Teaching sexuality 5 on 5: Educational Philosophies and Circles of Sexuality

Sexuality: WTF Is It, Anyway?  The Circles of Sexuality and more help explain the WAY bigger picture of what sexuality is than the more common, oversimplified idea that it’s just about the sex we do or have, just about bodies, or just about genitals.

When considering the art and science of the education processes, it is important to consider many things. Chief among these is the educational philosophy appropriate for the lesson.  The philosophy is the foundation of any lesson plan.  Learning to apply the most appropriate philosophy to a lesson or topic will dramatically influence the effectiveness of the teaching. It is wise to be cognizant of the many different philosophies dedicated to educational development.

Among the many education dogmas, there are a strong five that generally informs much of education practice. Those consist of: essentialism, perennialism, reconstructionism, progressive and existentialism. Each principle has its particular strengths and should be paired with subject matters that allow for the educational philosophy to further improve the material. Making a misstep with this understanding could result in a very unpleasant and unproductive attempt at educating.

When considering teaching through a tool like the Circles of Sexuality, it is important for a sex educator to have an in-depth understanding of all the factors and how to present them. Applying the most appropriate philosophy will help to enhance the efficacy of the lesson.

In dealing with the concerns of “traditional” educational areas (e.g. math, natural science, history etc.) the rigid structure of essentialism is most preferred. The general ideology that drives essentialism is the mastery of a particular set of skills or facts. As this pertains to sexuality educators and professionals, the sexual health and reproduction circle could benefit from this perspective. For example, when teaching a lesson pertaining to the anatomy and physiology of reproductive organs, it would be beneficial for the educator to discern which bodily system to cover for the lesson.

When focusing on issues surrounding the enduring concepts and principles of the human experience, a perennialist perspective may be best. The scope of perennialism is focused on the actual underlying human experience which drives knowledge as the bases for all learning. In human sexuality, I believe that topics falling into the intimacy circle would most benefit from this doctrine of philosophy. Topics of caring, sharing, loving, liking, risk taking and vulnerability could really flourish under a philosophy that strips away formalities and gets to the core of reasoning and behavior.

As it pertains to topics that are more based on learner opinions, progressivism would be best suited. Progressivism’s primary focus is within the present experience of the learner and is driven by that experience. Special emphasis may be placed on experiential learning opportunities. The sensuality circle would surely profit from this philosophy. Topics such as body image, sexual response cycles, skin hunger and fantasy are very personal to a learner’s current condition, which concurs with the general idea of progressivism.

Re-constructivist philosophy concentrates on addressing pertinent social issues. Issues that affect policy and social reformation are the primary focus. In human sexuality, concerns with sexualization are successfully taught through this lens. Social issues of sexual harassment, assault and rape are all issues that are best addressed from a perspective of action in education.

The approach of existentialism in an educational framework is dedicated to the importance of the experience and free will of the individual. Importance is situated to the learner determining for themselves their personal truths. The sexual identity circle is a perfect match for this philosophy. Educating on ambiguous concepts such as: gender identity, gender roles and sexual orientations inherently challenges the learner to authentically take stock of their experience within these concepts, which will aid practically any lesson related to those issues.


Educational Philosophies




Philosophical perspectives in education


Circles of Sexuality

Circles of Sexuality (Advocates for Youth)

Lesson Plans

Reproductive Anatomy (Planned Parenthood)

The Many Facets of Intimacy  (Teaching with Sex, Etc.: Articles & Activities, 2nd Edition. (2003) compiled by Nora Gelperin, Network for Family Life Education, Rutgers University.)

Body Image (Advocates for Youth)

Sexual Exploitation, Day 1  (King County Public Health)

Who am I ?  (Advocates for Youth)

4 responses to “Teaching sexuality 5 on 5: Educational Philosophies and Circles of Sexuality

  1. Teaching about the Circles of Sexuality as a foundational lesson for college level human sexuality courses has proven to be of most benefit. The exploration of the circles provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of sexuality from a macro lens in order to begin to process the complexity of human sexuality. Then explaining how each lesson further elaborates on each circle throughout the semester in order for students to gain a deeper knowledge of human sexuality. Thank you for sharing. – SSR

  2. The Circles of Sexuality lesson is one of my favorites lessons in human sexuality education. I really enjoyed how you separated each educational philosophy and applied it to each circle. It put a new perspective on how this lesson could be taught in the classroom. It would be interesting to see this in action. I wonder how much time would be needed to implement this lesson plan to utilize all the philosophies needed for the circles?

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