8. Engaging with Young People about Sexual Wellness

LGBTQ/SOGIE Inclusive Engagement (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression).
There are a lot of resources on this topic as well.
• Young people who are not heterosexual and/or who are gender non-conforming require special sensitivity when discussing their sexual wellness.
• Best to be careful and thoughtful with everyone.
• Adolescents are in the process of discovering who they are and how to best express their identity.
• It is very important not to make assumptions about any developing identities or orientations.
• If you assume a young person is heterosexual they may internalize that and assume that any other option is wrong and/or they may be re-traumatized.
• Believe what young people tell you about themselves, but ALSO
• Leave room for the possibility of change, experimentation, and fluid experiences as this allows for trust and avoids shame.
• Be especially aware of pronouns and other gendered language.
• Do not limit information based on currently declared identity or orientation—every youth deserves the same quality of information and consideration.

Healthy Relationships
• Behavior in a relationship can be examined along a spectrum of healthy to abusive. And a person can experience behavior from a partner that moves up and down this spectrum over time.
• Some young people will be ready to discuss this about their own relationships.
• Other youth can discuss it using examples from their peers or from popular culture.
• It is important to be sure that they can identify problematic behavior and patterns of unhealthy relationships.
• Be prepared to help them plan how they will respond if they are in a dangerous situation.
• Be sure to remind them about confidentiality limitations BEFORE this topic as they may reveal abuse or criminal behavior that you would be required to report.

Healthy Relationship Wheel

This graphic is a nice tool to use to talk with young people about the health of their relationships—not only the ones they consider romantic or sexual.
These are some sample questions you could start with, but there are many ways to use this wheel.

• Which of these is most important to you when you think of respect?

• Which of these do you have in your current relationship? Friendships?

• Are any of these missing from your relationships?

• Which of these can help you when things are tough?

Talking About Consent
Consent can be a challenging topic, but it is important and relevant to sexual and reproductive wellness. The young people in our focus group who helped create this curriculum clearly identified it as a topic that should be covered in this class.
It is best to keep this topic very simple. Your body is your own. Everyone else’s body is their own. This is true in the grocery store and it is just as true in sexual contexts.
• Consent is not only about sex and avoiding sexual assault
• It is about body autonomy and sovereignty—yours and everyone else’s is the same. We all have the right to control when and how we are touched and by whom. We never give that control away. Even (and maybe especially) when we are engaged in sexual contact. We always have the right to stop what is happening.
• Other people’s bodies do not exist for you, yours doesn’t exist for anyone but yourself. (Limited exception for breast-feeding mamas).
• Anyone can say no or stop at any time for any reason.
• Sexual contact is when it is especially important to have an enthusiastic agreement from all parties. The absence of “No” is not necessarily consent.
• Consent is important before getting to that point. And after. If you aren’t sure if what you want is okay with the person you are with, just ask. It really is that simple.

Here are some age appropriate resource videos to share with your youth about giving consent.

Middle aged Youth Video

Older Youth/ NMD’s Video
Video for Young Children
Engaging with Young People About Sexual Awareness

Click here to watch CalSWEC video on Engaging with Young People About Sexual Awareness, 28 minutes