What Is Sexual Assertiveness?

Sexual assertiveness involves the right to be comfortable with yourself and be happy in your intimate relationships.
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The knowledge and defence of your rights as they relate to your body, sexual identity and sexual activity are what define sexual assertiveness, says Chalice C. Jenkins, Ph.D. professor of counseling at Liberty University. According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego, this is a complicated skill which is mainly acquired through actual training and will grow stronger with practice. It will not always be easy to assert this power and control within your interactions with others.

1 Become Educated and Informed

Sexual assertiveness begins with acquiring the knowledge of what is appropriate and inappropriate sexual behavior. From early years, you were most likely taught “good touch” and “bad touch” to differentiate the handling of sexual from nonsexual parts of the body. As you get older, besides the information that is given by your parents in “the talk,” you may receive sex education or family life education in school. These classes provide information on the changes in the body, good hygiene practices, abstinence and contraception, dating concerns and how to say no to unwanted sexual acts. They also highlight the various types of sexually transmitted infections and educate on the risks and prevention of unwanted pregnancies.

2 The Power to Say No

Being aware of your rights not to be mentally, physically or emotionally abused by anyone gives you more power to assert those rights. You do not have to engage in any sexual activity unless you want to, such as kissing, intimate touching or further sexual activity. If you feel uncomfortable in an intimate situation or are not ready to become involved in any sexual activity then you have the right to say no, directly or indirectly through your words or body language, and to have these wishes respected.

3 Protect Yourself From Risk

If and when you do decide to become sexually active, you will be able to make the appropriate choices in methods to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. You will realize that it is completely acceptable to discuss the use of a condom with your partner and that you have the right to refuse to become engaged in any sexual activity if you are not able to properly protect yourself. You will be able to recognize the signs of abusive or inappropriate behavior from your sexual partner and have some idea of resources to turn to for assistance if you find it difficult to remove yourself from an abusive or controlling intimate relationship.

4 Enjoy Healthy Sexual Development

With maturity and growth, individuals who are sexually assertive can feel comfortable in expressing their desires and needs within their intimate relationships. You have the right to develop a healthy sexual identity so that you can be free from guilt and discontent in your choices and decisions. In her dissertation, "Are Young Adult College Attending African American Women Protecting Themselves From HIV/AIDS? A Study of Sexual Assertiveness Characteristics," Jenkins writes that sexual assertiveness empowers women and men alike to be active in what happens to their bodies where sexuality is concerned.

Latoya Newman is a novelist who wrote and published her first novel in 2012. She has a background in education, research and counseling. She taught at the elementary level for eight years, and has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from York University in Toronto, Canada.