New UA Resources Examine Youth Sexual Health

Nov. 4, 2014

Since 2010, the Crossroads Collaborative has brought together researchers from across disciplines at the UA and within in the community to generate research and writing on youth, sexuality, health and rights, commonly known as YSHR.

National and local debates on the role of schools and communities in providing sex education to youth periodically surface. Yet youth rarely are invited into these conversations, nor are they usually asked about what a sex-education curriculum relevant to their own experiences might look like,  including what "sexual health" means to them. This can be particularly true of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth, whose experiences, ideas, concerns and questions about sex and sexual identity rarely are covered in sex-education curricula.

The latest in the Crossroads Collaborative's series of university-community collaborations toward YSHR offers a timely corrective.

"Let's Talk About Sex Ed," a three-minute video created by Tucson youth, inserts the voice of youth into the conversation around sex education and its relationship with sexual identity and sexual health. It was produced in collaboration between the Crossroads Collaborative and YWCA Tucson’s Nuestra Voz Racial Justice Summer Camp, which was directed by J. Sarah Gonzales.

The video features youth interviewing each other on the topics of sexual expression; sexual and gender identity; sources of information on sex, identity and expression; and how the sex-education curricula in school or after-school programs prepared them for their sexual and relational lives.

Almost all youth interviewed in "Let's Talk About Sex Ed" felt that the poor quality and limited topical expanse of the sex education they had received during their schooling years had inhibited their ability to navigate relationships. Youth narratives in the video also highlighted the importance of developing curricula that recognize youth sexual health to encompass the mental, emotional, social and relational aspects, as well as the physical.

Accompanying the video is the release of "Let’s Talk About Sex Ed: A Study Guide," which is designed to help facilitate in- and out-of-school conversations about sex education. Both the video and the study guide were released during a special, collaborative event held on Oct. 22 at the YWCA Tucson.

The guide offers question prompts drawn from topics raised by youth in the video and an "activities" page designed to catalyze group discussions around sexual identity, expression, choices, preferences and other issues. Ways to access information and community resources are covered.

Designed with flexibility of application in mind, the guide invites youth and adult facilitators to tailor questions and activities to specific populations. The guide includes a glossary of "key terms" that users can make relevant to their own experience.

The guide is designed to help teachers, youth-serving organizations, mentors and youth themselves, so that they are able to facilitate conversations on topics relevant and important to youth.

The study guide was co-authored by: Casely Coan, a graduate student in the Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English program; Crossroads Collaborative postdoctoral associate Leah Stauber; and Adela C. Licona, co-director of the Crossroads Collaborative and an associate professor and director of the RCTE graduate program. The Crossroads Collaborative brings together research from the Frances McClelland Institute, the English Department's Graduate Program in Rhetoric, Composition and the Teaching of English and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women. The collaborative is advancing research, graduate training, public conversation and social change in the area of youth, sexuality, health and rights.