This year, I was selected to be one of three Global Youth Ambassadors who will go abroad this summer to learn from a partner of Planned Parenthood Global, the international arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. For over 45 years, PP Global has been working in partnership with grassroots organizations to expand access to sexual and reproductive rights and health. I am thrilled to be heading to Guatemala this month to spend time with Tan Ux’il, a youth serving organization that provides sexual health education and services. As a PPSAT Community Health Educator, I can’t wait to learn from Tan Ux’il and gain tools and ideas for my own programs back home. I am especially looking forward to seeing Tan Ux’il’s teen radio show in action, where between songs they bust taboos and myths about sexual health on the air. As part of the Global Youth Ambassador Fellowship, I will use my experience with Tan Ux’il to help inform a new lesson plan, called So You Think You Consent?
Consent, often defined as permission, is an affirmative agreement shared between people in a relationship to touch one another’s bodies in some way, whether it’s sex or giving a hug. In consent education we often focus on verbiage, like “yes means yes” or “no means no” or “the absence of a yes, is still a no.” We talk about how consent should be enthusiastic, freely given, and informed. My students usually catch on pretty quickly to these ideas, but inevitably someone always asks, “But what if you could just tell they’re into it?” It’s true, we communicate so much through our body language. My conversations with teens made me realize that there was still a big gap to be filled in consent education. I wanted to find a way to help young people gain and practice more non-verbal communication skills that they could rely on in their relationships.
So You Think You Consent? (a play off of the “So You Think You Can Dance” entertainment show) will use dance movement as a tool to help teach nonverbal concepts of consent. As an avid Latin dancer, dancing has taught me how to ask, listen, and respond to small non-verbal cues with a dance partner. Dancing teaches how to take into account the needs and desires of a partner, and how to take care of each other. Seeing the parallels, my project uses Latin dance as a medium to help young people actually experience non-verbal concepts of consent in a healthy, safe, and fun way! Through dance, students increase their body awareness and build key listening skills with one another. Through structured touch and creative expression, my goal is for students to learn how to navigate physical boundaries respectfully and successfully.
As it so happens, Tan Ux’il staff and the youth they serve LOVE to dance. I am beyond excited to dance with them this summer and learn more about how sex ed works around the world. Please follow me in future posts about my GYA experience!