level. Unless otherwise specified, all material is designed for students of any gender or sexual identification and can be amended for cultural and/or religious backgrounds of a particular group. 
 
In each of these workshops, Gillian spends about twenty five percent of the time presenting relevant data on the latest findings in neuroscience, sexual and medical health, and/or social scientific research; for the remaining time, she teaches experientially by asking the students to problem solve real-life scenarios connected to their everyday experience, engage in discussion, and play age-appropriate games designed to be both educational and fun. 
 
Before visiting a classroom for a Sex Ed workshop, Gillian gives the classroom teacher a series of freewriting prompts intended to give students a chance to ask any question imaginable about sex and sexual health.  The student writing is gathered anonymously into a box called The Secret Sex Oracle and used to tailor each lecture to the needs of that particular classroom of students. 

Workshops

1. Riot Girrrrls Sex Talk: Five Principles for Sexual Empowerment for Female-Identified Teens

This workshop was designed with female-identified teens in mind. Using material from philosopher Kate Mann, sexual health educator Dr. Emily Nagasaki and the feminist theorist and writer Audre Lorde, Gillian teaches a mix of concepts, principles and data intended to help young women better understand themselves, their bodies, their needs and desires, as well as the cultural scripts and social expectations that get in the way. Through a series of guided writing prompts and problem solving exercises, the young women in the group will be encouraged to understand themselves better and connect more deeply with their own power as wholly complicated, interesting, creative, dynamic people with a right to their own feelings, thoughts, needs and desires. They will also be guided toward finding scripts and moves intended to help them express themselves more authentically and powerfully in intimate scenarios.

2. Sex and Self Concept: How a Healthy Sex Concept Lays the Foundation for Healthy Sexual Health and Sexual Expression

The data suggests that teens who are more grounded and self aware, and who posses a relatively healthy self concept, are more likely to make healthier, more empowering choices while exploring their sexual selves. This is a fun, interactive workshop designed to help teenagers get to know themselves and understand the enormous benefits of doing so.

3. A Short Talk on How the Teenage Brain is Wired for Dopamine/Reward and How Mindfulness Techniques Might Help Teens Make Better Choices

Using the groundbreaking research of professor of psychiatry Dr. Dan Siegel, Gillian will guide students in a brainstorming session about assumptions, stereotypes, myths, misconceptions and facts about teenagers and the teenage brain. All the work here is intended to help teens get to know their brains better at this developmental stage so that they have the knowledge and habits needed to make healthy choices.

4. Porn Literacy Series

A) Unpacking Porn: What is Porn, Really? A Look at Porn as an Industry and a Production 
B) How is Internet Porn Impacting the Health and Sexuality of Gen Z Teens? 

Research on Internet porn suggests that it can be a much healthier experience for teens if they are equipped with strong porn literacy education. What we know from the data is that Internet porn is really commonly consumed among North American teens, but the education around it is scarce which may cause problems given that adolescent consumption of Internet porn has been found to be associated with poor body image, negative genital self-image, lower sexual satisfaction, unrealistic expectations, more instrumental attitudes about sex (i.e. sex as exercise as opposed to intimate and emotional), more perceived realism and objectification of womens’ bodies, as well as addiction and relationship problems. On the other hand, porn can be instructive, stimulating and interesting for teens keen to explore their sexuality. In these workshops, we’ll unpack porn as a multi-billion dollar industry, investigate how its made, who is implicated, its benefits as well as the ways in which it misleads both adolescents and adults in its messaging and potentially detracts from good, healthy sex and sexual expression. 

5. What are the Signs of an Abusive Partner? A Short Talk on Important Red Flags

This workshop was designed to help young people understand and spot the warning signs of unhealthy romantic partner behaviour so that they might make more informed choices about who they develop romantic attachment with. We’ll also talk about safe exit strategies from people and situations that present red flags.

6. Sparkly Silver Manta Ray: The Glorious Clitoris—Science and Sensibility

The clitoris is arguably the most poorly understood sex organ. We often see the clitoris as the nub that sits like Little Red Riding Hood inside the vulva above the vaginal opening and urethra. Actually, the clitoris is the shape of a Manta Ray and it projects up into the pelvis and covers the entire pelvic floor. In this workshop, we’ll talk about the science and sensibility of the clitoris to help female-identified teens better understand the Glory Land.

7. Boundaries, Pleasure and Consent: How to Talk Skilfully About What you Want and Don’t Want

Consent is a hot and important topic that rightly preoccupies the cultural moment given how deeply it affects our personal and professional lives. In this workshop we’ll talk about what consent is, how to ask for it and give it, and when and where. Beyond that, we’ll talk about how to talk about boundaries and pleasure so that teens are equipped for better, healthier sexual expressions and interactions.

8. Calling, Dating and Hooking-Up: A Short Talk on the History of Dating in North America and What We Might Learn From the Age of Slow Love

Gillian will give teens a short, interactive lecture on the history of calling, dating and hooking up in North America so that they a better sense of dating choices and protocols, as well as historical context for what dating has been like and how it’s changing. We’ll talk about how technological and economic forces are shaping these shifts into what biological anthropologist Helen Fisher calls “slow love.”