Empowerment through education: A study of sexuality education and how it relates to social inequality

Plan Author

  • Margaret Wood, 2013

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Tutorial: Writing Curricula in Health Education
  • Course: Gender and Society
  • Tutorial: Social Inequality in Sex Education

Project Description

A study of sexuality education and social inequality and the development of a sexuality education curriculum for at-risk youth.

Faculty Sponsors

  • Ken Schneck
  • Renee Byrd

Outside Evaluator

  • Gary F. Kelly, sexuality educator and counselor


Despite many Americans’ conservative view of sexuality, the teen pregnancy rate in the United States is nearly twice as high as any other developed country. The incidence of poor sexual health and partner violence is particularly pronounced among low-income and underserved populations. Drawing on extensive field work in contemporary sexual health classrooms and a comprehensive history of American sexuality education, this Plan identifies possible areas for improvement and presents a new curriculum designed to address them.

Many public school sexuality education programs, especially in low-income areas, present incomplete or inaccurate information on human sexuality to students. Despite the good intentions of teachers and administrators, most programs also perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and present a hetero-normative view of sexual intercourse. These flaws in teenage sexuality education have significant social consequences, including increased transmission of STIs, bullying of LGBT students, and greater risk of sexual violence. The author’s curriculum, Empowerment Through Education, was developed to address these problems and improve sexuality education for at-risk youth.


“I have written this curriculum to help solve four problems that at-risk teenagers face in the United States today: teenage pregnancy, high rates of STIs, harassment, and intimate partner violence. Statistically, these youth face a higher chance of having to deal with these problems than their peers.”

“Students in the public school course were told that they would have healthier relationships if they abstained from sexual activity. This broad claim takes away students’ sexual agency by teaching them that the only healthy decision is to total abstinence. By refusing to legitimize teenagers’ ability to say yes to any type of sexual activity, we, as educators, are stripping them of the power they have over their own bodies.”

“Sex education classes commonly teach sexual assault prevention techniques that focus on what people can do to prevent themselves from being assaulted. By teaching ‘don’t get abused’ instead of ‘don’t abuse,’ we as a society place the blame for sexual assault on victimized populations.”


“My Plan work was an intense, emotional, and deeply rewarding process.”