New National Benchmarks for Sex ED: ‘Experts’ Say, “Abstinence Should Not be Taught!!”

On January 17, 2024 SIECCAN released controversial benchmarks for sex education in Canada.  These benchmarks are based upon the ideological opinion of 250 sex ed ‘experts’ selected by SIECCAN and do not reflect the scientific research proving the Comprehensive Sex Education does not lead to improved health – does not reduce pregnancy, does not reduce STIs, deos not reduce teen sexual acitivity.  (NOTE: Click on image for full document)

Further the benchmarks undermines public Health’s primary prevention strategy which focuses on teaching youth the risks associated with at-risk activities (sex, drugs, alcohol) and develops in them the skills to establish boundaries and refusal skills to avoid. The document reports that teaching sex ed from a primary prevention/abstinence position stigmatizes youth who are sexually active and this should not be a foundational topic.

These new standards will be used as guidelines for sex education curriculum.  It is important to note that SIECCAN is not a federal government agency but does receive finances from our federal government.

What is SIECCAN?
According to the website – Sex Information & Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN) is a not-for-profit charitable organization established in 1964 that works with health professionals, educators, community organizations, governments, and corporate partners to promote sexual and reproductive health.

It was founded in 1964 by Planned Parenthood and Playboy magazine to influence sexual health education in our schools – and beyond.  The foundational principle of their programs is sexual and reproductive rights of all people – inclusive of age, race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, STI status, geographic location, socio-economic status, cultural or religious background, ability, or housing status.

Benchmarks – How were the Benchmarks Developed?
SIECCAN created a list of Comprehensive Sex Ed foundational core concepts. Between April and September 2023, SIECCAN conducted an online consultation with a wide range of individuals and organizations involved in sexuality and sexual health education and promotion . Over 250 people from across Canada participated in the consultation .

It was not communicated how these people were selected. That said, it would seem that the responses to the topics definitely reflected Comprehensive Sex Ed values of sexual rights, rather than what makes for best health.

The individuals were to identify at what grade the topic or concept should be taught.

Participants were presented with a list of nine core concepts foundational for the learning of sexual health and 29 sexual health education topics . They were asked to identify at what grade/age they thought each concept/topic should be introduced . Participants were given the opportunity to provide open-ended feedback about grade levels, topics, and how concepts should progress or be integrated across grades .
The table represents a only 11 of the 39 concepts and topics. Please see the complete list in the full document on pages 33 – 35)

Table – Grade Level at Which Participants Indicate Topics Should be Introduced

                                     Percent Indicating Introduction at Each Grade Level
Gr 1-3 Gr 4-5 Gr 6-8 Gr 9-10 Gr 11-12
Core Concepts
1)   Gender identity
(i.e., internal sense of who we are; e .g ., girl/woman, boy/man, etc .)
39.8 29.1 13.8 11.4 2.8 1.2 K
2)  Sexual Orientation              (Who a person is attracted to romantically, emotionally and sexually.) 21.7 18.2 25.0 27.1 3.0 0.8 K – 8
3)  Knowledge of body parts  (genitals and reproductive parts) 54.4 18.0 16.5 8.4 2.3 0.4 K
4)  Sexual and reproductive rights  10.7 11.6 25.9 35.9 11.6 4,2 6-8
Sexual Health Topics
1)   Info about masturbation 6.6 11.3 35.8 36.2 6.2 0.8 4-8
2)  Sexual consent                                (asking for, giving, and respecting consent for sex) 14.6 8.8 25.0 41.5 8.5 1.2 6-8
3)  Birth Control Methods 0.8 2.3 22.3 56.2 16.5 1.5 6-8
4)  Sexual pleasure 9.1 6.7 21.8 38.1 18.3 3.2 6-8
5)  Range of sexual behaviours     (e.g., kissing, oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex)  0.9 2.6 8.3 35.4 33.8 12.8 6-8
6)  Safer sex methods 0.8 2.7 15.7 60.9 16.5 2.7 6-8
7)  Sexual problems and concerns                                   (pain during sex, problems with erections, orgasm difficulties, etc.) 0 0.8 7.1 33.3 42.1 13.9  9-10

Abstinence – should not be taught                                                                                                                    
It is important to note that most of the participants noted that “abstinence” as a topic should not be taught within sexual health . In the open-ended responses, participants noted that teaching “abstinence” as a stand-alone topic or framework for sexual health education could increase stigma; instead educators should present a range of sexual behaviours and relationships (including not engaging in sex) as valid options .

Gender Identity                                                                                                                                               Understanding of gender identity should be accomplished in Kindergarten. Telling children that they’re gender is not based upon their biology – male or female – but based upon how they feel, sets the scene for all of the other inaccurate sexuality instruction.

Sexual Orientation                                                                                                                                             Instruction about sexual orientation needs is of primary importance from Kindergarten to through to Gr. 8

Consent and bodily autonomy 
Participants noted that it is critical to introduce learning related to consent and bodily autonomy in kindergarten and thread these concepts throughout all grades, with increasing complexity and nuance .

Sexual Pleasure                                                                                                                                                                Instruction in sexual pleasure according to the experts needs to begin in Kindergarten with primary focus in Grades 6 to 8.

Conclusion                                                                                                                                                                            These benchmarks are not based upon good science, nor the primary prevention strategies of public health.  These will lead to, and it can be argued promote, increased sexual investigation at an early age when children and youth are not able to handle the emotional and relational challenges.

Question: Then, why are these benchmarks being published?

Answer – SIECAN was founded by Planned Parenthood and Playboy and their goal of sexual rights and freedoms have been embraced by the federal government which significantly funded the new benchmark project.