A part of AMP! (Arts-based, Multiple-component, Peer-education) dedicated to educating at-risk youth about sexual health, healthy relationships, and self-efficacy.

What's a Sex Squad?

A Sex Squad (or Sex-Ed Squad) is a group of students who use humor, theater, and storytelling to open up urgent conversations on taboo topics surrounding sex. We aim to creatively and inclusively shift the stigmatized culture around sexual health that exists in our world today.

Explore videos Start Your Own Sex Squad

Sex Squad's Story

The first version of the Sex Squad formed in 2009 when South African arts-activist (artivist) Pieter-Dirk Uys brought his bold idea of using humor to fight HIV into a two-week workshop with students at UCLA. The students formed a group called the AIDS Performance Team, and were so inspired by Uys that they continued working on the material after he left, even taking it on tour to Los Angeles high schools.

The following year they kept building. They realized that, in order to have a comprehensive discussion about HIV, they needed to tackle a whole range of issues that affects sexual health: sexism, homophobia, access to care, protection, getting tested, and more. They decided to widen their scope, to address the whole of human sexual health, and the UCLA Sex Squad was born.

Every year at UCLA, a new group of students forms a Sex Squad. As a group, they choose the most significant topics on which to focus their art-making. The Squad spends the fall creating engaging and interactive skits, poems, songs, dances, and any form of performative art you can imagine! Once the show is created, they load up the bus with props and take it on tour to LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) schools as a part of a multiple component program called AMP! put on by the UCLA Art & Global Health Center in collaboration with LAUSD.

Inspired by the UCLA Sex Squad, Sex (Ed) Squads have blossomed throughout Los Angeles Unified high schools and in colleges and universities in the United States South. High School Sex (Ed) Squads work throughout the year with Art & Global Health Center staff and UCLA student mentors to create performance pieces, advocacy projects, and dialogue spaces for their peers to engage with new methods of sexual health pedagogy. These yearly efforts in arts activism culminate in our annual High School Sex Squad Festival, where we invite each of our partner school Squads to UCLA for a day of celebration, activism, and strategy. With this movement's roots in Los Angeles, Sex (Ed) Squads have now branched into colleges and universities in the United States South, including Duke University, North Carolina Central University, UNC Durham, and UNC Asheville. Similar to their UCLA peers, students in these Squads use urgent sexual health topics in their communities as the basis for creating work, culminating in the creation of educational, entertaining videos to be shared with local high schools in their areas.

The movement continues to grow and expand as more students, educators, and community partners become activated by the Sex Squad model. To learn more about our approach, continue reading, or check out our Start Your Own Sex Squad guide.

Our Principles

Our collective action is guided by these values emphasizing the transformative power of art, humor, openness, collaboration, and inclusivity. Accordingly, we invite you all to channel your inner artivist to embody these principles, as well as add your own, to make the world a safer and sexier place.

  • We believe in a sex-positive, non-judgmental approach, giving students the information and tools to make their own choices about their sexual health.
  • We believe in abstinence as AN option, but not the ONLY option.
  • We promote healthy, direct communication, especially with sexual partners.
  • We define consent as a verbal, enthusiastic affirmation before any sexual activity.
  • We believe in inclusivity, and pushing back against heteronormative and patriarchal approaches that affect the LGBTQ+ and female-identified communities, as well as other marginalized populations.
  • We believe in the unique power of the arts, humor, and fun to communicate information in an engaging way and open a dialogue about topics that are considered to be taboo or scary, and because of this, we believe the arts are a particularly effective medium to talk about sexual health and HIV.
  • We believe in the power of narrative and personal story, and that by exposing ourselves and sharing intimate stories, Squad members create a rare safe space where others feel encouraged to open up about their own urgent issues.
  • We embody a philosophy of collaboration over individual genius, channeling the power of the collective. We view human beings as innately artistic and aim in our creative process to express rather than impress.
  • We thrive artistically and communally on authentic relationships amongst our members, and we do not avoid tackling the messy, complicated topics together.
  • We believe in the power of interactive inclusion of students, seeking to actively engage them physically and vocally rather than treating them as a passive audience.
  • We believe there is NO SUCH THING as an inappropriate question, and we value the knowledge gained from learning into our own discomfort.
  • We choose to acknowledge moments when we do not know the answer to a question. When we do not have the tools to adequately support students, we respect the roles of other social and health advocates.
  • We strive for a reciprocal relationship with the communities we work with, seeking to learn as much as we impart in order to form stronger bonds of solidarity.
  • We straddle the line between pushing conventional boundaries and respecting school standards.
  • We understand that tackling oppression is a continuous process, and we value the progress we can make one conversation at a time.

AMP! Overview

AMP! (Arts-based, Multiple-component, Peer-education) is a creative approach to adolescent sexual health education using inclusive and affirming theatrical performances and workshops related to practicing safe(r) sex and healthy relationships, overcoming bullying, and affirming the infinite variations in human sexual identity. The program in Los Angeles is a collaboration between the UCLA Art & Global Health Center and the HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and has grown to include adaptations in the Southern United States, with the University of North Carolina, Duke University, North Carolina Central University, as well as internationally in Johannesburg, South Africa.  

Los Angeles Program

AMP! in Los Angeles is designed in a menu format, composed of multiple educative elements, each of which presents information in a different way: moving through movement, audio, and visual modalities. AMP! supplements and supports formal sexual health education in schools by providing: 

  • Positively Speaking: A consortium of speakers living with or deeply affected by HIV/AIDS, organized through the Los Angeles Unified’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit.
  • UCLA Sex Squad Performance & Workshop: A performance piece delivered and created by UCLA students with interactive role playing and audience participation. The performances cover comprehensive sexual health issues via spoken word poetry, humor, interactive games, and other art forms, followed by peer-directed discussion. 
  • High School Sex Squads: Inspired by the UCLA Sex Squad, high school students from across LAUSD have banded together to create Sex Squads on their own campuses. These students offer year-round peer education and performances through health fairs, shows, and classroom visits. 

Participating schools may pick several specific components, or adopt the complete framework, depending on preference and resource availability.

Research

AMP! Evaluation & Research Studies can be found at artglobalhealth.org/research.

Expansion

We plan to expand AMP!  further through digital media. A study conducted in 2012-2013 demonstrated that a virtual version of AMP! was as effective as the live version. Inspired by these promising results, this website aims to compile all of our educational materials (videos and allied lesson plans) for health educators around the country to utilize in their classrooms. Our aim is to ensure these materials support pre-existing high school sexual health education, increasing student engagement, fun, and memorability. Ultimately, we aim to develop a comprehensive HIV and STI prevention model that can be adapted and used in high schools and universities around the world.   

More Information

For more information regarding the efficacy of our arts-based education component, please see our research linked here. And of course, please contact us with any questions regarding these materials and their implementation into new classrooms. 

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