I don’t have too many good memories from my high school sexuality education classes. But, one amazing memory I have is of getting the Sex, Etc. newsletter.
Back in 2005, Sex, Etc. wasn’t a magazine but a black-and-white newsletter with just a pop of color in certain places. I remember our health teacher passing them out to the class and me picking it up with some hesitation. I thought to myself, Ugh, are they going to show us some gross pictures of STDs and tell us to not get pregnant?
When I started to actually read the articles, I was pleasantly surprised to find great writing, accurate information and fun content—all written by people about my age. Everything else we had read in sex ed had been written by adults, was probably produced in the 1980s and had an admonishing tone. But in Sex, Etc. there were first-person accounts of sexual health topics written by teenagers just like me—and produced in this millennium. The stories normalized what I was thinking, feeling and going through. I was ecstatic that a newsletter like this existed and that I wasn’t alone.
Coming Full Circle
Once I got to college, I was actively involved in advocating for comprehensive sexuality education and sexual health. College was so far removed from high school that I never made the connection between Sex, Etc. and what I was learning about sexuality. However, when I took the class Women and Health, that was sexuality education, and for a lot of the students in the class, it was the first time they were learning about sexuality and sexual health. When I took Introduction to LGBTQ Studies, we talked and learned about sexual orientation, homophobia, being transgender, transphobia and a myriad of other LGBTQ topics. This was sexuality education. And, yet, I still hadn’t made the connection that this was the work Sex, Etc. and Answer were doing.
It’s not surprising then that the thought of working in sexuality education didn’t occur to me. It wasn’t until the spring semester of my senior year that I realized I would most likely be graduating without a job—an insanely scary prospect. When I considered that all of my internships had been with organizations that promoted comprehensive sexuality education, I started to think that maybe I was meant to make a career in this field.
Soon after graduation, I applied to work at Answer. Four years later, I still think applying to work here is one of the best choices I’ve ever made. It feels as if everything has come full circle. I went from a student who read Sex, Etc. in high school, to now training the teen editorial staff on sexuality and sexual health, answering teens’ questions on the Sexetc.org forums and working with the teen editorial staff on their stories for the magazine, the website and the blog.
Twenty Years of Sex, Etc.
This year is the 20th anniversary of Sex, Etc. magazine and the 15th anniversary of Sexetc.org.
Over the years, the magazine and website have not only provided information on how to use a condom or what happens during puberty—though of course this information is important—but they have also provided what teens need to know about caring for their bodies, communicating with partners and establishing healthy relationships. Each FAQ that is read means that a teenage girl has the chance to learn about menstruation and that her body is normal and can do amazing things. It means a teen guy gets to learn about healthy relationships and to see himself as a fully realized emotional being who doesn’t have to have sex, even if his friends are pressuring him to. Every young person who learns that douching won’t prevent pregnancy or that being transgender is normal or that they don’t have to have sex to please a partner isn’t just given facts. They’re given vital information to help them navigate the complicated teenage years. And they get the important, but often-forgotten, message that they are not alone, that there are other teens out in the world going through the same things and that if they need help, Sex, Etc. can point them in the right direction.
Countless teens before me received honest, accurate information about sexuality through the magazine and website. And now I get to come to work every day and do my best—along with the rest of the Answer staff!—to make sure countless other teens are given the same opportunity in the years to come.
—Kaitlyn Wojtowicz, M.A., Coordinator of Education and Communications