A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

With sex education on decline, traveling ‘Sexy Sex Ed’ workshop aims to educate Appalachian youth


By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

Access to sex education is on the decline in rural areas, but one eastern Kentucky native aims to fill the knowledge gap with a traveling free sex education workshop called Sexy Sex Ed.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2006, 71% of rural women were taught about birth control as an option to prevent pregnancy. That number shrunk to 48% by 2013. Tanya Turner, creator of the Sexy Sex Ed workshop said growing up in Bell County, she didn’t receive any kind of instruction on sex or her own anatomy.

Only 13 states in the nation have passed legislation requiring sex education to be medically accurate. (Image from Adobe Stock, via PNS)

“I hope I’m not the only person teaching progressive, body-positive sex education in rural Appalachia, but all the stats show sex education in rural places is in on a huge decline,” Turner said.

What started out as a small project nearly a decade ago has grown into a year-round traveling workshop that has reached hundreds of youths across five Appalachian states. Recent grant funding will allow Turner to expand her traveling workshop series.

Turner said her workshops weave in elements of theater, visual art, and writing to explore safety, anatomy, and consent.

“There are a lot of myths that I have to do a lot of myth-busting, around virginity and birth control, consent – a lot of consent issues I think come up,” she said.

She said many teens are desperate for information and pointed out many feel they can’t ask their parents or other trusted adults questions about sexuality.

“‘Cause they’re certainly not getting it in their public school systems and in their homes, and what they are having access to in large part is very fear-based, very shame-based and not helpful, and honestly pretty traumatizing – certainly can be, especially for queer folks and people who are already marginalized,” Turner said.

Research has shown that when sex education includes information about contraception, teens are less likely to become pregnant compared to those who receive abstinence-only or no sex education. According to federal data, Kentucky ranks among the top five states in the country for teens births.


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