Body Mapping

  • Objective: To become comfortable speaking about body parts, particularly in terms of sexuality, and to discuss sources of pleasure, pain, shame and power.
  • Preparation/Materials: Flipchart paper, colored markers, notepads, pen, pencil, tape. Before using this exercise, the research team should also reflect on the potential sensitivities, risks or harms that may be linked with conducting this exercise with certain groups.
  • Participants: This exercise can be done with individuals or in gender disaggregated groups. The Social Analysis and Action Tool recommends a group of 10 to 25 participants for this exercise. Groups should be single-sex.


For this exercise, the facilitator divided participants into groups of 5-6. And asks for one volunteer to trace the shape of another participant on flipchart paper.

As a group, participants then identified, drew and labeled various parts of the body, including sexual and reproductive parts.
The facilitator then asked each group to locate and mark with different colors the parts in the body that give them pleasure, pain, shame and power.

Once groups had finished their body maps, the facilitator then facilitated a discussion on:

  • Why groups felt power, pleasure, pain or shame in each of the marked areas
  • When groups felt power, pleasure, pain or shame in each of the marked areas
  • How groups felt power, pleasure, pain or shame in each of the marked areas

The group also discussed:

  • Are there different attitudes and judgments that are attached to different body parts? How does this impact how we feel and think about sex?
  • Are there some body parts that feel powerful to some? Are those parts used for power over others?
  • How are those areas that you feel power in related to feelings of pleasure, pain or shame?
  • What causes us to feel shame?

Variation - Feelings about Sexual Relationships (River of Risk)

This exercise explores attitudes, feelings and influencings around different sexual relationships.

To begin, the facilitatee asks a volunteer to draw two figures on the flip chart - each representing a woman in a different sexual relationship.

The discussion begins by exploring influences on sexual decision-making.

  • Starting with one figure, the facilitator asks participants to identify different parts of the body which women may use to decide about sex with an identified sexual partner.
  • Participants depict this on the figure. Note: as participants add body parts to the figures, the facilitator should ask probing questions to better understand influencing factors on sexual decision-making
  • Repeat exercise with the next figure representing a different sexual partner.

Once completed, the facilitator then leads a group discussion by asking questions such as:

  • What body parts are similar/different?
  • How do these similarities affect decision-making?
  • What are the consequences of these decisions for one’s own the health and health of the partner?
  • How do these factors influence condom use?

To conclude, discussants share:

  • What have you learned from this exercise?
  • How will you use this information?
  • Explain what the project hopes to do with this information e.g. to inform new project activities.



  • CARE, with Mutengo Consulting (2009). River of Risk Toolkit.
  • CARE (2007). Ideas and Action: Addressing the Social Factors that Influence Sexual and Reproductive Health.