The Impact of Social Stereotypes in YOU*TH Relationships

“We want to give young people a chance to explore their notions of relationships and sex life with regard to equality and provide them with an opportunity to realize the need for self-acceptance and respect for sexual diversity. For us, setting up a safe space where we can discuss sexuality and relationships openl is key. Thanks to this, young people get a chance to discuss issues and topics they are interested in and are confronted with. We think it is important to raise young people’s awareness about consent in relationships and sex, and the importance of communication that is related to it; to have a possibility to always express our needs, concerns, and questions that may emerge in a relationship. We teach young people to have respect not just for their own boundaries but also for boundaries of others. We are reflexive to roles and stereotypes connected to relationship dynamics and carry out workshops in the spirit of partnership. For us, it is vital to build a space where all of us can reflect our experiences and where young people may experience appreciation for sharing their minority stories.”

Facilitator Team, NESEHNUTÍ

During workshops on YOU*TH relationships, we as facilitators have often encountered a series of unrequested comments, mockery, and verbal attacks directed at a particular person or a group in a collective. In moments like this, the facilitator has to promptly decide how to react.

  • Am I prepared to address these verbal comments on the spot?

  • Is the problem rooted deeper? (And therefore it is necessary to focus on its manifestations)

Often, this means you have to make changes to your workshop plan — to have suitable alternative techniques prepared and sensitively use them according to the situation — taking the pressure off those under attack, not increasing it.

Unsolicited comments are based on the power of one of social stereotypes. A stereotype is a habitual way of how we react, act, and do certain things. While stereotyping constitutes a certain consensus of a world view, it also predetermines perception and judgement of certain phenomena and influences our attitudes and behaviour towards these phenomena. On one hand, stereotypes are needed because they make the world easier and more comprehensible; they help to arrange and categorize the complex social reality, and they play a pivotal role in how we understand the world and society. On the other hand, stereotypes can be excessively simplifying. This way, they may hinder the possibilities for seeing new solutions, new ways to change unsuitable established rules. Furthermore, when they deform reality by making us extrapolate characteristics of a whole group from characteristics of one member, they become dangerous.

Gender and ethnic stereotypes, stereotypes about physical disabilities, mental illnesses, or social background — these all reflect in comments, mockery, or verbal attacks directed at a certain individual.

  • How hard do these verbal attacks hit the targeted person?

  • How do they influence the process of building relationships among young people?

  • To what extent is the person able to reflect on them?

  • Are they able to defend themselves?

We focused on these issues in two specific aspects that have not been sufficiently communicated yet, especially in the Czech context.

We developed the activities in cooperation with young people aged 15 to 30 living in the Czech Republic. They are intended for everyone who works with young people on issues of gender-based violence prevention, equality, and intimate relationships.