The Calgary Sexual Health Centre (CSHC) specializes in helping young people learn about sensitive and emotional topics and more importantly, how these learnings can translate into behavioural change. Typically, education about sexual violence prevention and empowerment has been focused on women and girls, unintentionally ignoring the value of men and boys and their role in helping to create solutions. Research is now pointing to young boys as a key population for which to foster healthy, respectful and non-violent behaviours.
In 2010, the CSHC launched WiseGuyz, a school-based program created for junior high boys, who are at a critical point in their gender identity development. The program is voluntary and facilitated by male instructors, helping to create a relaxed and safe environment where the boys can examine their beliefs and assumptions about what it means to be a man in the world today.
WiseGuyz uses a progressive model, with significant attention placed on trust building. In the initial phase of the program, the focus is on creating a safe space and building rapport among participants. WiseGuyz curriculum is comprised of four step-by-step modules: 1) Human Rights; 2) Sexual Health; 3) Gender; and 4) Healthy Relationships
Masculinity and Sexuality are Intrinsically Bound
WiseGuyz encourages boys to be open, curious and not feel shame in asking questions about sex and sexual health. Ensuring boys are developing not only the knowledge about appropriate resources, but also the confidence to access them is critical to their sexual health and engagement in healthy relationships.
The research underscores the fact that masculinity and sexuality are intertwined and that sexual health programming must include education about masculine beliefs and stereotypes, and vice versa. The research explored topics like sexual relationships, safe sex, and sexual health care – and how each intersects with healthy masculinity concepts, such as confidence, self-expression and communication.
Research Findings: There was a 19% improvement in confidence in sexual relations for the participants of WiseGuyz. The increase in confidence indicates that the boys understand the importance of communication, boundary setting and discussing mutual expectations within sexual relationships.
Including sexual health within the curriculum provides students with the tools and resources required to inform and empower positive choices. By implementing this subtle, yet significant, shift in approach to educating young males about their sexual health and emotional literacy, WiseGuyz has earned a reputation for being a promising model for relationship change and a reduction in homophobia, bullying and violence.