What is Sexual Health?

By Dr. Jami Wilder

It’s kind of a trick question.

Ask the question to any number of people and you are bound to get as many answers as there are people. For one person, sexual health may mean the absence of disease. For another, sexual health may be a reflection of the freedom she or he feels to express desires free of societal expectation. In truth, the definition of sexual health is rooted in so many different things. Culture, religion and spiritual beliefs, your nationality, tribe or group affiliation, sexual orientation, family beliefs and so much more weave together to create our individual understanding of what it means to be sexually healthy.

But that doesn’t mean that we haven’t tried to define it. The American Sexual Health Association offers the following as a definition of sexual health:

“Sexual health is the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important part of our physical and emotional health.

Being sexually healthy means:

  • Understanding that sexuality is a natural part of life and involves more than sexual behavior.
  • Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share.
  • Having access to sexual health information, education, and care.
  • Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs and seek care and treatment when needed.
  • Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired.
  • Being able to communicate about sexual health with others including sexual partners and healthcare providers.”

The World Health Organization defines it 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. 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. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”

And while these are worthwhile definitions, the definition of YOUR sexual health must be defined by YOU. What we know is that if our sexual practices originate from an understanding of self we tend to have a more fulfilling experience of our sexual selves.

So what’s your definition? Join in our Roundtable Discussion this month.

Jami Wilder, Psy.D, is co-owner of Wilder Therapy and Wellness in Cranston, RI.

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