Sexuality is an integral part of the human experience. Although people experience, conceptualize, feel, and express sexuality differently, because sexuality is a large and varied phenomenon, sexual and gender identity and sexual experiences affect us all. Pleasure, self-image, body, curiosity, relationships, discovery, procreation, hormones, boundaries, feelings, senses, thoughts - these and other similar keywords are what people say when asked what they associate with sexuality.
- What does sexuality mean?
Sexuality includes physical, emotional, mental, cultural, and social (and other) aspects. As many as there are people, there are also different keywords and associations, and this is completely natural and nice because diversity is one of the universal keywords that denote sexuality.
The pace and journey of sexual development are also different for every person, and there is no single unified pattern of how development should take place or which stops a person should go through on their journey. Some people fall in love, and some don't; some want sexual experiences with other people, some only with themselves, and some not at all; some people want children, some don't. All people are different; all people are wonderful. It is important that the journey of sexuality is safe and free from coercion and violence.
Talking about sexuality in adolescence
It's good to get answers to your questions about human sexuality. Finding answers to your questions helps children and young people grow into healthy and mature sexual personalities. However, talking about sex and sexuality can sometimes be difficult. Here are some hints that can help get the conversation started.
Who to talk to? It is best to talk to someone you trust and with whom you feel comfortable. Such a person can be, for example, a friend or an intimate relationship partner - but it must be someone who knows how to keep confidential topics secret if necessary. Mother, father, or a distant acquaintance or relative can also be people to turn to with your questions and concerns. Parents can be surprisingly open when talking about sexuality. Even if they can't answer some of the questions, it's quite likely that they at least know where to look for answers.
Sometimes it is safer to talk to a complete stranger who is used to listening to young people's concerns and helping them, such as a youth counselor, doctor, school nurse, or teacher. If, for example, you want to check yourself for a sexually transmitted infection or get contraceptive advice, a youth counselor is exactly the right person to discuss your concerns with.
Where and when to talk? For talking, you need to choose a time and place where you can be undisturbed. It is a good idea to tell the conversation partner that you want to talk about something important and to reserve enough time for it. It is important to catch the right moment - when the conversation partner has time and is not in a hurry for another meeting, etc.
When going to see a youth counselor or doctor, it would be advisable to make an appointment in advance. Many youth counseling centers also have so-called drop-in appointments, where you do not need to register in advance and which are meant for approaching with an urgent question or concern.
What to say? If you feel fear or shame, perhaps it is best to start by, for example, telling the listener that you feel uncomfortable. It also prepares the listener for what follows. Then you need to tell your story as simply as possible or ask your questions without getting bogged down in too many details and without digressing from the main point. If you are just honest and talk about the main thing, it also helps your conversation partner to listen and help the best.
- What are the sexual rights of young people?
Young people, like adults, have sexual rights that are part of human rights.
One of the reasons why young people's sexual rights are sometimes not recognized is the misconception that young people are not or should not be sexual, except for the young people who are married. Secondly, one of the most fundamental challenges in recognizing the sexual rights of young people is how to find a balance: on the one hand, young people have the right to be protected from harmful and development-disrupting experiences, and on the other hand, they have the right to participate and gradually take responsibility for the realization of their sexual rights.
Sometimes there is opposition to the sexual rights of young people, because it is believed that young people are not capable of deciding for themselves about their sexuality and that these matters should be decided by parents. However, each young person develops at their own pace and it is difficult to identify a universal age when all young people should receive certain rights (e.g., confidentiality when using health services) or when certain protective provisions lose their importance. Therefore, several authoritative international organizations recognize the approach according to which the balance between young people's protection and self-determination depends in each individual case on the young person's developing capacity to make decisions about their own sexuality.
According to the International Planned Parenthood Federation (2011), the sexual rights of young people are:
- The right to equality. All young people have equal rights, including sexual rights. No one may be treated in a discriminatory manner based on a person's sexuality, gender, sexual identity (including sexual orientation), age, religion, nationality, citizenship, HIV status, disability or any other condition.
- Right to participation. Young people have the right to actively and freely participate in decision-making that affects their lives and affects social changes.
- Right to life and to be free of harm. All young people have the right to life and liberty, and the right to be free from harmful activities. This includes the right of young people to express their sexuality free from coercion and violence. No one may be harassed, harmed, punished, or killed based on their sexual behavior, gender identity, or expression of sexuality in any other way, nor may anyone be harmed for the purpose of protecting family honor. In particular, young single women, HIV-positive, gay and bisexual, intersex and transgender youth must be protected from harm and punishment. Children and young people must be protected from all forms of exploitation and harm, especially sexual exploitation, child prostitution, child trafficking, forced sexual acts and involvement in child pornography. Harmful traditions such as female genital mutilation, forced parentage and forced marriage must be addressed from the perspective of protecting young people's sexual rights.
- Right to privacy. All young people have the right to privacy and the right to make autonomous decisions about their sexuality in private. Young people have the right to decide whether, when, how and with whom to share information about their sexuality-related choices. It provides privacy and confidentiality in sexual and reproductive health services. It provides privacy and confidentiality for information about a young person's sexual behavior, sexual orientation, HIV status, use of contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy or abortion.
- The right to personal autonomy and to be recognized as an individual before the law. All young people have the right to make free decisions about their sexuality and to experience their sexuality and gender in an enjoyable way. Sexual rights can be restricted in the laws of democratic countries only if it is necessary to ensure the general welfare or health of society or if it is necessary to protect people's rights or freedom. Any restriction on young people's sexual rights must be non-discriminatory, including age restrictions.
- The right to think and express oneself freely. All young people have the right to express their thoughts, views, needs and desires related to their sexuality, regardless of restrictions related to dominant cultural practices or political ideologies. All young people have the right to discover their sexuality and should be able to dream and fantasize, to freely express their sexuality without fear, shame or guilt, while recognizing the sexual rights of other people.
- The right to health. All young people have the right to the best physical and mental health, including sexual and reproductive health. Young people have the right to be protected from the social, environmental and economic factors associated with declining health.
- The right to know and learn. All young people have the right to education and information, including broad-based, gender-sensitive and sexual rights-recognizing sex education.
- The right to choose whether or not to marry or have children. All young people have the right to decide whether, how and whom to marry and have children with, in an environment that recognizes different family types.
- The right to have your rights upheld. Governments must respect, protect and fulfill all sexual rights of young people. Respect means that the government does not regulate how and when young people should receive support for their rights. Protection means that the government takes measures to fulfill the human rights of young people. To comply means that the government must create laws and programs to help young people understand their sexuality.
International Planned Parenthood Federation. Exclaim! Young People's Guide to 'Sexual Rights: An IPPF declaration. IPPF, 2011.
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- Healthy and unhealthy relationships
If two people are compatible with each other and create a relationship, often at the beginning of the relationship, in the so-called "falling in love" phase, they see the other person through "rose-colored glasses." After a while, they begin to see their partner more realistically and notice the partner's weaknesses and less pleasant qualities. A similar "dating process" occurs in friendships. In order to discover the character and personality of another person, it is good to use an open way of communication - talking openly about your feelings and thoughts.
Through open communication, you may discover more and more similarities in your friend or partner. You can tell each other what bothers you without hurting each other. Thus, satisfaction with the close relationship increases, and the relationship becomes more permanent.
But you may also discover differences between yourself and your partner or that your partner is not what you imagined. It also helps to understand the reasons for dissatisfaction with the relationship, and the relationship may become more unstable, or it may even end. Especially for this reason, dating relationships started at a young age can remain short-lived because the expectations for one's partner are often unrealistic. A healthy and satisfying relationship makes you feel good about yourself and your partner. You will have fun together, and you can both be yourself.
Healthy friendships and intimate relationships are characterized by:
- an open way of communication;
- honesty - partners do not hide anything important from each other and can say exactly what they think without fear of being laughed at;
- can admit their mistakes and resolve disagreements by expressing their opinions honestly;
- recognition - accepting each other exactly as they are, appreciating each other's peculiarities without trying to "fix" the other in any way;
- respect - partners value each other highly and do not feel either superior or inferior; they respect each other's right to disagree;
- security - the feeling that you don't have to worry about your partner hurting you physically or emotionally, and you don't feel tempted to hurt them yourself;
- equality - e.g., in making joint decisions, sharing responsibilities, and support in difficult situations;
- time spent together, conversations and joint activities, sharing your dreams and worries;
- enjoyment - a good relationship must also be enjoyable and satisfying so you feel energetic and joyful beside your partner.
The opposite of a healthy intimate relationship is an "abusive" relationship in which there is exploitation and dishonesty. In such a relationship, everything revolves around control, fear, and lack of respect. As a rule, one of the partners controls the other, sowing fear and anger. In an abusive relationship, there may be threats, ridicule, and blaming of the partner, bouts of jealousy, and outright violence.
Problems in a relationship are indicated by:
- lack of mutual respect and trust;
- the feeling that you can't be "yourself" in the relationship;
- feelings of loneliness and isolation;
- lack of common interests and activities;
- lack of frank conversations;
- unequal distribution of responsibility and obligations;
- constant dissatisfaction;
- occurrence of physical, mental, or sexual violence.
In order to effectively solve problems, the will and commitment of both partners are needed. You have to listen to the other person in order to understand them. You need to understand and talk about your feelings and try to understand what is causing the negative feelings. Suppressing your dissatisfaction and resentment and avoiding conflict will not help solve problems.
Unresolved problems in an intimate relationship can cause long-term dissatisfaction and be harmful to a person. For example, violence in close relationships, child abuse, and even bullying in teenage relationships are not examples of safe, close relationships.
If it seems like the relationship is abusive, it most likely is. Maybe deep down, you know that it would be better to be alone, but you are afraid of leaving your partner. If this is really the case, you should definitely turn to a parent, school psychologist, youth counselor, family physician, social worker, or someone else you can trust for help.
In such a situation, no one should be forced against their will to maintain unsafe and damaging close relationships.
Child Helpline is available at any time and for any concern!
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- What is dating violence?
Dating violence is intimate partner violence that occurs between people who have met and are in a relationship but do not live together. In dating violence, all forms of violent behavior can gradually occur.
Usually, all couple relationships start with love. However, the partner's violence emerges over time. Young men/girls with violent behavior may even be excessively caring at the beginning of the relationship, adore the girl/young man, and want to move in together, be engaged, or marry soon. In the attitude and behavior of the young man/girl, there may be signs of the need for control, possessiveness, and violence, but the girl/young man may not notice them.
The following behavioral patterns may indicate the start of violence in a couple's relationship:
- The young man/girl is jealous. Jealousy is directed not only at acquaintances of the opposite sex of the girl/young man but also at their friends and relatives.
- They claim that they cannot live without the girl/young man.
- They speak disparagingly of their previous partners.
- They constantly use the expression "MY girlfriend/boyfriend" and want the girl/guy to commit to them only.
- They constantly investigate where the girl/young man goes and with whom they communicate.
- They ask for the passwords of the girl's/young man's social network user account and email addresses and check the phone's call log and messages.
- They make their partner feel guilty that the latter does not do anything right, is wrong, and has to ask the young man/girl for forgiveness 'for something.
- They demand sexual intercourse from the girl/young man to prove love, and they may also attempt rape.
- They do not consider the wishes, opinions, or feelings of the girl/young man. They claim that only they are right and cannot tolerate different opinions.
- They always blame others when there is a problem.
- They treat the girl/young man roughly, insult and humiliate, and use or threaten to use physical force.
- They break objects in a fit of rage.
- Their behavior creates fear and confusion in the girl/young man.
- They threaten suicide if the girl/young man leaves them.