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What Is Sexuality Anyway?

Sexuality is complex and spans a vast array of human experiences including family relationships, dating, sexual behavior, physical development, sensuality, sexualization, reproduction, gender, body image and more. It is a fundamental and natural part of being human, for people of all ages. Defining sexuality can be difficult, but it may help to think about Amy Schalet's description of sexuality "as the expression of an age-blind desire for meaningful intimacy and connection with others"*.

One model many sexuality educators use is called The Circles of Sexuality, where five interconnected circles represent five broad areas of sexuality - Sensuality, Intimacy, Sexual Identity, Sexual Health & Reproduction, and Sexualization. In this model sexuality is represented as much more than sexual feelings or sexual intercourse. It includes all the feelings, thoughts and behaviors associated with being a certain gender, being attracted to someone, loving, being in relationships, intimacy, and so on.

When you think about talking to your children about sexuality, think about the places that you would feel comfortable starting a conversation. Anatomy? Body image? Caring, sharing and loving? Sexual orientation? Media images of sexuality? These are all aspects of sexuality, that are related your child?s sexual health. Start the conversation from a place where you feel comfortable, and work your way into the topics where you feel less familiar.

Check out this interactive explanation of the Circles of Sexuality, for a visual explanation of the broad scope of sexuality.

*From "Must We Fear Adolescent Sexuality?", Amy Schalet, Ph.D., Medscape, 2004.


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