Austrian researcher discusses sexuality education in Europe

Olaf Kapella
Olaf Kapella


Sex. It’s a word that makes people uncomfortable.

That is, people other than Olaf Kapella.

Kapella, a visiting Austrian researcher, addressed students, faculty and members of the community during his lecture on European sexuality education Monday night.

He introduced the “LoveTalks” model, which brings together parents, students and teachers in hands-on workshops to ease the discussion of sexuality education.

Although European teachers are knowledgeable on sexuality education, they are often unsure of how to speak to their students about it, Kapella said.

“It wasn’t a problem of knowledge,” Kapella said. “It was more a problem of communication.”

To demonstrate his model, Kapella had the audience split into groups and build a “love house.” Members of the audience drew houses built from the words they believe characterize a healthy, loving relationship.

In another unconventional activity, Kapella asked the audience to describe the act of sexual intercourse as though he were an alien.

Audience responses ranged from “communication” to “toe-sucking.”

Julissa Sanchez, a senior psychology major at Wilmington University, said she was surprised by the group activities.

“It’s more interactive than I expected,” Sanchez said. “I really wasn’t expecting any interaction at all.”

Kapella drew a connection between both activities, explaining that in this holistic approach to sexuality education, much of the words we use to describe intercourse are also used to describe our love houses.

There is a link between emotional and physical needs, Kapella said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) standards for sexuality education say sexuality is a central part of being human, and children and young people have a right to be informed. Further, WHO decided sexuality education should start from birth,.

While critics of the model worry that earlier sexuality education will bring earlier sexual intercourse, Kapella is more interested in opening up the conversation from an early age.

He stresses that for younger children, sexuality education focuses on the love house activity, rather than the physical activity of sex. The LoveTalks model is directed at an older audience because it focuses more on the latter activity.

Joanne Sampson, interim prevention specialist at Student Wellness and Health Promotion, supports the European standards for sexuality education endorsed by Kapella.

“I think that we cannot start too early with healthy sexuality education, and it is absolutely age appropriate,” she said. “It’s not talking about explicit sex with groups, it’s really about naming the body parts and then learning about relationship, learning about how to socially interact, communication, understanding their bodies and their bodies’ boundaries.”

Human development and family studies professor Julie Wilgen was pivotal in putting together Kapella’s presentation, Sampson says.

Amanda Pung, a teaching assistant for professor Julie Wilgen’s “Foundations of Human Sexuality” class, says the presentation was very similar to the class’s content.

“I think this really reflects what Dr. Wilgen teaches us,” Pung said. “The things we cover in class range from sex education to transgender to healthy relationships. A lot has to do with the relationship perspective—social, emotional. Everything he was saying we discuss.”

Kapella’s lecture was sponsored by the Delaware Division of Public Health, the School of Nursing, Student Wellness and Health Promotion, the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Promoters of Wellness, Sexual Offense Support and the Department of Women and Gender Studies.

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