Sexual Health Education REQUIRES US TO TALK OPENLY ABOUT pleasure, consent, AND communication.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SEXUALLY LITERATE?
While there is no single answer, we can confidently say that information, communication, and respect are key ingredients to our sexual well-being.
Hey, the more you know, right? Seriously, sex (if you choose to have it), is going to be better for everyone if you know what you're doing! How well do you know your own body? The body of your partner(s)? About hormones? About STIs and pregnancy? About boundaries, verbal and nonverbal cues, and pleasure? It's complicated, and that's okay. Get your questions answered and take that first step to becoming more sexually literate!
We're willing to stipulate there is no such thing as absolute certainty, but we'd like to get pretty close when consent is on the line. Contrary to popular belief, consent doesn't begin or end with a "yes." We have to be familiar with our own bodies, needs, and desires in order to evaluate what and who we want and when and how we want it. Few people are encouraged to explore themselves and others safely and respectfully, and fewer still are taught to communicate openly and transparently about this process. It's essential to know your own boundaries and expectations and to find out your partner's. Unfortunately, shame, stigma, and ego prevent us from exploring and asking. Step 2 in sexual literacy is to start talking and, perhaps more importantly, start listening.
We don't think we're setting too high a bar in encouraging basic human decency. Caring about one another - including the people we choose to date or have sex with - is achievable. Kindness should not be contingent on the status of your relationship, whether long-term, friends-with-benefits, or a one-night-stand. It's not as hard as you might think to be nice. True sexual literacy extends beyond skill level and honesty. It requires we treat each other decently. We can help with that!
THE GOALS OF SEXUAL LITERACY:
We seek to improve knowledge and awareness in our community surrounding the intersection of sexual health and consent with harm and violence by demonstrating the positive impact communication and knowledge can have on a relationship (any relationship).
Our column strives to promote and increase comfort in having potentially difficult and awkward discussions. These conversations may look different with peers, with potential partners, and with professionals, but not having these conversations can have consequences ranging from misinformation to dissatisfaction to disease transmission, or even sexual assault.
This space should be a non-judgmental, anonymous place for people to ask questions and learn more about themselves, their needs, and their desires in order to promote respect and pleasure. We have to be willing to ask the questions to get some answers!
Questions aren't limited to students or youth. We want to be a resource for adult students, staff, and faculty, whether you're working with a young person or have been dying to ask a question without somewhere to ask it.
Finally, we want to have fun. Sex and relationships are only as good as we make them. Let's do this!
Knowledge of sexual health can improve sexual negotiations by increasing individuals' confidence to communicate preferences and enact safe-sex behaviors - Weinstein, Walsh, Ward, 2006
Women are more likely to feel confident communicating their needs and desires when informed on sexual health - Weinstein, Walsh, Ward, 2006
A majority of internet searches include information on STI/HIV prevention; questions around sexual pleasure; and, how to communicate with your partner about what they want sexually - Holstrom, 2015
Online education reduces the barrier to accessing information and addresses other concerns such as perceived negativity around sex and sexuality - Helmer, Senior, Davison, Vodic, 2014
The public health framework for disease prevention follows the social ecological model (SEM). In this context, according to the CDC, the SEM allows us to understand the multiple influences and factors that either put people at risk for violence or protect them from experiencing or perpetrating violence.
We've adapted this model to demonstrate the intersection of sexual health promotion and sexual violence prevention: