Health & Fitness

What Does It Mean To Be Sexually Healthy?

It’s World Sexual Health Day (WSHD) on every September 4. I know — what is it exactly? It’s a day of awareness managed by the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), a global advocacy organization committed to promoting best practices in sexual health. What does it mean to be sexually healthy anyway?

For WSHD, does everyone get free condoms? Are you supposed to have sex all day? (Albeit safe sex.) Are you supposed to get more educated about safe sex? Though various organizations around the world will celebrate in different ways, via workshops, conferences, outreach drives, and the like, you can celebrate on your own, too, by being more aware of your sexual health. Of course, sexual health means way more than what happens physically.

“The World Health Organization defines sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on their website. “Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

1. “Sexual Health Is Also General Health”

“Being sexually healthy is a personal, self-defined concept. It means that you’re enjoying your individual sensuality, sexuality, and sexual expression. But, sexual health is also general health. It has far-reaching implications: It improves longevity, decreases chronic medical illness, and can help promote happiness and improved sleep. It also can help you relax and improve mood. Sexual health is not only about sexual acts like intercourse or masturbation, but it is about intimacy, and even touch and connectedness.”

2. “Respecting All Genders And Sexual Orientations”

“Sexual health is defined differently for each person. To many, being sexually healthy includes being comfortable with your own sexuality and making decisions related to and communicating about it; the ability to enjoy our sexuality, sexual pleasure and intimacy without fear, guilt, or shame; understanding the diversity of sexuality separate from just sexual behavior; respecting sexual rights; respecting all genders and sexual orientations; having access to healthcare, and the education to avoid unintended pregnancy and minimize the risk of sexually transmitted infections

3. “It’s Not Limited To Just Being STD-free”

“Being sexually healthy means understanding and embracing all aspects of your sexuality. It’s not limited to just being STD-free. It’s the emotional, physical, and social characteristics of sexual behavior. Let’s not forget sexual rights either. Having the right to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is interrelated with sexual health.

Signs of good sexual health include using contraception (condoms) every time you have sex, knowing the ins and outs of oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex and masturbation, obtaining consent, knowing how the sexual organs work, being sexually satisfied, and knowing how to communicate with your partner. It’s not just about how your vagina, penis, or breasts look — it’s being sexually open.

The best way for men and women to protect their sexual health is by communicating with one another and getting educated.”

4. “Having Open And Honest Communication”

“Being sexually healthy, to me, means maintaining positive and healthy relationships, using safe sex practices, making informed decisions, and having open and honest communication. Seeing your doctor for regular check-ups is important, too!”

5. “It Means Knowing That ‘No Means No’”

“It’s a lot more than physical aspects of health. Of course, everyone needs to be aware of STDs. Now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is saying that Zika may become the newest STD. Unless you are monogamous and know your partner is only sleeping with you and is disease-free, condom use is essential.

But, sexual health also overlaps with emotional health. If you are not communicating well in your relationship, your sexual connection will suffer.

There’s also attitude. A healthy sexual attitude means not making sex more important than love or than your well-being. It means knowing that ‘no means no,’ whether you or your partner is saying it. It means valuing yourself enough to say ‘no’ when you want to, so when you say ‘yes,’ you can mean it fully. Setting limits that feel acceptable to you is essential to a healthy sexual attitude. A healthy sexual attitude also means being able to communicate with each other about your likes and dislikes, what turns you on or off, and how you can enhance each other’s pleasure.”

6. “Everyone Deserves To Have A Healthy Sex Life”

“Sexually healthy to me means ‘The ability to enjoy sexual pleasure by yourself or with others.’ I do have as my motto: ‘Everyone deserves to have a healthy sex life.’ Having sexual pleasure without pain, shame, guilt, or as a duty. Enjoying sexual pleasure as a routine in your life also has added health benefits: reducing stress, regulating hormones, decreasing pain, and increasing blood flow to the genital area.”

7. “All [Sexual] Pillars Need To Be Aligned”

“Sexual health is physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, cultural, and political. To truly be sexually healthy, all of these pillars need to be aligned.”

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