Sex is a sensitive topic that can be challenging to discuss. It's intensely private and something you were likely taught to avoid. Because of this mystery, there is a lot of harmful misinformation. That dangerous misinformation can color how we walk through our sexual lives. But how do you know what is healthy and unhealthy about sex if no one talks about it?
At the base of having healthy sexuality is knowing yourself. Sex can create a bridge between body and mind that is otherwise challenging to cross. But amazing things can happen when you're in touch with yourself and your partners.
What is "healthy sexuality"?
Sexual health, as defined by the World Health Organization, "is fundamental to overall health and well-being of individuals, couples, and families…." It's not only about the absence of disease or infection. Healthy sexuality is about your mentality surrounding sex and sexuality.
Each person is their own universe.
Within that universe are different aspects of your identity, including your sense of sexuality.
When we invest in our sexual selves, we can grow and develop in new areas of life. Perceiving yourself as a healthy sexual being is essential for growth. Both personally and with others. If you want to develop a healthy sexuality, follow these five guidelines:
Guideline #1: Health and safety have to be your priority
Your sexual health and safety are ultimately your responsibility.
To see yourself as a healthy sexual being, you need to take a few simple steps.
It all starts with a visit to your local doctor or family planning clinic. Ask for a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) test.
The benefits of getting screened for STIs regularly are:
- It shows you care deeply about your own health and the health of others.
- It can help you get early, effective treatment if you do have an STI.
- It helps protect your future fertility.
- Knowing your status can give you peace of mind.
- Doing this regularly shows you are mature and take sexual health seriously.
- You are taking part in preventing the spread of STIs.
- It can help you prevent getting reinfected with the same STIs
STIs are only one potential issue with having unprotected sex. But many barrier methods such as condoms can also help prevent unwanted pregnancy.
At the end of the day, your health and safety are your responsibility, regardless of gender expectations.
So do your part and incorporate discussions about pregnancy and STI prevention with your friends, lovers, and partners.
Guideline #2: Don't yuck someone else's yum
Kinks and fetishes get an unfair reputation.
Too many people openly kink-shame others, often without being aware of it.
Sexuality is a spectrum.
People shift between phases of sexual interest or fascination. Whereas others see those "oddities" as essential to their identity.
A kink is a sexual interest outside the societal "norm." Therefore, what you perceive as kinky is unique to you. Just like the next person.
Your definition of what is or isn't kinky will change throughout your life. The more experiences you have, the more open-minded you'll become.
So don't kink-shame anything. Ever.
If you've thought of it, someone is definitely into it.
If everyone is enthusiastically consenting, then support those choices!
Keep things positive and accepting. If someone shares that they have a kink with you, be curious and listen. They're opening up and showing you a crucial part of who they are. Part of developing healthy sexuality is accepting others for who they are.
Guideline #3: Keep learning
There is so much more to sexuality than meets the eye.
Sex is often defined by having some penetration involved.
It is so much more than that, and penetration is always optional.
Whatever you think you know about sex, keep questioning it.
Do your own research or speak with a professional sexologist. There are plenty of specialists who field questions about healthy sexuality. Many whose goals are to debunk the harmful sex myths that plague society.
If you have expectations about sex, be curious about them. Ask yourself where you learned those expectations and if they're based on reality.
Most learn about sex from the media and porn. These are grossly exaggerated caricatures of physical intimacy and sex. After all, when was the last time you saw someone use a condom in porn? When was the last time you saw someone make a joke during sex? These things happen daily, and they're normal parts of sex.
Guideline #4: Masturbate
The single best way to explore your healthy sexuality is through masturbation. Masturbation is the cornerstone of all sexual health and identity.
It's a safe space to explore and indulge as you'd like. It's also a critical teacher for when you do have partnered sexual activities. After all, how is your partner supposed to know how to give you pleasure when you can't please yourself?
When you masturbate, please don't rush through it. If you hurry through it alone, you'll also end up rushing through it with partners. Whether you want to or not.
Take your time and try to mentally frame it as an act of self-care.
Everything will change when you see it as a way to treat yourself, spoil yourself, and express your identity.
So slow it down, indulge, and spend time with your fantasies.
Guideline #5: Consent is crucial
Society as a whole needs to talk about consent more.
It's a massive area of speculation and assumptions that can ruin people's days or even lives. So treat consent with the respect it deserves. Remember that consent:
- Cannot be given when you or a partner is intoxicated.
- Must be given enthusiastically throughout the sexual experience
- Is never coerced or pressured into. A person must give it freely and willingly.
- A serious conversation that needs to be had. It can be as simple as "would you like to xxx," No need to feel awkward, you're only being considerate.
- Ongoing and can be rescinded at any time. Just because your partner was excited in the first place doesn't mean they are throughout sex. Make sure they know they're in a safe space where they can change their mind anytime.
Consent is an essential part of healthy sexuality. Not just an "okay."
Genuine, enthusiastic consent to sexual activity can enhance the experience for everyone involved. So be the bigger person and ensure you all have the best time possible. Remember that consent is an ongoing process and can be withdrawn at any time. Be patient, compassionate, and listen. You may learn something.
Sexuality is constantly changing for you and everyone else. If you're ready to start developing your sense of healthy sexuality, follow these simple guidelines. Everyone can have a fantastic time when treated with the right amount of respect and curiosity.
Use these guidelines to enhance your feelings of acceptance and well-being towards yourself and others.