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When sexual education fails the LGBTQ+ community, what do we do?

Bellingham’s WinkWink offers comprehensive classes for everyone

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Jenn Mason, the owner of WinkWink, stands outside the shop located in Bellingham, Wash. WinkWink offers comprehensive classes, private coaching and an array of sex toys for anyone. // Photo courtesy of WinkWink

Our innate instincts are what have kept the human race alive for all this time. We have the instincts to run from danger, to fight for survival and to have sex. But, what if the very thing that keeps the human race alive can also put us in danger? 

Only nine states require discussion of LGBTQ+ relationships in their sexual education courses and seven states ban sex educators from dicussing these topics. This leaves many LGBTQ+ youth in a vulnerable position where they are more likely to be at risk for pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and abusive relationships. 

This tells us that the public school sexual education approach needs to change. 

Nancy Kendall, professor of educational policy studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of “The Sex Education Debates,” explained that there has been a lot of conservative organizing and lawsuits against comprehensive sex education, so schools are very vigilant about what they teach. Unlike other subjects in school, parents often review the curriculum and can choose to opt their student out of the class. 

“Many schools have a diversity of untrained adults teaching sex education,” Kendall said.

The people teaching sex-ed are often librarians, physical education instructors and science teachers.

Additonally professional engagement has shyed away from topics surrounding sex. 

“This is paralleled, by the way, in the decline in medical schools that teach doctors about topics and procedures like abortion — we have silenced professional engagement with a lot of different ‘hot topics’ associated with sex and sexuality,” Kendall said.

It appears there are three main issues with the current sex-ed approach. The fear of parents being upset about the curriculum, the untrained adults teaching the classes and the lack of professional engagement on topics surrounding sex.

Josefina Mora, assistant retail, education and outreach manager at a comprehensive sex shop in Bellingham called WinkWink, believes that a solution would be to require that the instructors go through training and get certified as sex educators. 

“There are still a lot of things that are in schools that are not taught. I think it leaves a lot of room for young people to be vulnerable to toxic relationships or to harmful behaviors or to hurt others,” Mora said.

Mora also suggested that sexual education continue after high school.

“I think it could be more widely accepted that it is a continuing process and that people need to be brushing up on techniques and on the newest things that are coming out but also to keep learning about what is going to be safe sex for them and ways they can be more inclusive,” Mora said.

Having properly trained sexual educators and continuing to learn about sex after high school are important in an everchanging world.

The concept of continuing their sexual education journey is not unfamiliar to the customers of WinkWink. 

Their logo reads “Come one, come all” and their events are titled “Strap-On Sex” and “Orgasms for Everyone.” 

In a world where many sex toys are gendered, such as the Womanizer, WinkWink tries to steer clear of gendering products. Mora explained that WinkWink tries to ensure that their classes are created in a way that is as gender neutral as possible. 

WinkWink tries to carry products that can be used by anyone and they do the same with their classes. 

“We don’t go into it assuming that it is for just one type of person, one gender or one sexual orientation,” Mora said. “We try to make it as inclusive as possible.”

WinkWink is in a transition with their staff right now so they do not have any classes lined up. However, they have a Crowd Cast profile that can be accessed through their website. There, people can watch previous classes for free. 

“I think it has been helpful to have people have access to those classes even if they did not attend right away,” Mora said. “I think it is really important that people have access to those kinds of tips and people that they can talk to.”

Places like WinkWink give LGBTQ+ community the opportunity to learn information they were not told in their sex-ed classes. Additionally, it provides a place for people to continue learning as they grow older and ask questions in a safe space.

“I love WinkWink! I feel like it is the first sex shop I’ve been in with a focus on pleasure for everyone regardless of gender identity and wants to provide resources for everyone to ensure they’re comfortable in their identity and sexuality,” said Jessica Moreland, a fourth-year linguistics major at Western Washington University.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where the public school system fails to accommodate all identities. While we push for change and wait for the results, we can be grateful for places like WinkWink that provide the LGBTQ+ community with some tools.

Some may argue that instead of creating more comprehensive sex-ed courses, we should be teaching abstinence. However, the abstinence approach only works if teens are refraining from having sex and more than half of 17-year-olds report that they are sexually active.

Others may argue that it should be the parents choice what their child learns in sex-ed. But, if their teenager is not abstinent even once, vaginal intercourse with an infected male partner has a 50% chance in resulting in them contracting gonorrhea.

Young adults should be given all the tools to be happy and healthy regardless of what choices they make for their own bodies. That is why sex-ed courses need to change to become more inclusive and comprehensive. 

Hopefully someday our innate instincts will not be seen as shameful and will not cause us harm. Rather, it should be an inclusive and positive experience for anyone that chooses to take part. Regardless of age, gender identity or sexual orientation, pleasure is for everyone.

Sophia Heit is an opinions writer for The Front and a third-year news/editorial journalism major. Her work focuses on local news while highlighting strong opinions within the community. You can contact Sophia at sophiaheit.thefront@gmail.com.


Sophia Heit

Sophia Heit is an opinion writer for The Front and a third-year news/editorial journalism major. Her work focuses on local news while highlighting strong opinions within the community. You can contact Sophia at sophiaheit.thefront@gmail.com. 


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