Background

Early beginnings

The Sex & Ethics Research and Education Project began in 2005 when Professor Moira Carmody from the University of Western Sydney, Australia and Ms Karen Willis (OAM) from the NSW Rape Crisis Centre in Sydney submitted a joint application to the Australian Research Council. Funding was provided from 2005-2008 to conduct research with young women and men aged 16-25 years of age across the state of NSW. We wanted to understand their experiences of sexuality and violence prevention education, how well it prepared them to begin their sexual lives and the issues they faced in negotiating sexual intimacy in casual or ongoing relationships.  

We interviewed young women and men from rural and metropolitan areas and they told us that current sexuality and violence prevention education failed to prepare them for the complexity of sexual intimacy including issues around consent, sexual negotiation and pressured sex. The young people felt existing programmes focused primarily on risk and danger and excluded positive skills for ethical intimacy.
 
These findings informed a pilot of the 6 week Sex & Ethics Education Program in rural and metro areas across NSW in 2007/8. The Program was formally evaluated and refined slightly. Sex & Ethics provides young women and men aged 16-25 years of age opportunities to learn new ways of negotiating sexual intimacy based on a sexual ethics framework developed by Moira Carmody. As an alternative, the Sex & Ethics programme focuses on promoting ethical non-violence skills that assist young people to negotiate sexual intimacy positively.

Further developments

A key aspect of the Sex & Ethics Program is the opportunity for personnel who work directly with young people to receive training in how to deliver the Program. People from a range of disciplines and settings have participated in the 5 day training we offer. This includes people from: sexual assault and rape crisis services, youth services, sexual health; women’s health; football educators; university counsellors and educators working with specific population groups such as LGBTQ or particular cultural groups such as Aboriginal or Maori or Pacific Islander peoples. Once they have received training they are then supported to go out and run the Program in their local communities.

Research on the effectiveness of the Sex & Ethics Program is ongoing. Since 2008, funding has been obtained to deliver the Program in Wellington, New Zealand; with diverse youth and sexual assault services across Sydney and rural NSW; in Western Australia, Tasmania and with trainee footballers from the National Rugby League in Queensland and in university residences.

Programs that attracted government funding have all participated in a three stage formal outcome evaluation to understand the impact of the Program on the lives of young people during and 6 months after the Program is completed. See ‘What participants say ‘page to find out what people think about the Program.

To find out more detail about the Sex & Ethics Program go to the Publications page where you can download free copies of articles and find information on how to purchase the Sex & Ethics books.