Date: July 11th, 2019
By: Guest Blogger
Guest Blog Post by Capri Fiello
Sex-positivity, which the Feminist Majority Foundation defines as “celebrating healthy sexual relationships, diversity within those relationships, bodily autonomy, and empowering individuals to control their own sex life (or lack thereof),” is incredibly important in supporting adolescents’ sexual development.
When sex-positivity is both inclusive and comprehensive, it shifts the paradigm of sex education from a platform that focuses mainly on heteronormativity and pregnancy prevention to one that dives deeper into discussions of boundaries, STI prevention, and contraception methods, as well as pleasure for all types of bodies and identities.
Caregivers and other youth-supporting professionals play a pivotal role in guiding adolescents to have safe, healthy, and positive sexual experiences. Below are steps that they can take to promote sex-positivity for all young people:
Understand different sexual expressions
Before we can begin teaching our youth about sexual health, it is imperative to recognize differences in sexual expression by learning more about sexual orientation and gender identity (i.e., who others are attracted to and how they identify). Someone may identify as a man, woman, both, or neither, despite the sex assigned to them at birth, and they may refer to themselves with different pronouns. In order to have productive conversations, the environment must be safe and welcoming for all. This means avoiding assumptions about sexual orientation, gender identity, names, and pronouns; introducing yourself with your pronouns; using gender-inclusive language, and using the correct pronoun when people volunteer it.
Teach consent (and then teach it again)
Simply put, consent is permission for something to happen. Conversations surrounding consent may vary at different ages but are imperative for laying the foundation for healthy relationships throughout life. For example, younger children may learn about consent through personal space and boundaries. You might teach a younger child about consent by explaining that they need to ask permission before they hug somebody. Consent becomes even more critical as adolescents age into their reproductive years.
When discussing sexual health, everyone needs to know that for any sexual activity to happen, all parties need to consent or say yes, willingly and freely. Any sexual activity without consent is sexual assault or violence. Not to mention that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience sexual violence at similar or higher rates than heterosexuals, and 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime, making it critical to discuss consent and healthy relationships early and often. To spark conversations with teens about how they can ask for and give consent, consider Teach Consent’s ASK. LISTEN. RESPECT. video and accompanying discussion guides.
Emphasize healthy relationships
Everyone is deserving and capable of healthy relationships, but to maintain them it’s important to highlight their unique characteristics. The foundation for a healthy relationship starts with honest, open, and safe communication. Partners in a healthy relationship discuss their problems, compromise with each other, and respect and support one another. Healthy relationships involve these same practices, no matter the gender identities or sexual orientations of the partners. no matter the gender identities or sexual orientations of the partners. Healthy, loving partners will never invalidate or threaten your gender identity or sexual orientation, and in turn, they will respect your boundaries. If someone is unsure if their relationship is healthy and safe, this healthy relationship quiz is a resourceful starting point.
Promote accessible and inclusive youth-friendly care
Part of being in a healthy relationship is being accepting of other people’s consensual sexual practices, no matter what. Those who are asexual, for instance, may have a low to nonexistent desire for sex—and that’s okay. Those who do engage in consensual sexual activity should practice healthy behaviors, which begins with awareness of and access to inclusive services.
As supporters, part of our job is helping young people access youth-friendly health care that meets their needs and supports and empowers them to embrace safe sex behaviors. Many LGBTQ+ youth may delay or avoid seeking care due to perceived or experienced discrimination by medical professionals, which can contribute to health disparities in this population. For some, care that meets young people’s needs may mean using condoms and internal condoms for both disease and pregnancy prevention. Others across the gender spectrum, such as transgender men, may still require birth control for pregnancy prevention.
Fortunately, there are a handful of generic forms of the pill available online, like the progestin-only pill, which may be a viable option for those concerned about estrogen. These online options are critical for people who may live in a contraceptive desert (they lack reasonable access locally to a health center with a full range of contraceptive methods) or find it difficult to access inclusive, youth-friendly care. Additionally, MyLAB Box offers at-home STI test kits, and their FAQ provides guidance when choosing a kit for those who are transgender, cisgender, or other.
Inclusive sex-positivity means that everyone has access to information regarding sexual health and can make informed choices about their body, health, and relationships. Check out these resources below for additional information:
- Healthy Teen Network Gender and Sexuality Tip Sheet
- Answers to FAQ by LGBTQ Youth and Their Allies
- A Guide To Transgender Friendly Clinics by Region
- A Clinician’s Guide to Gender Identity and Pronoun Use
- Supporting LGBTQIA Youth Resource List For Educators
As a dedicated health and wellness expert, Capri hopes to inspire change and motivate others to invoke on their own journey toward healthy living. Aside from writing about all things health and wellness, you can often find Capri hiking outdoors.