If everyone in our society read and lived by even half of the ideas in these two books, the mental health of our families would surge forward.

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne, M.Ed., Ballantine Books, 2009.

The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families, by Mary Pipher, Ph.D., G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996.


The following Sexual Bill of Rights may be copied for any non-commercial use, free of charge. In all cases the author credits and notice at the end must remain intact.

From TALKING BACK TO SEXUAL PRESSURE, by Elizabeth Powell, M.S., M.A.  © 2013.


Some people think they have no right to ask for what they want sexually. Others feel they do not have a right to refuse sexual advances of any kind. Sometimes even in marriage—although all states now have marital rape laws—some people still think they must never refuse. There are many situations in which people are confused about their sexual rights and think they just have to endure what is actually either a sexual intrusion or perhaps even illegal.

We need to be able to understand, and to state explicitly, our sexual rights. Only then can we assert our power over our own bodies. I know a counselor who used the first edition of this book in a sexual assertiveness class. When the term was nearly over, one of the students said to her wistfully, “I wish I’d known I had rights…before.”

That poignant remark reflects how confused our society is about sex. The fundamental rights below, to which I believe everyone is entitled, are not all legal rights, although some of them are built into our laws. Each state makes laws about sexual behavior, but the states vary greatly in the details of the laws.

1. A person has a right to refuse any type of sexual contact at any time or place, regardless of how aroused the partners might be. There is no such thing as being so aroused that you “owe” anything to your partner. If you are stark naked and change your mind, you still have a right to do so. Now, if you take off your clothes and change your mind on numerous occasions, you still have a right to do this, but there is an element of game playing—and probably anger and manipulation—in it. If you continually confuse your partner, hopefully he (or she) is a stable person, because he will be frustrated and irritated. Your body is still yours, though, and you are the only one who can make decisions about it. Going out with someone, buying dinner or doing other favors does not confer sexual rights to one person over another. This kind of misunderstanding, though, might be one good reason for people to consider paying their own way or making the extent of their sexual availability clear before accepting gifts or favors. Unfortunately, some people feel they deserve something sexual for their money.

2. A person has a right, in a sexual relationship, to express frustration and disappointment if sexual contact is refused. If both of you become very aroused and you refuse to continue, your partner has a right to express disappointment. That is, other people have a right to their feelings, and you have a right to yours. However, a person who frequently asks for more sex and then expresses disappointment, even though the partner’s position has been made clear, may be seen as a high pressuring person. I once had a young, beautiful student who asked her husband to make love at least once a day. When I listened to her story, I could tell that she was one determined gal. He felt so pressured that he began to balk involuntarily during lovemaking. Finally he let her know that he felt pressured, even though she asked with a big smile. I suggested she back off a bit. She reported that their sex life improved.

3. A person has a right to any feeling, fantasy, or thought. Whatever happens inside your head is yours. However, you are responsible for all of your behavior, which should not interfere with anyone else’s rights. Normal people invent the most amazing fantasies and thoughts. Most of us would never dare share them with anyone else, for fear of being thought crazy or immoral. But far more people think about unusual sexual behaviors than actually do them. Your right to any thought does not mean that your thoughts are always healthy for you or for others. If, for example, you are obsessed by certain thoughts, you might need professional help. If a married woman is constantly bothered by daring sexual thoughts about her daughter’s husband, these thoughts might endanger some of her family relationships. She might need the help of a counselor. Or a person could be a “sexual addict” whose compulsive thoughts trigger exhibitionism or child abuse. Most religious traditions have failed to clarify the boundaries between thoughts and actions. In contrast, mental health professionals tend to put less emphasis on thoughts and fantasies unless they trigger harmful emotions or actions.

4. Partners involved in a sexual relationship have a right to share expenses related to their sexual involvement. Their mutual obligation includes sharing the cost of contraceptives and expenses resulting from pregnancy. Fathers will have legal obligations to help support resulting children.

5. A person has a right to know if a potential sex partner has a contagious disease of any kind, or could possibly have been exposed to one. Did previous lovers of one partner show any symptoms of sexually transmitted disease? Had they engaged in any high risk experiences such as sex with multiple partners, or belonged to high risk groups such as prostitutes or intravenous drug users? A couple entering a sexual act is taking certain chances, but each person has a right to hear whatever the other knows about the risk. You have a right to information and you should ask assertive questions. (This may seem quite a shock to contemplate in the middle of sexual passion!) Your right to know, however, does not guarantee that your partner will tell the truth. From one third to one half of sexually active people say they would lie to another person in order to get sex.  Trusting someone you do not know well with your body is simply not smart.

6. A person planning sexual intercourse has a right to know whether the partner is using a contraceptive or other protective device, and any pertinent facts about it. Partners have a right to know whether a condom is new or five years old, and whether it is being used correctly. A man has a right to know whether his partner missed her pill any day that month.

7. A person has a right to be free from unwanted sexual remarks or unwanted sexual gestures. “Look at the hooters on that chick!” yelled down from a construction site, or a whistle from the street corner, is a form of intrusion. However, one who sees a sexually attractive person has a right to feelings that do not result in offensive behavior.

8. A person has a right to use the telephone or other technological devices without the intrusion of uninvited sexual remarks or sexual threats. Anonymous obscene phone calls seem to be less frequent now that cell phone numbers are not often listed. An obscene phone call can be an expression of hostility, and is a violation of sexual privacy and a form of sex without consent. It is also illegal. Obscene emails, tweets, and texting are more recent forms of sexual intrusion that are, unfortunately, difficult to legislate.

9. A person has a right to be free from physical contact of any kind unless he or she clearly indicates a desire for it. Between strangers, this prohibition is very clear. Touching another person’s buttocks, breasts or genitals without consent, for example, is illegal. We usually agree that more extreme force, such as rape, should be illegal. However, some acquaintance rapists claim that they misunderstood the other’s intentions. They may believe that “No” means “Yes”. Novels, pornography, television, films, and even songs encourage that view.

10. A person has a right to have a relationship with a helping professional (such as a doctor, psychologist, attorney, psychiatrist, member of the clergy, or teacher) that is free from any sexual suggestions, advances, or pressures. Needy people seeking help (and certainly children) are particularly vulnerable to the rationalizations and whims of those in positions of power. Such an unequal relationship is based on trust. Members of the helping professions have codes of ethics that prohibit sexual contact, and professionals are well aware of these rules. Many mental health professionals believe that a therapist who has intercourse with a patient should be charged with rape.

11. A person has a right to attend school at any level without unwelcome sexual pressure from faculty, school employees, or students. It is not fair to interfere with someone’s studies by means of any unwelcome sexual conduct, and it is against the law. This includes a wide range of behaviors once thought of as jokes, such as pulling down another teenager’s bathing trunks in swimming class or a teacher making hostile comments about “stupid blondes”.

12. A person has a right to work at his/her place of employment free from sexual communication or solicitation of sexual contact of any nature, when submission to or rejection of such contact is intended to impose favorable or adverse working conditions. That cumbersome statement is the wording of the federal statute that protects men and women from sexual harassment, ranging from undesired sexual remarks to the actual firing of an employee for resisting sexual overtures. (If some heterosexual readers cannot imagine men being threatened by a sexual offer, they often comprehend it when they imagine being propositioned by an unattractive employer or one whose gender is the same as their own.) On the job, employees should be judged only by job performance and not by granting or refusing sexual favors.

13. A person has a right to wear the clothing of choice, providing it is within the law. However, if others frequently react to your clothing with sexual remarks or arousal, you must confront the reality that these clothes are being perceived by others as a sexual message. If Lily wears a T shirt that says, “Make Me an Offer,” she is within her rights, but she needs to know that it may provoke a sexual reaction. If Claire’s blouse is transparent, she needs to anticipate its effect on other people. Studies of American males show that they often completely misinterpret women’s clothing as a sexual invitation. Despite their reactions, however, no one has a right to violate Claire’s sexual rights. Until informed otherwise, those who see through Claire’s blouse or read Lily’s shirt should assume that clothing styles are not requests for sexual activity. They are never requests to be raped.

14. A child has a right to be protected from any contact or experience with an adult (or a teenager) that is for the purpose of sexual arousal or satisfaction. This restraint goes beyond the types of sexual contact that are illegal, such as rape or molestation. It also includes words or gestures that the adult finds arousing. Children are amazingly sensitive; on some level they sense when they are being exploited.

15. A child has a right to know what will happen to his/her body at puberty and the implications of those changes.  Learning the biology of reproduction is just the beginning of sex education. Some parents have conflicts about any sex education that deals with being sexually active, and insist on abstinence only. But every high school teacher has faced a class that contained some sexually active students. Sex education requires knowledgeable teachers who make the advantages of postponing sexual involvement very clear. But teachers must also face the realities of our sexualized culture.

You may have thought of rights that you could add to this list, or revisions you would want to make. But the major point is that there are certain “givens” for fair-minded people. The problem is, a lot of people are not fair-minded!

If you’re going to be sexually assertive, you need to think about these rights and integrate them into your beliefs. If you do not believe you have sexual rights, your actions will have less conviction; your message won’t be clear.

Free copying of the above Sexual Bill of Rights permitted for non-commercial use if the following notice remains intact: Sexual Bill of Rights, from TALKING BACK TO SEXUAL PRESSURE, by Elizabeth Powell, M.S., M.A. © 2013. e-Book available at and

© Elizabeth Powell 2013

I’ll be putting up various role play ideas from time to time to help with sexual pressure situations. They are for your use. As long as you include the copyright credit above, you may print off any of this material. I’d love it if you’d email to tell me which role plays you’ll be using.

Disclaimer.  This role play training is for learning skills for resisting sexual pressure.  Role play can also be used in psychodrama and psychotherapy.  But in those cases the therapist can probe deeply into the feelings and past of the client.  The role play here is not psychotherapy. There is no need to delve into the personal lives of the students, employees, or others with whom you are working.  Although I have never had it happen, it might reassure teachers and instructors to have a fallback plan if a someone ever begins to get into something extremely personal in role play.  You can just respond with,  “Sounds like that was very difficult for you”, or “Sounds like you have a lot of feelings about this”, and go on with the role play.  If you are still concerned about the person, your institution should have a way to refer people to a counselor privately if needed.

“But I could never conduct role plays!” you say.  Often professionals are reluctant to use role play.  Let me disabuse you of any thoughts that this is difficult. It’s fun.

First, make sure the class or group is sober (not a party where there’s drinking, for example) and able to pay attention (not, say, at a bonfire or with a TV playing on the side).

You don’t have to memorize anything. If you feel uncertain when you first begin, just keep your clipboard handy and refer to it. It’s okay to stop and say, “Let me see…” or “Hmmm…” while you’re checking out what to do next!

You’re not an actor, nor are you a director. You’re merely facilitating some scenes that will help your audience/class learn important skills. Feel free to say, “Oh, I forgot,” or “Woops! I should have said….”  Let it be known at the beginning that this is not a performance; it will reassure your volunteers.

You don’t have to critique everything your players do. You can ask your audience, “Is there anything in this situation that you would say differently?”  If you want to improve something your volunteer said, you can phrase it in a non-critical manner, such as:  “I wonder what would happen if she said…?” Support your volunteers first.


1.  Describe the scene: where is it, what does it look like?

This is not a big deal, just informally tell (or ask) the group where this takes place:

You’re in a dormitory room.

You’re in a car, then?

You’re with a group of young women, sitting around snacking and talking.

You’re with a group of guys in a locker room.

As you move chairs around to set the scene, it helps to describe it a little. You can ask them to help you with that:

How big is the room?

Where would they be sitting?

How close are they?

Is it daytime or night?

Is anyone else around?

Now the onlookers will have some idea of what they’re watching or volunteering for.

2.  Reassure the group about role playing before you ask for volunteers, something like this:

When we role play we don’t memorize or anything, we just talk off the top of our heads, whatever we feel like saying.  We don’t curse, that’s aggression; we try to use acceptable language. We don’t get physical—we’re role-playing words.  One important thing: I’m up here with the role players, and I’m here to make them comfortable. We’re not doing a skit or a show; we’re trying to learn something, so I always have my eye on my role players and help them first.

 3.  After awhile you’ll see that the groups get into the role play and love to watch and nobody has stage fright.  But when you have two people playing a couple, where you are looking at options about how to speak up about sex, that can be a bit awkward at first, so you can:

4.  ADD COACHES if needed.  Say something  like,

Now, you won’t be up here by yourself, because you will have a coach who sits right behind you or beside you. If they have ideas of what to say, they’ll whisper it to you. If you feel stuck, turn around and consult with them.

By this time a group is usually warmed up to the idea and you ask for the volunteers that you need for the roles and add, “Who will be her coach?”  So you line up a coach for each partner; that makes four people. If it’s a couple role playing, there will be a chair behind or beside each player.

5.  Instruct your volunteers. Sometimes instructors write out roles and give that to the volunteers, but it’s easier to just informally tell them their roles and ask if there are any questions, reassuring again that there’s no perfect way to say this, we’re just aiming for honest dialogue.

Okay, Jayden, you don’t know this woman very well but you’re at this party and she’s really coming on to you.  She wants you to go back to her place.  She looks good, but your inner voice is saying, this is really fast. Maybe you had a scare with a sexually transmitted disease last year, and it taught you something.


1.  The World’s Greatest Warm-up for Sexual Pressure Role-play.

This is totally without sexual content. You could even have children do it. But you will be surprised when you discuss it afterwards.

While you still have an audience in their seats, do the following:

a)  Divide them into pairs.

b)  Ask each to write down privately something of theirs that they would least like to lend to anyone else.

c)  Instruct A to confide in B what he/she does not want to lend.

d)  Instruct B to beg for it with every possible pressure, except no touching and no cursing.  Encourage B to heap it on, no holds barred otherwise, you really, really want to borrow this. Or maybe you even ask to keep it.

e) After five minutes or so, stop and reverse the roles. Let A pressure B.

f) Now the fun part: Ask each how many ended up lending the thing?  How did you feel?  How many felt comfortable saying no (you can put a scale of 1-5 on the board for even more precision).  What other emotions did you feel?  Embarrassed, guilty, angry, suspicious?  Were you surprised at yourself?  How do you explain that, when pretending, you had that many emotions?

This little role play is extremely revealing to everyone, including the leader! Apparently few of us can say no without discomfort.

Next, let’s start with some role plays you can do using volunteers in front of a group. A good place to start is to show how males can resist the pressure to treat women like an object. This is actually seen as humorous by most audiences (because it turns the cultural stereotype on its head).

2.  A Male Resisting Pressure from His Peers

You might say:  One place where there’s a lot of pressure is what we call “locker room bragging.”  Let’s say this guy had a date with a gal (or woman–use whatever language the group will use, as long as it’s respectful) and you guys want to know what happened. And you sort of like to tease him.

Assign roles:  This guy who went on the date is supposed to treat the woman with respect in everything he says.  You have to refuse to reveal anything that happened—which might be nothing!—and yet you don’t have to get furious at the guys. It’s okay if you have to stop and think a moment. You don’t have to be perfect.

Who will be the guy on the date? (You probably won’t have to persuade anyone. If so, reassure them that you’re up there with them—you’re not entertaining the audience–and you’ll help them out if needed.)  What’s your name going to be? Make up one. (Don’t use  real names, it may restrict their options).

Let’s have 5 or 6 volunteers.  Now, your assignment is to do everything you can to get him to say what happened, to brag, to treat that date like a sex object and not a human being who deserves privacy. (The volunteers are usually amused at this point).

Giving them some rules.   We have a few boundaries here. You have to use clean language. And no physical pressure, just words.

Set the scene:  Where are you when this happens? In a locker room? You can put some chairs if you don’t have a bench.  Tell the class that this is a bench (in role play, you’ll notice people are good at imagining any situation.)

GO.  Okay, here you are, Aaron, and the guys know you had a date with this gorgeous gal last night.

They will take it from there. The males will pressure the main character and he will try to resist. If he doesn’t seem able to, you can ask one of the pressuring guys to volunteer to be his coach.


How did it feel to get that pressure, Aaron?

What was it like for you guys?  Did you ever have this experience before?

How much do the guys that you know put on this kind of pressure?

Which do you think is really more manly, the way Aaron responded, or the typical bragging scenario? (Yes, a loaded question, but it will provoke thought.)

Why is it considered more masculine to brag or lie?

Ask the audience for their reaction and discuss.

3.  Female Pressuring Male

You might introduce this by saying, The stereotype says it’s always the woman who gets the pressure. But counselors are telling us that guys sometimes feel very pressured by females who want sex right now. Because of the cultural belief that guys should take up every offer, guys need ways to respond.

Assign roles:  Who’d like to play a woman who really is hot for this guy and when he backs off, she keeps up the pressure?  She says everything she can think of to make him give in.

 And to the male, give some instruction that tells him–not necessarily what he should say–but reasons why he needs to postpone getting sexually involved.  For example:

What will your name be?  Marc?  Okay, Marc, you meet this gal and she is coming on real strong. She’s attractive, but you had an experience last year that really slowed you down; your then girlfriend thought she was pregnant (or had Chlamydia, or…). You find a way to refuse—use your coach to help you out.

You’ve basically Instructed the female partner: She chooses a name and you can check out whether she has further questions.

If you’ve discussed responses the male can make, he’ll feel more competent to do it. But many young males feel speechless in this role play, or make up reasons that are cop-outs, like “I have a girlfriend.” This role play opens up a good discussion about men’s rights to say they aren’t ready.

Why do we start with males being pressured?  You don’t have to start with males on the defensive, but it is a good way to emphasize male’s responsibility to talk back to the rape culture (#1 above) and (#2) helps support males by emphasizing that they are not to blame for all sexual pressure, and females are not all potential victims. It gives perspective.

4.  How Would You Answer? 

Here are a few sexual pressure “lines”  from TALKING BACK TO SEXUAL PRESSURE. Practice what you would say, in your own words, to reply to the statements below:

  1. “Why not?  We both need it.”  You reply:____________
  2. “We’ll use protection, it’s okay.”  You reply:____________
  3. “Are you a child or a woman?”  You reply:___________
  4. “Are you a man or a boy?”  You reply:_______________
  5. “Is something wrong with me, aren’t you attracted to me?” You reply:_________
  6. “But I have needs!”  You reply:_____________________
  7. “It’s only a natural act, it doesn’t mean anything.” You reply:___________________


Test Manual for 3rd Edition of Talking Back to Sexual Pressure TBTSP_Test_Manual.pdf

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© 2016 Elizabeth Powell, M.S., M.A. All rights reserved