The same way that we partner and encourage relationships with on- and off-campus resources at every university we visit, we also want to provide resources for primary prevention purposes. We realize that there are numerous resources available to survivors of sexual assault and their friends and families. However, it’s also important to encourage and promote dialogue as a preventative measure against sexual assault. By starting a conversation about preventing sexual assault, we actively encourage social and cultural change in regard to healthy sexuality. Speak About It has already incorporated one form of primary prevention into the performance through Bystander Intervention but we also want to focus on healthy sexuality. Healthy sexuality involves acknowledging and accepting that we are all sexual beings and that human development includes sexual development.
Healthy sexuality is defined by one’s ability to control, enjoy and understand their sexual and reproductive behaviors, in a responsible manner that allows an individual to express their sexuality in a social environment. It is rooted in our emotional, social, cultural, and physical selves and allows us to approach sexual interactions from a perspective that is consensual, respectful, and informed. It is understanding that sexuality, and how we present our sexuality, is much more than sex. In this way, healthy sexuality is inextricably connected to sexual violence prevention. Healthy sexuality is free from coercion or violence and the more information an individual has about healthy sexuality, the more likely they are to identify and prevent sexual violence when it occurs. This means being able to address and avoid sexual violence or abuse in one’s own personal relationships while also feeling more comfortable taking action and getting involved as a bystander with their peers.
Dialogues about healthy sexuality empower both the individual and the greater community. Knowledge of sex, sexuality, and identity helps create an environment to address and explain realistic gender representations and expectations. Strict gender norms contribute to sexual violence and sexual assault by reinforcing cultural norms and beliefs about masculinity and femininity. Individuals who are taught about healthy sexuality have the tools to navigate gender expectations and establish in personal and intrapersonal relationships that communication and consent are crucial aspects of sexuality regardless of gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation. Healthy sexuality and healthy relationships incorporate consent, equality in power dynamics, respect, trust, and safety. Modeling healthy sexuality is also crucial in the support and healing process for survivors of sexual assault. Discussing sexuality openly and honestly can help create a safe space for survivors to talk about their assault and seek help. This occurs on a personal, student level, but also affects families, teachers, and the greater community.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the following behaviors and characteristics belong to a sexually healthy adult:
- Comfortable in their own body
- Understanding that human development includes sexual development, which may or may not include reproduction or sexual experience.
- Basic access to information and resources to help protect and maintain their own sexual health.
- Engaging in sexual relationships that are communicative, consensual, non-coercive or exploitative, honest, trusting, pleasurable, and safe.
- Ability to express their own sexuality in a way that aligns with their own personal values while respecting the physical, emotional, social, and cultural rights of others.
- Understanding the difference between life-enhancing sexual behaviors and those are harmful or detrimental to themselves of others.
- Communicative with parents, peers, and partners.
- Aware of the impact of family, social media, cultural messages, and gender expectations in relation to sexuality.
- Accepting of one’s own sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual preferences while respecting the choices and presentation of others.
This model of healthy sexuality allows individuals to explore sexuality and its personal importance, as well as helping to expand a culture of acceptance. The greater understanding we have in regards to our own bodies, desires and boundaries, the better we can develop our communication skills, both sexually and non-sexually. A conversation about sexual assault education without mentioning primary prevention and promotion of healthy sexuality is an incomplete one.
 American College Health Association, “Shifting the Paradigm: Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence,” August 2008.
 Virginia Healthy Sexuality Workgroup, “Healthy sexuality for sexual violence prevention: A report on promising curriculum-based approaches,” Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance.