I am thinking a lot about bullying these days, and so as I’m going through CSE manuals, I’m looking for those lessons that support participants as they stand firm in their own identities and sexual decisions.
I’ve already talked about many lesson plans that address this issue, like Protect Yourself from Positive Images (about partner pressure) and Sexual Health in Prime Time from Teaching Safer Sex (about media pressure). Today I’m going to talk about bullying on a different level. There is a distinct cultural push towards sexual conduct, including activities and conversation, that is often harmful regarding decision making and partner communication. This lesson from Teaching Safer Sex addresses those issues.
STEREOTYPES AND SAFER SEX:
Cultural Considerations for Addressing Risk for STIs
By Vivian Cortés, MPH
By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:
- Identify sexual stereotypes that may be associated with various populations.
- Explain how stereotypes may be related to behaviors that put various populations at risk for sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS.
- Identify ways to address risk within various cultural populations.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is a threat to everyone; however there are certain populations who appear to be at increased risk for infection with HIV. Of all racial and ethnic groups, HIV/AIDS has hit African-Americans the hardest. HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death for African-Americans and other blacks. Also, the rate of new AIDS diagnoses among Latino men is three times that of white men, and the rate among Latina women is five times that of white women. High-risk heterosexual contact continues to be a risk factor for infection with HIV among populations of color, especially among Latinas and African-American women. Research shows that the majority of HIV cases among Latinas continues to be in women exposed to the virus through heterosexual intercourse. Knowledge of safer sex methods and awareness of one’s risk for HIV is necessary; however these do not always translate into safer sex behavior. Simply providing HIV/AIDS prevention information is insufficient if it fails to recognize the cultural context within which women and men make their decisions. This lesson helps participants identify and become aware of possible stereotypes and/or beliefs that may be associated with one’s risk for sexually transmitted infections.
To what degree are we, are teenagers, bullied by our culture as a whole? I would argue that we are. Cultural expectations around sex and sexuality are intensely drilled into us through our families, communities, media, peers, stories, and so much more. The reaction that we witness, as children, the first time that someone mentions an STI in our presence lays the groundwork for how we will see ourselves, our partners, and our relationships in the years to come. Whether we feel positively out our capacity to get tested for STIs, whether we are capable of preventing STI transmission, whether we are willing to purchase condoms or other barrier methods, ask for help in delaying or preventing pregnancy, and so much more. Even whether we consider ourselves worthy of protection from STIs!
If we feel negatively about ourselves, it is because of a kind of pervasive cultural bullying into a given position.
In order to move past a bully – especially a cultural bully given the ubiquity of the culture – young people need education, information, and strength. This lesson offers exactly those things.