Sex Positivity in Sexual Health

Sex Positivity in Sexual Health


Hi and welcome to sex positivity in
sexual health. Today we will be discussing the impacts of negative and
positive perspectives on sexual health. My name is Sheena Paul and I’m a junior at UC
Berkeley majoring in history and social welfare, with me today is Dr. Karen Scott.
Dr. Scott is the STD fellow at UCSF in California Prevention Training Center. Karen, thank you so much for joining us
today. Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate you being here today. First and foremost, could you inform us
on what sexual positivity is? Yes, very good question. So sexual positivity, it is
an attitude. It informs how we approach young people
and the conversations as well as how we provide advice and healthcare to youth
around sexuality and the reason why sex positivity is so important is because of
sex negativity. And that that comes from just traditionally the sexuality
curriculum and the public health intervention programs that we have…that
we have. And they have been very successful in preventing unplanned
pregnancy, undesirable stds, delaying early sexual activity but sadly a lot
of that work is focused on what we call like a sex negative, deficit focused approach. For example this is an example of some of those approaches where we have, we’re
using kind of fear, danger, victimization stigma, discrimination and morality as
tactics to prevent young people from engaging in sexual activity that
subsequently leads to pregnancy and STDs. And so a sex-positive approach would
be one where the message that we’re sending to young people’s more about
like pleasure, is more about the positive experiences the joy, the celebration, the
energy, the fulfillment that comes from sexual essential interactions and so
what we would hope is that we’re creating a space where youth can feel safe affirmed and healthy, and really see
sexuality as a central part of a person’s development across their entire
life. And so how do we kind of shift from that sex negative to sex positivity where we are celebrating different sex and gender
identities, expressions, attractions, we’re encompassing people’s dreams and
fantasies, pleasure, eroticism as well as reproduction but we really thing a
sex-positive perspective around young people and affirming them as opposed to
a stigmatizing shaming them for their sexual behavior. Yeah, thank you so much, I really see the
difference in between those images and how they can totally send a different
message to youth. What do you feel are really the consequences of carrying on
with that sex negative framework? So some of the consequences, again, you know I
think the intentions are always, you know, kind of honorable, I think the intention
is that you know we want young people to have a successful life. But again, who
determines that how do we engage young people in those conversations and in that planning and so the consequence of always using kind of a sex negative approach is
that, again, youth feel a disgraced, they feel humiliated, they feel embarrassed,
they feel alienated and isolated. So that stigma, the shame, the discrimination
keeps young people from seeking resources and support from spaces and
and people who they hope would be supporting them and would be holding
them all, you know, keeping them accountable, but as well as being safe spaces
for them to kind of have a conversation that maybe uncomfortable, for example
like with parents in the home, with teachers in school, with providers in
the healthcare setting, those kind of spaces become unsafe for young people to
go to so at those times when we need young people to ask questions and to
figure out how to be safe in their decision-making around sex, sexuality, family
planning, they don’t come to us because they feel embarrassed and ashamed
stigmatized. Yeah, so I know you mentioned parents. A lot of times parents, or just
guardians, want something different for the sex lives of youth as opposed to
what youth really want for themselves. What do you think the role is of a healthcare
professional in that sort of setting, and how do you think they can navigate
maintaining sex positivity when parents might have not been allowing
a young person to receive public sex education? It’s a very very good question.
I think the role of the healthcare professional really boils down to
safety, and again, how do we shift our perspectives. And so again we we have been,
all of us, kind of raised in this sex negative culture where sex is dirty, sex
is risky, sex is dangerous. There’s a lot of victimization, a lot of morality
that’s involved in that. And so when we kind of shift that perspective and really come from a
place where we’re recognizing that not all young people have the right of like,
just having a safe encounter, of consent, of having a mutually pleasurable
experience, of feeling respected and dignified and honored in their sexual
decision-making, then we don’t come from the space, again it creates a barrier. So
at the core of that a healthcare professional and in a health care setting,
starting with just the walls and the images in the intake forms, can put
safety first, and then recognizing the diversity and the experiences and
identities and expressions of young people in their sexuality. And again
honoring youth and involving youth in that process, so giving voice you know to youth
experiences, having them be active participants in that process, partner
with young people, and as a healthcare professional, you know, creating a space
where youth trusts you, where youth are being able to have a
transparent conversation, and where there’s kind of a collaboration in their
process. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. So how do
you think sex positivity really addresses issues of sexual violence but
also helps healthcare professionals better understand their youth clients
more in terms of sexuality and different types of identities that come along with
just a young person and their health? Again those are very good questions. I
think one way a healthcare professional can do that is like how do you bring a
sex-positive approach to that conversation in the healthcare setting.
So we’ve been trained to sometimes just ask yes or no questions where we say, “do you?” “did you?” “when?” And so instead of asking those
type of closed questions, these are examples of questions that provides can
ask young people to kind of open the space, to start off with creating a safe space
where youth are affirmed. So beginning with, you know, what is your gender
pronoun, you know, what does sex look like for you, to whom do you find yourself
attracted, or emotionally, romantically attracted to. So beginning to give youth providers
examples of questions to ask youth that come from a space of safety and
affirming them are ways to kind of open up the space and be more sex-positive.
Yeah, I really appreciate that. How do you think youth can work with their
healthcare providers in terms of transitioning within the education norms
that they’re used to receiving that revolve around sex negativity and really
moving towards better understanding sex positivity for
themselves in their lives. So again, one way again, and for youth to be more
involved, is again, it’s just modeling differently. So when you’re modeling
different roles and values for youth and as well as for the healthcare
providers, then youth can be better engaged in that process. So when healthcare
professionals see youth as active and valued participants in their sexual
health care decision-making, that can change that space, it can change the participation level of young people and have them be more engaged in
their process and really just informing youth sometimes of their rights, you know,
their rights to seek confidential reproductive and sexual health care
services without parental consent or notification. So when youth know they
have a right to these services and that the healthcare providers obligated to
sometimes inform the parent, then you allow youth to know that they are valued
and that they are an asset to their sexual health care. Do you think you have
any resources you would love to share with us? Yes I do. So one example is Illinois
Caucus for Adolescent Health. They provide training to adults, to healthcare
professionals and to youth. They are a model of a sex positive youth-friendly, trauma-informed
organization that really promotes empowered youth and allied adult
partnerships in their training and their program development and they do focus on
youth sexual identity, health and rights. And then we also have a whole lot of
other resources that can be found here in California as well as at the national
level, again, modeling examples of ways for healthcare professionals and
youth to be partners and to collaborate in helping young people to make optimal
sexual decision-making. Thank you so much for all of these resources and for this
conversation, it’s been both informative and really inspiring. Thank you so much, it’s has been a pleasure
and an honor and again, as a healthcare professional I had to relearn some of
these things, so again I just want to encourage all healthcare professionals
to know that they too can be better at being sex-positive with young people. Yeah, I definitely identify with that
experience in terms of having to relearn what it means to be healthy especially
involved with my sexual health. And I do really hope that this
information can be helpful for both youth and health care providers, so
thanks again for being here. Thank you so much Sheena.

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