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Taking peer education a step further: Scarleteen as a model of youth-driven sex education

Taking peer education a step further: Scarleteen as a model of youth-driven sex education

Peer-led programmes have become more widespread in recent years, and are recognised as an effective method of delivering sexuality education to adolescents and young adults. These educational programmes have for the most part been developed by health professionals and other community stakeholders, and young people are involved primarily in the delivery of a set curriculum. 

There is significant evidence to demonstrate that young people feel more comfortable receiving such education from other young people – peer or “near-peer” educators – and that these programmes are effective in spurring behavioural changes such as increased condom use, as well as changes in attitudes around gender and sexuality.
Scarleteen.com, founded in 1998, is a unique online sex education resource that expands this peer-education model even further. The site is made up of static content in the form of articles, blog entries and in-depth advice questions, as well as interactive message boards and an SMS service available to users in the United States. Young people play a critical role in every aspect of Scarleteen’s day-to-day operations. In a way that differentiates Scarleteen from other peer education programmes, young people’s involvement extends to everything from creating new content to participating in decision-making regarding any changes to the site.
This paper will explore Scarleteen’s take on peer education, advocate for its model of inclusive, youth-driven, sex-positive education, and demonstrate that elements of its educational philosophy can be adapted to a wide range of contexts both online, and in person.

Speakers: Karyn Fulcher
Conference: ASSERT 2012
Areas of Interest / Categories: ASSERT 2012, Child and Adolescent Health, Sex Education

ASSERT 2012

SafeLanding: a model for addressing the barriers to teaching sexuality and relationships education in schools.

Sexual and reproductive health (S&RH) is a significant health issue for young people with concerns including unplanned pregnancies, rising rates of STIs, increasing incidence of unwanted sex and the impact of social media. Schools, as successful sites for health promotion in S&RH, is affirmed by international research.  Evidence supports teachers being best placed to impact on the sexual health and wellbeing of young people when a comprehensive, whole-school approach is taken linking curriculum and learning within the school environment to the wider school community. Despite strong government direction and excellent curriculum materials many teachers in Victoria remain reluctant to teach in this area.

Sex (work) education.

Sex work plays a crucial educative capacity. Sex workers share tips and information on safer sex, sex and gender diversity, negotiation, boundaries and consent. We share these skills with other workers, clients, and the wider Australian community on a daily basis. In a range of capacities, sex work – including escorting, stripping, BDSM and pornography – involves interaction, transference of expertise, and sharing our voices. Sex work gives clients access to an important diversity of bodies, abilities, sexual practices, gender identities and intimacies.

Young Trans or Gender Diverse People; The needs of gender variant children and their parents

Gender variant individuals have often lived traumatic lives due to the attitudes and limited understanding of the people in their environment. Gender variant children have been institutionalised, subjected to aversion therapies and pressured to maintain secrecy and conform to society’s gendered expectations while dealing with bullying and harassment at school. Simultaneously their parents face societal bias and assumptions that allow their children to be marginalized. Understanding the needs of gender variant children and their parents is a necessary step towards the provision of suitable training and interventions for the support of gender variant children into adulthood.

Implications of Escalating Erectile Dysfunction in Youthful Men Resulting from Internet Pornography Use

Research indicates that the escalation of erectile dysfunction in youthful men can be attributed to excessive Internet pornography use. Usage through adolescence and early adulthood, when the brain is at its peak of neuroplasticity and Dopamine levels are at their highest, creates an environment of increased vulnerability to addiction. Excessive use rewires the brain and interferes with the circuits involved in natural satiation mechanisms, resulting in numbed pleasure responses. Some researchers claim that the Internet’s unending novelty gives pornography the potential to become more addictive than drugs, food and gambling.

Do we de-sex for the school? Polyparents negotiating their sexual relationships and their children's schooling.

Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative data from Australian and United States research, this paper explores polyamorous parenting in relation to schooling. In particular, this paper will focus on how polyparents negotiate the implications of heteronormative monogamy/coupledom as defined and upheld through the educational systems their children are attending. The research shows that polyparents are extremely reluctant to disclose their family structure to school officials, student welfare workers, teachers and other parents in school communities. There appear to be two major barriers to disclosure: a) the fear of legal/student welfare interventions, and b) social stigmatization and harassment of themselves and their children. 

Breaking the silence around sexual difficulties: Raising up women's voices through qualitative research.

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) is a qualitative research methodology which is concerned with understanding personal lived experience. According to Reid, Flowers and Larkin (2005), this methodology is particularly well suited to the field of sexual health and sexuality as it moves beyond disease and deficit focused approaches and complements the traditional biomedical discourse. For sexual health practitioners, the applied focus of this research methodology also lends itself to the development of sexual health resources and potential interventions.

'Stepping out into the sunshine'; A model of the impact of quality sexology education on undergraduate students.

This study responds to significant issues related to the problematic nature of perceptions of sexuality in Australian society. It also explores the extent to which the students’ view of sexuality can be influenced through a sexuality education program delivered at tertiary level. An investigation of the literature, comprehensive interviews and feedback from students identified the factors which form the perceptions of sexuality that students have by the time they reach young adulthood and enter the sexology class. The study supports the considerable body of anecdotal evidence that has been gathered over thirty years in the award winning Department of Sexology at Curtin University.