Reflections on AASECT 2012: Synergy

In the down time since April, we keep-up the conversation about sex, sexuality and preventing violence. But, it doesn’t quite look like this: three days, hundreds of professionals, hours upon hours of talking sex, sex, sex. Now before you go jumping to conclusions, I’m talking about the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) annual conference. Last week I had the opportunity to participate and present at AASECT 2012: Synergy, where individuals with varied expertize gathered to discuss human sexuality from every angle and perspective.

Now let me out myself a little here, I participated in this conference as a stealth outsider. For three days of workshops, I sat next to inspiring sexuality educators and bumped elbows with authors, researchers and practitioners focusing on synergy in the field. All the while, I made efforts not to let a single sign betray the truth: I was no sexologist, and in fact, my understanding of human sexuality is decidedly average. (Yes, I learned everything I know from google and a few richer morsels from word of mouth.)

So how does a preventionist like me wind up in a place like this? Lucky for me, the great minds of AASECT have an interest in partnering to prevent sexual violence, and they really dig the fact that folks in sexual violence prevention see healthy sexuality as a key approach. You see, similar to the movement to end sexual violence, this group also accesses a history of working hard to change social norms and bridge gaps in public understanding. In fact, the barriers to talking about good, safe sex nearly parallel the road blocks to starting the conversation about the root causes of sexual violence: topics seen as taboo, off-limits and actions perceived as individual responsibilities. We also share common goals like empowering individuals with resources and information, equipping communities with tools and skills and motivating society toward a brighter future.

Despite these many common threads, our work has often existed in separate spheres, and this does not honor the great work of either party. With a great partner, Alison Bellavance, M. Ed., from the sexuality education field, I had the opportunity to co-present a two-hour workshop:  “Making Connections: The Intersection between Healthy Sexuality & Sexual Violence Prevention.” The content of our presentation covered sexual violence, healthy sexuality as primary prevention and strategies for incorporating both topics in one's work. In many ways, the true goal of the presentation was to embody the “connection” discussed in our presentation, and to highlight SAAM 2012 as a real world example of the potential impact of collaborating between fields and building more partnerships.

The word synergy has always bugged me a little (Doesn't it sound a little silly?), but post-AASECT 2012, I’ve decided to give the term a second chance. Synergy is when two or more things joining together results in something not independently obtainable, and it was an important and title theme at AASECT 2012. Reflecting on the vast information, resources and energizing individuals that I encountered at AASECT, as both a presenter and participant, I think it’s safe to say synergy happened. More importantly, the value of synergy between our two fields proved its potential in real-time, and I’m not sure who to warn, sexual violence preventioneers or healthy sexuality pioneers (is there really even a difference?), that I don’t think I can turn back.  So here’s to moving forward!



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