Is there anything more intimidating than "the talk?"
You know, "the" sex talk. It involves teenagers, awkward silence, body parts and blushing.
"The talk" is a rite of passage, and it's a beloved pastime to exaggerate the discomfort level that comes with talking about sex.
Let's step away from the typical conversation about the birds and bees.
Don't get me wrong, I think it's healthy to talk about sex. The conversation about sex and sexuality just needs to grow. Instead of simply talking about the facts and the acts when it comes to sex, let's build a better talk.
Sexuality is more than sex. Healthy sexual development is about creating a foundation for healthy relationships, choices and behaviors. (There are even facts about development that are appropriate for children.) That's a lot of ground to cover, and a little too much to tackle in a single conversation -- especially when many of us haven't received this education ourselves. Still, there are steps everyone can take to play a role in creating a better talk and build a healthy future.
Building a better talk means opening up about communication, boundaries and consent. Teaching young people skills for relationships and decision-making are keys to success. Modeling respectful behaviors and communication supports their overall well-being.
The teen years are a time of change and growth; there is a lot to navigate. Supportive adults can play a role in an ongoing conversation and continue to be a resource to young people during this challenging time.
By adolescence, young people have received many messages about sex and sexuality. When accurate information and positive messages aren't accessible for teens, less reliable sources are left to fill in the gaps. A better talk challenges misinformation, and gives young people the skills to critically think about media and technology. A better talk takes on the unhealthy messages, and tackles gender inequalities, stereotypes and rape culture.
A better talk is about the big picture of sexual health, which the National Sexual Assault Awareness Month campaign defines as "healthy sexuality." The goal of this campaign is to promote healthy adolescent sexuality, which advocates see as part of the solution to ending sexual violence. There are many pieces to the puzzle, but building a better talk is an important part of the solution.
What does a better talk look like? It is many conversations. It is accurate information and access to resources that support development and sexual health. There are safe spaces for every identity, and it is rooted in respect. It's OK to have questions, and it's OK not to have all the answers. What's important is that we're starting a dialogue toward a healthy future.
Are you ready? It's time to start talking.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center in conjunction with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. To learn more about the NSVRC and how you can help prevent sexual violence, visit here. Read all posts in the series here.