Connecting Sex and Safety with Theater
In the capital city of Caracas—nestled at the base of the impressive Mount Avila, which separates the city from the Caribbean Sea—theater is changing the lives of young people in Venezuela.
Like other cities in Latin America—and the world—youth in Caracas are subjected to common myths about sex: Boys cannot properly develop if they don’t have sex. It’s impossible to get pregnant the first time. A malt drink with cinnamon can induce an abortion. While these myths are prevalent among youth, accurate information about sex and relationships is harder to come by. In Venezuela, comprehensive sexuality education is the exception rather than the norm, leaving myths like these to spread, misinform, shape attitudes, and influence policy decisions.
We have been working for decades to address these challenges by providing high-quality, low-cost sexual and reproductive health services and education to young people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. This education provides young people with accurate information about their bodies, their rights, and how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It helps young people navigate their sexuality safely and in good health, and encourages societies that are free of discrimination, violence, and inequality.
In Venezuela, our local partner, PLAFAM, has taken an innovative approach to educating young people about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. They have teamed up with an acclaimed theatre company in Caracas to develop Improsexual, an improvisational theatre performance that busts common myths by speaking frankly and humorously about sexuality. More than 22,000 young people have received sexual and reproductive health information from Improsexual, which was trained by PLAFAM staff.
With Venezuela having one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Latin America, creating programs that meet the real-life needs of young people and their communities is crucial.
“We wanted to come up with something different that would have an impact on young people specifically,” says Michela Guarente, a passionate advocate and former PLAFAM staff member. "Through the improvisation, we really get [the audience] laughing. We get their attention. It's a great moment to sneak in the information they really need, not just about sexuality, but also about building a life plan.”
Actors dressed in an assortment of brightly colored shirts and pants start the performance with humorous facial expressions and poses. The actors use questions about sex that have been submitted by the audience to create a unique and engaging improvised performance. At the end, the audience leaves with key information about sexual and reproductive health and family planning. They also learn where and how to access services at PLAFAM.
For many young people, theatre provides a more accessible way of learning about sex and reproduction. According to 22-year-old Valeria, Improsexual’s approach is particularly effective for reaching young people with vital information like how to properly use a condom and how to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
“Music and theatre has an impact on young people. When you use the same words as the audience, they understand you; you’re on the same level.”
For PLAFAM, Improsexual is also about giving young people the tools they need to build healthy and safe relationships. These messages are crucial to ending the cycle of violence and inequality in a country where it is estimated that a woman is attacked every fifteen minutes.
“It's not just about preventing sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies,” says Guarente. “It's about how to fall in love; how you relate to other people. It's about dreaming about a better future for yourself.”