This YouTube channel is providing the comprehensive sex ed that kids aren’t getting in school
In September 2016, the AMAZE initiative launched a series of short animated YouTube videos that provide accessible, age-appropriate sex education to children between the ages of 10 and 14. Born from a collaboration between sex education experts, AMAZE’s team is made up of people from Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health. Two months after releasing their first video, Donald Trump was elected president.
The Trump administration wasted no time working to take sex ed back to the 1950’s. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs were abruptly cancelled, Trump proposed investing millions in abstinence-only sex education, and a staunch abstinence-only education advocate was appointed to Health and Human Services.
In our current political and educational climate, AMAZE’s work has proven to be more important than ever. And with over 7.5 million views on their YouTube channel, it’s clear that children are flocking to AMAZE’s videos to obtain the sex education that they’re not getting in the classroom.
"People believe that if you give young people information it’ll hasten the onset of sexual initiation or make them more sexually active, and that couldn’t be further from the truth," Debra Hauser, President of Advocates for Youth, one of the three sexual health organizations behind AMAZE told HelloGiggles. "The research actually shows exactly the opposite. If you educate young people and help them build their skills prior to when they need them, they’re more likely to delay sexual initiation and they’re more likely to use contraception and condoms when they do have sex."
Olivia Porretta, a high school senior and animator who has animated videos for AMAZE, told HelloGiggles that access to comprehensive sex ed information is sorely lacking in schools — and AMAZE fills that void through its accessible videos.
"Abortion, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are in kids’ worlds and by not telling them about these issues, you're not doing them any favors or keeping them from experiencing them," Porretta said. "It’s in their world and I think the most important thing for kids is to have access to this information in really easy, unafraid ways. And when I say unafraid I mean having questions and not being afraid to ask them."
Hauser also said that a lack of consent education is a major problem in America. And when schools do express interest in the topic, it’s typically when they’re in search of a quick fix — which, of course, doesn’t exist.
"I think it’s a shame that we wait for a crisis in the country and then look for a magic bullet like one lesson plan that's going to teach kids about consent when, in reality, it's more complicated and it's not as simple as a lesson plan," Hauser told HelloGiggles.
In the #MeToo era, Hauser said many school districts have begun asking for consent education. Although this is a good thing, she worries that districts’ requests are misguided in the sense that they want to overly simplify a complicated, multi-layered issue.
"The concept is there’s this magic bullet rather than an understanding of gender and gender equality, communication, understanding your own desires and your own boundaries, and how to verbally ask for consent," she explained.
Consent is hardly the only topic that’s missing from sex ed curriculums. Even in her liberal Connecticut school district, Porretta said LGBTQ issues aren’t given the attention they need and deserve.
"My sister is in 8th grade and she asked her health teacher why they didn’t learn about transgender kids or sexual orientation and they beat around the bush with the question," she told HelloGiggles. "They said it wasn't appropriate at this time but she thought, 'Why can’t we learn about this?' She has transgender friends and she's really interested in learning more about that topic."
In addition to tackling the issues that many school districts won’t address, AMAZE makes sure that each and every video is inclusive.
Even if videos aren’t focused on sexual orientation or gender identity, they all feature characters and couples that aren’t heterosexual.
"I love that because it starts to normalize for young people very early that whoever you are, you can see yourself and you’re okay," Hauser said.
As AMAZE continues to rack up millions of views in America, the initiative launched AMAZE en español in April. The culturally-relevant Spanish-language sex ed videos are the result of a partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and DKT International. AMAZE en español launched with three videos, and a new video will be released every two weeks.
"According to the National Youth Survey, only 13% of Mexican young people talk about sexuality with their parents, said Marissa Billowitz, Associate Director for International Planned Parenthood Federation Western Hemisphere Region Youth, Gender, and Rights initiatives. “AMAZE videos are filling a crucial need for inclusive, factual, engaging, and culturally relevant sex ed videos. The videos approach sexuality positively and from a rights-based approach."
As the Trump administration and school districts all over the world attempt to deprive children of crucial, responsible sex education, AMAZE has proven to be an invaluable resource. Schools and teachers can pretend that sexual assault and gender identity aren’t worth discussing, but they can’t stop kids from seeking out this important information and educating themselves about these issues that affect their lives and their friends’ lives.