One of my favorite activities to do in classes with middle and high school students is this kind of role play from the second lesson in Positive Images. I have typically used this kind of lesson to deal with condom use exclusively. So many young people have a deep sense of shame around accessing condoms and talking about them openly with their partner. This lesson expands that dialog and presents students with several issues in addition to condoms that are difficult to talk about or comes with stigma (STI testing, menstruation, etc.) and invites them to respond with positive, healthy language in multiple ways.
The First Time and Every Time
By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:
- Explore personal and societal attitudes related to sexual intercourse and identify how these attitudes affect contraceptive and safer sex behaviors.
- Respond to statements expressing common attitudes about using contraception.
Negative feelings and attitudes about having sexual intercourse and about the various contraceptive methods can discourage people from engaging in the behaviors needed to prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease. People become confused by contradictory messages, some which promote abstinence as the only moral choice and others that promote intercourse as essential for popularity, love and happiness. Unable to acknowledge their own sexual activity, they do not plan for protection but let intercourse “just happen.” Embarrassment about getting and talking about contraception adds to the likelihood that people not use protection if they have intercourse. This lesson raises these issues and provides an opportunity to rehearse positive responses to excuses that often discourage the use of protection.
The thing about this kind of activity is not that it fully simulates the experience of having these conversations with a partner or a potential partner, but that it gives young people the experience of playing with the language that would be needed in such a situation. My students can struggle, even in a simulated environment, with zero stakes, coming up with appropriate language. How much harder would it be for them then, to try and formulate words for the first time on the spot, when the stakes can be very hard indeed?