What is Comprehensive Sexuality Education / CSE

What is CSE?

In the past sex education focused on puberty and reproduction.  Today it is generally referred to as “sexuality education”.  ‘Sexuality’ education focuses on sexual attitudes, activities/practices, orientations, and the capacity for sexual feelings – not on physiology or anatomy. [1]

There are many different descriptions offered for CSE.  The following definition is the clearest that I have found.[2][3] (please note the highlighted words that are defined below):

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) is a sexual rights-based approach to human sexuality education that seeks to provide children and youth with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values they need to determine and enjoy their sexuality, emotionally and physically, individually and in relationship.

Highlighted words defined:

Sexuality: understanding of sexual orientations, sexual activities, and capacity for sexual feelings[4]

Rights-Based: World Health Organization International Standards for Human Sexuality state that students need to be informed of their sexual rights as determined by Planned Parenthood International.

Skills – investigating sexual preferences through self-investigation (masturbation), use of consent – discussion of sexual preferences with someone who is more than just a friend, use of  contraceptives, etc

Values – acceptance of all consensual sexual choices and activities, engaged in respectfully and mutually satisfying.

Determine their sexuality – encourage and support children and youth to determine their gender and  sexual orientation, sexual activity preferences, and their capacity for sexual feelings

Relationship – not limited to heterosexual or one partner as this would be discriminatory.


 Goal of CSE/SRR  

The overall goal of CSE is to change the gender and sexual norms of society and to establish rights for children as sexually autonomous beings. This 2 minute video at the following link demonstrates what this change will look like in our youth.



Rationale – The rationale for CSE can be organized into 3 categories.


Practical Medical Rationale Social Values Rationale Satisfying Sexual Relationships
CSE advocates rationalize that some children/youth will be sexually engaged. Because sexual activity can result in pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted infections, all children should be provided with information on ways to reduce the risks including:

·         be instructed in the use of condoms and other contraceptives

·         non-reproductive methods of sexual expression (anal, oral, self and mutual masturbation, etc.)

·         seeking testing and medication to monitor their sexual health and control symptoms


Public Health Prevention Model: CSE is consistent with the Secondary and Tertiary levels of Public Health model.


Be Inclusive and reduce discrimination by

·         accepting and affirming all methods of sexual expression and sexual orientations that are entered into consensually

·         affirming and instructing on sexual orientations & gender identity so that children and youth may consider how this applies to them

·         present sexuality positively, emphasizing values such as respect, inclusion, non-discrimination, equality, empathy, responsibility and reciprocity.[5]



Youth surveys indicate some youth want to know about relational and emotional aspects of sexuality

·         healthy sexual relationships & orientations;

·         communication and negotiation regarding sexual activity,

·         sexual pleasure,

·         how to end a relationship[6]


Hence content on pleasure, sexual activity, communicating consent, etc., is included. [7]


Consent for sexual activity is seen as a primary strategy toward healthy sexual relationships and the concept of communicating consent begins to be taught in primary grades.


Next we will look at the concerns with Comprehensive Sex Education.

[1] https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sociology/chapter/sex-and-sexuality/

[2] http://www.ippf.org/resource/ippf-framework-comprehensive-sexuality-education/

[3] https://www.guttmacher.org/sites/default/files/report_downloads/demystifying-data-handouts_0. (Planned Parenthood, World Health Organization, United Nations)

[4] https://www.yourdictionary.com/sexuality

[5] https://en.unesco.org/news/why-comprehensive-sexuality-education-important

[6] 2017, The Ontario Sexual Health Education Update: Perspectives from the Toronto Teen Survey (TTS) Youth

[7] Larkin, Flicker; The Ontario Sexual Health Education Update: Perspectives from the Toronto Teen Survey (TTS) Youth); P. 10; ©2017 Canadian Society for the Study of Education/