Inclusive and comprehensive sex education is key to sexual assault prevention.
When people understand their own bodies and sexual desires, and become comfortable and familiar with their sexuality, they are more likely to talk about sex openly with their partners. And open, clear communication is key to consent and healthy relationships.
At Speak About It, we want to empower students to make choices that feel right for them in regards to sex. These choices cannot be made if folks don't have adequate information about their own bodies, about sexuality, and about relationships. We believe that if students have an inclusive and pleasure-focused understanding of healthy sexuality in regards to themselves and their partners, they are more likely to regard each other empathetically and communicate openly. Therefore, healthy sexuality education is a vital part of sexual assault prevention.
What is Healthy Sexuality?
Healthy sexuality is defined by one’s ability to control, enjoy, and understand their sexual and reproductive behaviors, so they may responsibly express their sexuality in a social environment. In short health sexuality is about making sure everybody is having safe and pleasurable sex, if they want it.
Healthy sexuality 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. We believe sex education should be sex-positive, inclusive, and pleasure-focused, and strive to include these values in all our programming.
Healthy sexuality begins with accurate and comprehensive information about sexual and reproductive health. How can you start your journey towards leading a healthy sexual life? Ask questions about your body, about sex, and about sexuality to your doctor, parents, partners, friends, professors and more. Knowledge is power! Here are some great resources that help may help you answer a lot of questions about what's going on 'down there.'
- -ScarleTEEN: This all inclusive website by sexpert, Heather Corinna, has a decade-long track record of providing some of the best sex advice on almost every sexual health topic. With articles, FAQs, term glossaries, and more, ScarleTEEN specifically caters to teens and emerging adults across all genders and sexualities. Honestly, our staff even looks to ScarleTEEN to answer some of our nitty gritty questions too!
- -Sex, etc. - Sponsored by Answer, from Rutgers University, Sex, etc. is a magazine and website written by teens, for teens. They cover a vast array of questions about sex and sexuality. There's lots of great info, as well as personal essays about a range of sexual experiences. We also love their Tumblr full of sex ed memes. Who can't get down with a few LOLs about birth control, right?
- -Planned Parenthood is the go-to reproductive health expert, and they have a wealth of information on their website, ranging from facts about STIs, birth control, condoms and other protection, consent and healthy relationships, cancer, emergency contraception, pregnancy, abortion and more.
- Guidelines for Comprehensive Sex Education: Great tool for educators and school administrators, with information, research, resources, and ideas for teaching comprehensive sex ed from Kindergarten to High School.
- -The Center for Sexual Health & Pleasure: A sexual health training and educational organization, with the mission of providing medically accurate, pleasure-informed, and inclusive sexual education. They offer various online courses, in person trainings, and more on various sexuality topics. They also have a great Instagram!
- -Sex Nerd Sandra: Think of this podcast like Sex Ed 201, an advanced sex ed primer for folks who want to dive deeper into learning about sex and sexuality. Sandra is fun, sex-positive, and asks great questions to her myriad guests. We love this episode with one of our favorite writers, Jaclyn Friedman.
What do we mean when we say "sex-positive?"
Sex-positivity is both a movement and ideal that embraces the idea that sex and sexuality are important and valuable for many folks to lead a healthy lifestyle. To be sex positive means that one does not assign or associate shame to the sexual choices a person may make as long as they are consensual, healthy, and do not harm the individual, their partner, or another person. For Speak About It, sex-positivity means we're affirming of any and all consensual sexual choices you make--even if that means choosing not to engage in sexual activity.
Advocates for sex positivity encourage comprehensive sex education, open communication about desires and boundaries, and an inclusion of all sexual and gender identities, including trans and non-binary folks, as well as folks who identify as asexual.
Check out some of these helpful articles about Sex Positivity:
What do we mean when we say "inclusive"?
Speak About It strives to include a wide diversity of experiences with identity, sexuality, gender, and sexual activities in our programs. We believe that sex education should reflect that same inclusivity. This can look like a lot of different things: from including medically appropriate and affirming information for queer folks, to using gender-neutral and non-heteronormative language when talking about anatomy and sexuality. Likewise, this also means representing different types of bodies in diagrams and photographs, with regard to body type and size, as well as race, ability, and gender expression.
We strive to include diverse identities in sex education because all types of people should be allowed to have and enjoy sex. Everyone should have access to the information that helps them make the right choices about the sexual activity they want to engage in, with the people they want to engage with.
What do we mean when we say "pleasure-focused?"
While it is important to ensure that there are routes for holding perpetrators accountable for sexual violence, that doesn't mean that the conversation about sex or even sexual assault prevention needs to focus exclusively on assault or punishment. Talking about consent is a way to highlight the benefits of healthy relationships and healthy sex for all. Because we view healthy sexual education as a primary prevention method, we feel it's important to include pleasure in our conversations about consent.
As we say in the show, "You should ask for consent not just so you don't get in trouble, but to ensure that both people can enjoy what's going on." Speak About It wants to re-frame the conversation to focus on how hooking up and sexual activity should feel good for all parties involved. Without consent that is not possible.
Both partners should be prioritizing the pleasure and enjoyment of the other partner in order for a hook-up to be a mutually healthy and beneficial interaction. By centering pleasure in our conversations about consent, we can reinforce sex-positivity, encourage people of all genders to enjoy the kind of sex they want to have, and re-brand getting consent not only as something mandatory, but as something fun, sexy, and pleasurable for everyone. Pleasure and comfort should take center stage in the conversation when it comes to sexuality.
We loved this article from Teen Vogue about the role pleasure has in the #MeToo conversation.
In addition to our consent education programming, Speak About It offers online content and resources about various topics relating to healthy sexuality. Take a look!
- #hotgoss: Check out our monthly Facebook Live series, where Speak About It staff and guests go live to chat about various topics surrounding healthy relationships and consent. You can check them all out on Facebook or YouTube. We also follow up each episode with a blog post filled with additional insight and links to more resources. Here are a few of our faves:
- All the Sex Ed You Missed in High School: For 2018 Portland Pride we hosted a queer-inclusive sex ed panel with local experts. We learned a bunch and we took notes! Check it out!
 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.
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau