This Sexual Health Pioneer Works to Fill in the Gaps of Sex Education

By Maryam

We chatted with Jenelle Marie Peirce, who is the Founder & Executive Director of TheSTDProject.com and Spokesperson for PositiveSingles.com. Her site focuses on eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Jenelle’s work has been featured in popular outlets such as: The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Jezebel, Forbes, HuffPost Live, NPR, Mother Jones, Refinery 29, The Daily Mail, Bustle, and many more. 

Here, she discusses what’s missing in our sex education and why she started her own independent website.

Why are so many people misinformed about sexual health?

JP: I believe this all goes back to education – we are grossly lacking when it comes to comprehensive, inclusive, and accurate sexual health education. Our culture sexualizes everything but shames the actual acts themselves, which leaves young adults and young women few places to seek the kind of education that can erode those misconceptions while also empowering them to make thoughtful, responsible, and personal choices for their sexual health.

What do you think is missing in our system in terms of reproductive health?

JP: I’d like to see a larger emphasis on sexual responsibility – empowering individuals with the comprehensive, inclusive, and accurate sexual health education so that they can take responsibility for their bodies and the things that happen as a result of what they choose to do with their bodies. Instead of placing blame and looking to point a finger when one gets diagnosed with an STI or has an unplanned pregnancy, sexual responsibility acknowledges that those things, while not preferable, can happen, and when they do, we want individuals to be able to advocate for themselves and handle those scenarios confidently. We want to see people making choices that are right for them when they are right for them, and we’d like to see them able to make those choices without being policed, demoralized, or otherwise shamed, and with access to empathetic and inclusive healthcare services.

Why did you get involved in the sexual health field?

JP: In a nut shell, I wanted to create and advocate for the kind of resources around awareness, education, and acceptance that I desperately needed as a young adult. Everything I do is geared toward providing what my 16 year-old self needed when I got diagnosed with a taboo infection and was shamed by my practitioner and my community. I hope to make a similar experience for someone of any age much easier to cope with than it was for me.

Do you have any advice to someone interested in following in your footsteps?

JPM: Please do! We need more advocates, more fighters, more researchers, and more ideas! But first, do your research, and determine what exactly it is you’d like to do or what about my work you like, and also what you think could be improved or changed or what unique perspective you have to offer – that’s the key. Then take the leap and go after it. There will never be enough of us, and there’s always something new or an additional way of looking at the same problem that can help someone new. And when you do, reach out to me and let me know what you’d doing so we can support one another’s efforts!

Jenelle also tri-chairs the Communications Action Group for the National Coalition for Sexual Health (NCSH), and she is a member of the International Union Against Sexually Transmitted Diseases (IUASTD), the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association (ASTDA), the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR), and the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).