Cordelia Anderson M.A.


The Sexual Behavior Continuum Lesson

Let’s talk about The Sexual Behavior Continuum


P:HARS: Positive: Healthy/Helpful, Appropriate, Respectful, Safe

(Behaviors that are expected, encouraged and constructive in a school setting)

ASK: What are examples of sexually HARS behaviors at your school?

Examples of Answer:   respecting your own and others boundaries, complimenting someone, caring & wanted touch, dressing in a way that fits for school/learning,  saying helpful not hurtful things to and about people on and off-line;


HARS includes being “sexually healthy” now and to grow up to be sexually healthy adults.

Sex (gender) or the act of “sex” is only three letters in a nine letter word “sexuality” We’re all sexual human beings from birth to death, whether or not we’re actually having sex.

Brainstorm/ Discuss:  What does it mean to be “healthy?”

What does it mean to be “sexually healthy?”

Other key words: sexual respect: (of self and others)

Sexual integrity (responsible for what you do and the choices you make whether or not anyone else is watching or knows)


-  Sexual health involves:  how an individual feels/ the emotional,

an individuals body image/physical sense of self, intellectual/have the facts or know where to get them, spiritual/values and beliefs,

social/cultural – what society and the dominate culture says – social norms and what is and is not helpful about those

to have “sexual esteem” ( a strong sense of who you are, acceptance of your body image, know and act on your personal values and beliefs; expect to be treated with respect and regard to your feelings and needs and to do so to others)

to have healthy  -caring, loving, respectful - relationships

to understand how to touch in caring, respectful ways

to talk and listen to others in a respectful manner

regard and care about how the other person thinks, feels, needs

understanding of the impact of your behavior on others

be responsible for their own choices and behaviors

not having sex or abstaining until and unless it fits within your beliefs; is non-coerced; protected


Playful: Teasing, Flirting 

(Fun, mutual, no harm done, relationship enhancing, problematic only when detracting from school tasks)


ASK: What are examples of playful (teasing/flirting) at your school? What makes that be okay?


Examples of answers:  words behaviors where both people are having fun; both people like it; it’s fun not hurtful

Mutually Inappropriate 

 (Consensual intimate sexual behaviors in school; language and actions okay within one group that is offensive to bystanders or not conducive to a safe, learning environment)


ASK:  What are examples of behaviors that may be okay for the people doing it, but are not okay ways to behave at school? 

Or,   What are examples of behaviors that might be okay for the people doing the, but not for others around them who see or hear it?

Answers:  Two people might be okay calling each others certain names or with  romantic kissing or touching but the words may not be okay to others or watching the expressions of affection may not be what others want or expect in a school/learning setting.

Harmful: Sexual Bullying

(Not fun for at least one party, not mutual, harm done, aggressive, intimidation, harmful to relationships; a great deal of bullying tends to be sexual in nature, school policies vary)

ASK:  There are lots of different ways to bully. And a lot of bullying is sexual

What are some examples of sexual bullying at your school?

E.g., making fun of the way a person looks, whether they are male/female in the right way, who they are attracted to, sexual orientation, sexual rumor spreading.  

What helps you not to sexually bully others?

E.g., I know it is not okay; I was taught in my family not to bully; to treat others girls/boys – those who are different from me – with respect.

Why do some people think they can sexually bully others?

(Focus on behaviors, not on names of those who do it)

(Focus on the harm done to the target, the community and ultimately also to the one who is bullying)

E.g., They are trying to get attention; they think its fun; they don’t recognize they are hurting someone else

What makes a behavior be bullying instead of playful?

E.g., It’s not fun for at least one person. It’s not a joke for at least one person.


(Unwelcome and unwanted sexual words and behaviors/acts based on gender – being male/female - or sexual orientation;  - there is harm done, it’s against school policy, it is considered discrimination; it is against the law; must be reported; “eye of the beholder” matters > that means impact not just intent)


ASK:  Sexual harassment is more serious than sexual bullying though both are harmful and can overlap.

What are examples of sexual harassment?

E.g, sexual name calling; sexual comments about someone’s body; threats or taunts about  someone’s real or perceived sexual orientation; on-going pressure to date or have sex; unwanted sexual advances;  sexual surveys or virtual/morphed sexual images 

Do you think most students know what sexual harassment is?

Or, what the consequences are? 

Do most understand that it is not about what a person “intended or meant” but the “impact” of their behavior on someone else?

How is sexual harassment the same or different from sexual bullying?

(Focus on behaviors, not on names of those who do it)

(Focus on the harm done to the target, the community and ultimately also to the one who is bullying)

SH vs flirting :  flirting is wanted by both people; enjoyable to both people; not hurtful to either person; if the comments or actions crossed a line for one of the people involved the other person would stop immediately because no harm is intended.

SH vs Sexual bullying:  it is a continuum – not always clear – some of the words and actions may be similar- it is a matter of degree; A problem with a clear definition is “unwelcome unwanted sexual words and actions” often result from role playing/imitating/not knowing any better/not getting the seriousness or effect and can be stopped by clearly stating

This must stop now

This is not okay

Think about the impact of your behavior on others

Make amends

Something can be harassment even if it is one time but generally the harassment is persistent – over time and continues even when the person makes it very clear they want it to stop and / or despite adult intervention.

What does – or should – happen at your school when someone sexually harasses someone else?

Those who come forward and report  are to be protected from retaliation (threats, bullying, harassment, etc.

Person who does it should get help to admit, take responsibility, recognize impact of behavior and make a plan so it doesn’t happen again.

Those harmed should be attended to, their needs and concerns addressed and protected from further harm.

Bystanders should know to speak up “Stop it” “Not funny” and speak out (Tell an adult)

Adults > take it seriously – don’t minimize or excuse away; support the doer but the his or her behavior.

What helps you not to sexually harass others?

Ideas:  It may be what many consider okay/funny/entertaining/their right but you need to know it is wrong, harmful, could get the doer in trouble at school or with the law

What makes some people think they can? 


(Serious threats and/or harm done; lack of consent*, lack of equality and with **coercion; force may be involved; a weapon may be involved, against school policy, against the law; must be reported; the age of consent in Minnesota is 16; ***sexual assault)


Depending on the age and clarity of answers from the students, further definitions may be necessary.

It always helps to ask first what a word means then affirm accurate definitions or add them:


What does consent mean?

*Consent = Permission that is clearly spoken, mutually understood and freely given.  (When someone is drugged, drunk, sleeping – they cannot consent.)

Given the age of consent in the State of Minnesota is 16, that means someone has to be 16 years old to be able to legally consent to having sex.

*** Consent Variations =  the child/youth consents but the person is over the age of consent; the one under may perceive the contact as a relationship or love and may not see any harm or coercion in the  contact.


What does coercion mean?

**Coercion = Pressuring or tricking someone into doing something sexual (or otherwise) they did not want to do.

What does sexual assault mean?

***Sexual assault = A form of violence where sex is used to harm someone else and/or to gain power or control over another person.  This includes any sexual activity involving someone who does not, or cannot consent.

What does “rape” mean?  Rape is the term often used when the sexual assault/violence involves the act of intercourse (oral, anal, vaginal)

With children:  SA = Tricked, pressured or forced sexual touch or sexual behavior.

GROOMING = The seemingly nice/kind/loving ways a person treats someone else to trick them into sexual behaviors   (e.g. buying things, pretending to be in love, pretending to really care about the person well being more than their own)

Additional Questions:

1)  What does the school do well / What could the school do better- To encourage appropriate behaviors and to stop harmful behaviors?

 What can you personally do to make things better?

Arts Activity:  Sexual Behavior Continuum Poster

Sexual Behavior Continuum Key Messages Bumper Sticker

Contact: Cordelia Anderson
Sensibilities Prevention Services
3118 West Lake Street # 431
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416

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