Taking charge of your sexuality is something that can be learned. From the book Sex on Your Terms, much can be learned about being sexually assertive. Being sexually assertive can help you protect yourself and help with your self esteem. Author Elizabeth Powell writes, “Never before has society provided so many ways to get into sexual trouble. Our country has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the industrialized world.” Not only is teenage pregnancy a problem, but sexually transmitted disease has reached a new all time high as well. Powell describes our country as a “sexual disaster area.” Not only are these two issues a problem, but sexual abuse is also a problem. For centuries, woman have been the victims of sexual exploitation, Powell writes, “So what is in it for you? Why should you learn to be sexually assertive?”
Sexual relationships can be enhanced if a person can be sexually assertive. If a person is assertive, they can eliminate or decrease their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.
Asking to use protection and asking about the sexual history of your partner are both great ways to be assertive and keep yourself safe. Being sexually assertive can also decrease your risk of becoming pregnant or impregnating someone else. Being able to ask for protection is important in preventing pregnancy. Many people do no talk about condoms because it embarrasses them , which then may lead to pregnancy. Reducing your risk of being raped by an acquaintance and being accused of rape are also reasons why it’s important for a person to learn how to be sexually assertive. It can also decrease the odds of being sexually harassed or being accused of harassment.
What exactly is sexual assertiveness? Assertion or assertiveness is “behavior in which you stand up for your rights and say directly what you believe, want and feel,” writes Powell. The important part to remember is to do this in a respectful and honest manner. Otherwise, you may come off as rude or mean. It is also important not to harm or put down another person; their rights must be respected too.
There are three kinds of assertion. The first is empathic assertion, in this type of assertion you would first acknowledge the other person’s feelings and show sensitivity to that person. The second kind is escalating asserting, where you begin with mildly expressing yourself, but because your partner does not listen or respond, the intensity of your statements escalates. The third kind of assertion is confontive assertion, where you confront a person who does something that contradicts what they say. Think of sexual assertiveness as verbal self-defense.
Using “I” statements is the best way to be sexually assertive. Some examples include “I feel, I need, I’m afraid, I’m disappointed, I want.” These are better to use because they do not point a finger or blame someone else. Statements that do blame are called “You” statements. When being sexually assertive it’s important to own your own feelings, be honest with yourself so you can be honest with you partner.
If you are afraid to make “I” statements, practice on little things such as “I want to eat dinner now” or “I don’t like that type of music” and that will help you build up to things like “I don’t want to have sex with you.”
It is important to note that being sober can help a person be more sexually assertive. Many teen pregnancies occur due to the use of alcohol. Alcohol can impair brain functions and prevent a person from being able to be sexually assertive.
In Powell’s book, she lists 16 sexual rights of a person, some of these include, but are not limited to, the right to refuse any type of sexual contact, the right to express frustration and disappointment, the right to any feeling, fantasy or thought and the right to be free of becoming a sexual object.
These rights, among the other 12 in her book are important to take note of. It’s important to know your sexual rights and how being sexually assertive can help you in your relationships.
Rebekah Balmer is a fourth-year student majoring in women’s and gender studies and sociology . She can be reached at RB649636@wcupa.edu.