A formula for talking about sex

Graphic of question mark  with text overlay of "That's a great question"Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to return to NJCASA to co-facilitate a second training on Making the Connection between Healthy Sexuality and Sexual Violence Prevention for advocates in NJ. My training partner, Alison Bellavance, M.Ed., Senior Director of Education & Training at Planned Parenthood Keystone is someone I am constantly learning from.

Many of the tools we share in this training have been foundational in my process of learning about human sexuality. You see, I received the "standard American" experience of sex ed which leaned on abstinence-only messages over comprehensive information. The road to being a healthy sexuality advocate has involved a lot of learning, and I love being able to share tools like the circles of sexuality and characteristics of a sexually healthy adult with others working in sexual violence prevention. Teaming up with a collaborator from the sexuality education field helps me feel like I get the inside scoop, so I was so excited to learn this helpful formula for talking about sex from Alison. 

Alison started off by sharing some great tips for talking with children and young adults (or anyone) about sex. Then she walked us through this formula that can help anyone feel more prepared and confident answering tough questions about sex.

The formula

Always start with the response: "That's a great question."

This response encourages openness and dialogue, but it also buys you time to think about how you will answer the question. 

If the question is fact-based you can:

a. Give them an answer

b. Or say, "I don't know, but I can find out."

Example: Is it possible to get pregnant from oral sex?

If the question is value-based it's important to share that there is likely not a clear yes or no since all of our experiences and needs are unique. 

To provide context for this variety of experiences you can walk through the following leads.

"For some..."

"For others..."

"For you..."

Example: When is the right age to start having sex?

This formula was created by Catherine Dukes, PhD, Vice President of Education & Training, Planned Parenthood of Delaware. 

Participants put theory to practice in the form of a small group activity, and we asked some tough questions. Our sample questions exposed curiosity, taboos and misinformation. The great strength of this formula is that it highlights how we can respond to questions about sex in a way that builds everyone's comfort, confidence and understanding.

Consider a question that you may have been asked in your personal or professional life. Do you think this formula could be helpful in deciding how to respond?