When I was in high school (2011-2015), public school sex education curriculum taught us about puberty, the male and female reproductive systems, various methods of birth control, and most memorably, the dangers of teenage pregnancy and STI’s. We were taught that the best and only way to have safe sex with zero risk of pregnancy or STI’s was to remain abstinent. It was in this classroom, as I flipped through my outdated sex-ed text book and watched VHS tapes from the 90’s about STI afflicted teens, that all of my anxieties around sex and sexual health were solidified.
As I have gotten older and learned more about sexual wellness, the human body, the patriarchy, and sexual stigma, I feel so bad for my younger self and peers who were given limited information and shamed into silence about our bodies and sexualities. I often wonder what it was like for older generations who had to deal with even greater shame and stigma, and I hope for a more honest, inclusive, and open sexual education curriculum for future generations. For my digital project, I would like to explore the history of sex education in the United States, particularly in public schools, to better understand how the majority of Americans have been raised to understand themselves, their sexuality, and gender, specifically focusing on women. Simultaneously, I would like to research women’s liberation and the sexual revolution up to the present day, to see how these social movements were reflected in sex education curriculum. I plan to focus this research on the 20th century and into the 21st century up to the present day, highlighting instances when women took ownership over their bodies and sexuality.
In order to complete this digital project, I would like to create an interactive timeline. There are many templates online to do this, including TimelineJS by knight lab, and Free Timeline Maker by Visme. I would like to create parallel narratives, one focusing on social issues in the U.S. regarding women, sexuality, and gender, and a corresponding narrative showing how these societal changes were being reflected in sex-ed classrooms. It would be interesting to have each narrative on separate sides of the timeline, or even color coded along one single timeline. Either way, I want this to be an interactive project, where people can click around, look at many compelling images, and be provided with more resources and information to educate themselves on these topics.