How can I talk about healthy sexuality to prevent sexual violence?
The 2012 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) Campaign centers on the theme of healthy sexuality, letting everyone know “It’s time…to talk about it.” Healthy sexuality means having the knowledge and power to express sexuality in ways that enrich our lives (NSVRC, 2012). It means more than sex. Healthy sexuality includes building safe relationships, developing skills to communicate, positive and respectful behaviors and interactions, awareness of media and cultural messages, and it is always free from violence and coercion (NSVRC, 2012).
Sexuality can be viewed as an ongoing journey, something that grows and changes throughout our lives (NSVRC, 2012). It is important that information and resources on developing healthy sexuality be available to all people, from children to people in later life. Healthy sexuality relates directly to our work to prevent and respond to sexual violence. The ongoing process of active and informed consent is a key part of healthy sexuality and safe sexual relationships. Educating communities about consent and providing models for negotiating consent in relationships can enrich our lives in many areas.
As we work toward the primary prevention of sexual violence, some of our efforts include changing social norms. Gender norms, the “rules” or ideas about how a person should act based on gender, contribute to a culture of violence. Social expectations related to a person’s gender influence behaviors and sexuality (NSVRC, 2012). For example, gender norms suggest that men should aggressively pursue sex. Healthy sexuality counters this idea by promoting equal power and balance in relationships. Less restrictive norms can lead to healthier sexual interactions for all people (NSVRC, 2012). Gender norms can also support discrimination against anyone who doesn’t fit within the norm. People who identify as LGBTQ often face discrimination and violence as a result. To learn more, consider reading The Gendered Dimensions of Harassment and Bullying.
A successful SAAM campaign will reach out to both new and existing partners in the community. To begin building these connections, consider who can assist you in your community. Educating parents and caregivers about how to talk to their children may help you reach youth outside of the school day. Healthcare providers communicate with people of all ages, and may be a good source for expanding knowledge about healthy sexuality. Healthy sexuality and sexual violence prevention and response are not single-gender issues. Consider some helpful tips on partnering with men’s organizations, like emphasizing positive ways men can be involved.
Many resources are available to help you expand your knowledge and craft a great campaign. Resource kits include guides on various topics and a glossary of terms related to healthy sexuality. Many resources are available in Spanish (recursos en Español). With so many links to our work, starting the conversation on healthy sexuality can be a positive and exciting new adventure.
What are you doing to promote healthy sexuality?