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Sex Education begins far before “the talk” as does sexual health BASIC FACTS ABOUT BODIES, HOW THEY WORK AND Supporting healthy body image begins at birth and traverses the life span. Parents ask yourselves if your resources, as well as your children’s resources, are factual, scientific, evidence-based and without bias that may cloud the facts. There are age-appropriate resources that don’t involve shame of any aspect of our bodies and sexuality ( see resource list at the end of this article). Some roadblocks and hang-ups including trauma that impact our own adult lives that we need to work through if left unaddressed can present challenges to raising mentally and emotionally healthy children. Sometimes these resurface as our children ask questions or reach an age that was challenging for us personally. In this article are some talking points and resources to help you navigate a multitude of aspects related to sexual health For our purposes sexual health as defined by the American Sexual Health Association: http://www.ashasexualhealth.org/ 

Sexual health is the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important part of our physical and emotional health. Being sexually healthy means:

·   Understanding that sexuality is a natural part of life and involves more than sexual behavior.

·   Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share.

·   Having access to sexual health information, education, and care.

·   Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs and seek care and treatment when needed.

·   Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired.

·   Being able to communicate about sexual health with others including sexual partners and healthcare providers.

One of the things I’ve bumped into is sources that I thought were body positive upon closer review were not like, “The Care & Keeping Of You Series” by American Girl for female-identifying and male-identifying humans. I want my resources to be ones I would like to use as a parent now having been informed by my recent education and there is a lot of lackluster stuff out there. Another challenge is that while I can find some sources I would use it’s proving more difficult as American culture is so sex and body shame oriented, so stuff that isn’t creepy but factually accurate, informative and family-friendly like “Cycle Savvy” and “Take Charge of Your Fertility” 

My idea was to create an article that would cross-gender, generational, race and religious boundaries with sound family-friendly accurate information to parenting sexually healthy humans, including YOURSELF!!!

Adultism
According to Merriam Webster https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/what-does-adultism-mean “What does adultism mean? Adultism refers to prejudice or discrimination against young people as a group. Where did adultism come from? When people think of discriminatory isms, racism and sexism are the first to come to mind. However, there are a slew of isms in today’s world—many of which people might observe but cannot identify by name, including ableism, sizeism, lookism, and adultism. Some might consider adultism to be the same as ageism, but to a child or teenager, they are not the same. By definition, ageism is prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group, but actual usage indicates that it is primarily used in reference to the elderly—and the kids know that. Adultism, on the other hand, implies prejudice or discrimination against young people in particular, and that sense of the word goes back to at least the mid-20th century and became firmly established in the language by the late 1970s and early 80s.How is adultism used?”

“Young people experience adultism in many ways. They are too young to vote, but old enough to be drafted. Young people are thought to be irresponsible and selfish. They are considered too ignorant about life and the world to make their own decisions.”— Marcie Telander, Acting Up!, 1982

Consent
also defined by Merriam Webster Definition of consent (Entry 1 of 2)intransitive verb1: to give assent or approval: AGREE https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consent

Body Positive https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201608/what-does-body-positivity-actually-mean Kaila Prins: “I like to think that body positivity’s intention is really body acceptance. The idea that you can live comfortably in your body, as it is right now, or work on treating it right through nourishment and joyful movement and self care without punishing yourself for looking the way you do.”

Sex Positive
https://flo.health/menstrual-cycle/sex/pleasure/what-does-sex-positive-mean
  “Overall, sex positivity seeks to change negative perceptions about sex and empower all individuals to take control over their sex lives. As long as sexual activity is pleasurable and all parties enthusiastically consent, being sex-positive can lead to safer sex and more pleasure for everyone involved!”

Sexually Healthy Adults https://www.health.state.mn.us/people/sexualhealth/characteristics.html

From a holistic perspective, sexual health includes emotional, psychological, physical, intellectual and spiritual dimensions. The following are characteristics of sexually healthy adults however sexual health is developed over a life-span, from cradle to grave. Integrating sexuality into one’s life in a balanced way is a life-time endeavor.

Communication

Interact with all genders in appropriate and respectful ways

Communicate effectively with family and friends

Ask questions of other adults about sexual issues, when necessary

Are able to communicate and negotiate sexual limits

Communicate respectfully their desires to have sex and not to have sex

Accept refusals of sex without hostility or feeling insulted

Can physically express feelings of attraction and desire in ways that do not focus on the genitals (ex: holding, caressing, kissing, etc.)

Talk with a partner about sexual activity before it occurs, including limits, contraceptive and condom use, and meaning in the relationship

Communicate with partners their intentions for the relationship (ex: only dating, want marriage)

Listen to and respect others’ boundaries and limits

Are sensitive to non-verbal cues of others’ boundaries and limits

Relationships

Develop friendships that do not have a sexual agenda

Avoid exploitative relationships

Choose partners who are responsible, trustworthy, safe and giving

Can be sexually intimate without being physical (ex: talk about sexual feelings, verbally express attraction, do things that awaken desire in partner)

Can express themselves in ways other than genitally (ex: holding, caressing, kissing, etc.)

Take personal responsibility for their own boundaries

Self-esteem and self-worth

Appreciate their own bodies

Are sensually aware and able to stay conscious in their bodies

Can touch their own bodies without feeling shame or disgust

Allow themselves to experience pleasurable sensual and sexual feelings

Have the capacity to nurture themselves and others, and accept nurturing from others

Feel joy in sexual experiences of their choosing

Know when they need touch rather than sex and try to get their needs for touch met appropriately

Have a developed sense of self, an understanding of who they are

Enjoy sexual feelings without necessarily acting upon them

Accept refusals of sex without hostility or feeling personally insulted

Allow themselves to be vulnerable

Are comfortable with their sexual identity and orientation

Are becoming aware of the impact of negative sexual experiences such as sexual abuse, and the impact of negative cultural messages on their sexual development

Are taking steps to address issues that have arisen as a result of past experiences

Feel confident in their ability to set appropriate boundaries

Realize that, by working through sexual issues, individuals may heal psychological and emotional wounding from past experiences and damaging beliefs.

Education

Realize the consequences of sexual activity

Comprehend the impact of media messages on thoughts, feelings, values, and behaviors related to sexuality

Understand that the drive for sex is powerful and can be integrated into one’s life in positive and healthy ways

Respect the right of all people to enjoy and engage in the full range of consensual, non-exploitive sexual behaviors

Values

Decide on what is personally “right” and act on these values

Demonstrate tolerance for people with different values

Are not threatened by others with sexual orientation different from theirs

Show respect to others whose cultural values, ethnic heritage, age, socioeconomic status, religion, and gender are different from theirs

Contraception, protection, and body integrity

Take responsibility for their own bodies and their own orgasms

If sexually active, use contraception effectively to avoid unplanned pregnancy and use condoms and safer sex to avoid contracting or spreading a sexually transmitted disease

Practice health-promoting behaviors, such as regular checkups, breast or testicular self-exams, regular and routine testing for STDs

Spirituality

Honor the sacred aspect of sexual union

Understand that sexual energy is not separate from being human

Understand that sexual union is one way human beings connect body and soul

Becoming body positive as an adult https://positivepsychology.com/positive-body-image/

This list of activities and steps to achieving a positive body image comes from the National Eating Disorders Association (United States)
https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/ provides several good suggestions to cultivating a positive relationship with your body, including:

Appreciate all that your body can do.

Keep a top-ten list of things you like about yourself.

Remind yourself that “true beauty” is not simply skin-deep.

Look at yourself as a whole person.

Surround yourself with positive people.

Shut down those voices in your head that tell you your body is not “right” or that you are a “bad” person.

Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body.

Become a critical viewer of social and media messages.

Do something nice for yourself.

Use the time and energy that you might have spent worrying about food, calories, and your weight to do something to help others (NED


Additional resources
For sexual assault and incest healing resources RAINN | The nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization

For lifespan healthy relationship, body-positive, fact-based sex education Our Whole Lives: Lifespan Sexuality Education

Body Positive Parenting resources Body-Positive Parenting


Sex Positive Resources ( Lifespan/ age appropriate) https://sexpositivefamilies.com/

How to find a therapist for you and your family in your area Find a Therapist, Psychologist, Counselor


Selena Carlson-Hagstrom is a 44 year old junior at ODU, double majoring in Women’s Studies and Theatre. As a dog mom of 3 and human mom of 4, step mom of 5 and Nana to the most perfect granddaughter ever, healthy doses of humor serve her well in her daily life. She has no idea what she wants to be when she grows up or if she wants to grow up. In the meantime she is honing her craft as a creative person bridging advocacy and activism with comedy to open hearts and minds to difficult topics of conversations. While she is occasionally funny, at least in her mind, she is more often very kind, compassionate with a dash of foul mouthed honesty. If you’d like some erratic content from her elsewhere check out Tea With Selena on Facebook or Instagram where you may get an annual post about something or another.