This month is World Sexual Health Month. Each year the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) celebrates this month kicking off with World Sexual Health Month on September 4th and the theme for this year is Consent! This is a crucial conversation in the times we are living in and it's important we widen our understanding of sexual health begins with learning the practice of consent, bodily autonomy and boundaries. A big part of our understanding of sexual health comes from what we learn or are exposed to online, which in many cases is through pornography.
Below are just some of the things we're advocating for this sexual health month. What are you campaigning for?
Quality sex education taught by trained educators should cover a wide range of topics, including relationships, decision making, condom negotiation, gender identity, body image, birth control, and STIs, and start from a young age.
When people receive quality sex education, they explore their values and beliefs about sex and relationships and are equipped with the skills to navigate relationships and manage their own sexual health. Yet too many people aren’t getting any sex education at all, or they’re getting unhelpful, shaming, or abstinence-only programs.
If you want to have the sex talk with someone in your life check out our tools from The Porn Conversation for free conversation guides for parents on how to speak to young people about sex and porn and free sex education curriculum for educators to use in the classroom.
Sexual violence is any sexual contact without consent, including rape. It can happen to anyone regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation, disability, or educational status. To eradicate sexual violence we need quality sex education that teaches communication, consent, and healthy relationships. We also need public policies that protect and support survivors that include prevention and response to sexual assault at both local and government levels.
We need to understand that sexual violence can and does happen online, it is no less serious than physical abuse and it’s impact on the victim is no less real. As technology has evolved and become a part of our everyday lives, the ways it can be used to threaten and commit abuse has evolved too. Online sexual violence can be any type of harassment, abuse, exploitation, or abuse. To combat this issue, we of course need offline action to educate and change behaviors, but we also need safer, more inclusive, and welcoming online spaces where everyone can feel safer, and we need online platforms to take action on members who engage in predatory or harassing behavior.
Safer online spaces are also vital for adolescent girls and young women for sexual and reproductive health information, especially in countries where girls face higher levels of marginalisation and cannot access physical spaces. This is one of the many reasons why building The Porn Conversation ambassador program is essential - having allies and advocates worldwide spreading our missing for free and easily accessible sex education - beginning with the topic of porn literacy.
Everyone, regardless of their age, gender identity, ethnicity, sexuality, location, income, or citizenship status should have access to free STI testing, pregnancy testing, contraception and more.
We must address the additional barriers that some groups face when accessing health services and the fact that some groups have more reproductive rights than others under the gender binary and colonial heteronormative practices that are in place. Currently women of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately impacted by restrictions on sexual health care.
Sexual health equity gives people what they need to have a fair chance at sexual and reproductive well-being.
Our right to abortion care is under attack. There is a worldwide anti-abortion agenda that is trying to ban our right to control our bodies. These laws are an attack on women and an infringement on our constitutional rights that will disproportionately affect low-income women who cannot afford to leave the state in order to get an abortion. We can’t stand by while they try to take away our right to control our own bodies. There are organizations like PlanC and Abortion Finder that are committed to shifting the access and availability to safe abortions.
Everyone deserves the right to safe reproduction yet in the US, African American women are four times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth compared to white women. Their infants are also twice as likely to die within the first year of their life. In the UK, Black women are five times more likely to die in childbirth.
Much of this ingrained bias is traced back to slavery, when physicians claimed that Black people could endure more pain that white people. In fact, the “father of modern gynaecology”, J Marion Sims, was a slave owner who conducted experiments on Black women without anaesthesia.
Read this piece on Colonialism & the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Black Women and Women of Color by Almaz Ohene to learn more about this.
LGBTQ+ young people need and deserve to learn in settings that are inclusive of their experiences and that give them the education necessary to stay safe and healthy. Their sexual health needs often go unmet by a system that has traditionally marginalised their care. In addition to systemic discrimination which affects their physical and mental health, LGBTQ people face low rates of health insurance coverage and high rates of HIV/AIDS and cancer.
Just because a person has a disability does not mean they don’t have the same desires as others, yet they are completely excluded from most sex education programs and treated as though they are incapable of having any sexual needs. The complete lack of sexual education for students with disabilities is particularly alarming when you think bout the fact that individuals with disabilities are at a much higher risk of sexual assault and abuse. Sexual education must go beyond the able bodied, cisgender, heteronormative perspective.