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Tales From an Unemployed SC Sexologist: What It Takes to Be a Trained Sex Educator

Posted by Ryan Morgan on March 12, 2013 at 12:00 PM

People almost always want to know right away why I studied sex. It almost seems like some people expect that I’m some kind of pervert – until I ruin it for them with the real story.

By: Jamie Z. Brazell, M.Ed.

Jamie is a fairly new-to-SC Yankee transplant. She currently works on a second Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Converse College, lives in Greenville with her husband and their five pets, and expects a baby in early July. Empowering young people to make healthy decisions is a great passion of hers. 

I graduated with a M.Ed. from Widener University’s unique program in Human Sexuality back in August of 2011. There are a few programs where one could study the fascinating (and important) subject of Human Sexuality. The Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and the Master’s in Sexuality Studies program at San Francisco State are two programs that come quickly to my mind. Widener University (located in Pennsylvania) offers fully accredited programs (M.Ed. and PhD. in Human Sexuality – with clinical and/or education tracks) that continue to grow each year.

People almost always want to know right away why I studied sex. It almost seems like some people expect that I’m some kind of pervert – until I ruin it for them with the real story. I started off with the goal of becoming a therapist and took some psychology classes, but found myself drawn to earn a BA in Women’s Studies because I had been working as a volunteer rape crisis counselor. It was through the experiences I had advocating for survivors in hospitals, courtrooms, police stations, and the agency’s domestic violence safe home that inspired my interest in helping people to live the healthiest sexual lives possible.

Here are some of things that I believe it takes for a person to become a well-trained sex educator:

  •  Understanding of basic core concepts of human sexuality
  •  Knowledge and understanding of diverse sexual behavior
  •  Training in cultural competency
  •  Knowledge of history and ethics of human sexuality
  •  The ability to reach various learning styles, populations, and appreciation for flexibility in a classroom
  •  The ability to form community partners, write curricula, create lesson plans, and complete all of this with clear rationale
  •  A background in educational research
  •  Exposure to different sexual behaviors/lifestyles through experiencing SAR (Sexual Attitude Reassessment) sessions
  •  A complete understanding of the bio-psychosocial dynamics of human sexuality
  •  Extensive training in teaching sensitive issues in human sexuality
  •  Complete practicum experience with a minimum of 50 contact hours of teaching topics of human sexuality under supervision
  •  The ability to manage self-care appropriately


I’m sure that I could easily make this list grow, but I think that I’ve hit some of the most important aspects of what my training consisted of at Widener. I can honestly say that completing this program was one of the most intense and rewarding things I have ever done in my life. I’m proud of this degree, but I’m finding it currently impossible to use the knowledge, skills, and abilities that I’ve developed from these experiences.

To my great frustration, many of our young people in this great state of SC are receiving their sex education training from gym teachers, sometimes science teachers, and sometimes school nurses. I think it takes a lot more than a textbook for someone to have full competence in teaching this area. And I think about how awkward it must be for some gym teachers to conduct volleyball in class one day and then show slides of STD/STIs the next. It’s not fair to the kids, especially, but it’s also unfair to the teachers who are not appropriately or adequately trained as sex educators.

Meanwhile for this unemployed sexologist, I am finding it impossible to get into the school system (despite even having a great connection of a father-in-law who is Superintendent for the Public Charter Schools of SC). Although I am eligible for a certification from AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) from my program at Widener and my teaching experience, I cannot get certified in SC as a sex educator. I’ve looked into it and I can’t seem to find such a thing as a certified SC sex educator.

I did manage to work at a non-profit for the first several months that I lived in SC, teaching teen pregnancy prevention, STD/STI prevention, and other important skills to at-risk youth. Unfortunately for me, the job was very part-time and also very temporary. During the time that I spent with the kids, however, I did feel that I was able to connect with them in ways that they’d never had before with an educator. Most of them reported that their gym teachers were awkward with the subject or that their science teacher had given them the wrong information. I can complain all I want about my employment status, but it’s really the kids who are losing out.


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