What is Our Whole Lives?

Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a sexuality education curriculum created through a partnership between the Unitarian Universalist and  United Church of Christ churches.  Though developed by religious leaders, the OWL curriculum is secular.   Though initially Culture of Safety will offer classes just for 12 – 14 year olds,  OWL curriculum exists for children as young as K-1, and for high school, young adults, adults, and older adults.  We anticipate eventually offering OWL classes for older teens, young adults, and potentially younger kids, based on demand.

Culture of Safety is grateful to Oak Park OWL  for its leadership and guidance as we work to offer this curriculum in the Rogers Park neighborhood.  OP-OWL and its leadership have been instrumental in providing facilitator training, logistical advice and support, and moral support as we develop our own programming.

Values and Assumptions of OWL at Culture of Safety

Though the Our Whole Lives curriculum is secular, it is not value-free.  The following  values and program assumptions are articulated by OWL, and excerpted from the Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education for Grades 7 – 9 Facilitator Handbook (2nd Edition) (pp. xii – xiii):

  • Self-Worth Every person is entitled to dignity and self-worth and to their own attitudes and beliefs about sexuality
  • Sexual Health  Knowledge about human sexuality is helpful, not harmful.  Every person has the right to accurate information about sexuality and to have their questions answered.
    Healthy sexual relationships are

    • consensual (partners agree about what they will do together sexually)
    • nonexploitave (partners have equal power, and neither pressures or forces others into activities or behaviors)
    • mutually pleasurable
    • safe (sexual activity brings no or low risk of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, or emotional pain)
    • developmentally appropriate (sexual activity is appropriate to the age and maturity of the persons involved)
    • based on mutual expectations and caring
    • respectful (partners value honesty and keeping commitments made to others)

Sexual intercourse is only one of the many valid ways of expressing sexual feelings with a partner.  It is healthier for young adolescents to postpone sexual intercourse.

  • Responsibility We are called to enrich our lives by expressing sexuality in ways that enhance human wholeness and fulfillment and that express love, commitment, delight, and pleasure.  All personas have the right and obligation to make responsible sexual choices.
  • Justice and Inclusivity We need to avoid double standards.  People of all ages, sexual identities, races, ethnicities, genders, backgrounds, income levels, physical and mental abilities, and sexual orientations must be equally valued and have equal rights.

Program Assumptions

Our Whole Lives is also based on the following assumptions about human sexuality:

  • All persons are sexual
  • Sexuality is a good part of the human experience
  • Sexuality includes much more than sexual behavior
  • Human beings are sexual from the time they are born until they die.
  • It is natural to express sexual feelings in a variety of ways.
  • People engage in healthy sexual behavior for a variety of reasons, including to express caring and love, to experience intimacy and connection with another, to share pleasure, to bring new life into the world, and to have fun and relax.
  • Sexuality in our society is damaged by violence, exploitation, alienation, dishonesty, abuse of power, and the treatment of persons as objects
  • It is healthier for young teens to postpone sexual intercourse.