What is sexual health?
Sexual health is an important aspect of mental health and wellness. However, it consists of more than just practicing safe sex – it is the state of physical, mental, and social well-being in relation to sex. Good self-esteem, positive relationships, and embracement of sexuality are all essential aspects of sexual health in addition to contraception use.
10 Myths Debunked
Myth: Sexual Health is just about the absence of problems related to our sexuality.
Reality: Sexual Health encompasses the problems, diseases, or infections we can have. Sexual Health takes into account physical, mental, emotional and social dimensions. In other words, it covers a lot of different aspects of our lives including the relationship we have with ourselves, and the context where we live and we take care of ourselves.
Myth: There is no difference between sex and sexuality.
Reality: Contrary to common belief, there is a difference between sex and sexuality. Sex describes simply sexual intercourse but sexuality is a broader term that covers the sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions, behaviors, and also the way we express our gender or sexual identity.
Myth: Talking about sex is not necessary.
Reality: Communication is a fundamental part of our sexual health as it assures consent and enables safe and satisfactory intercourse.
Myth: Everyone is having sex.
Reality: According to some studies, “young people are having less sex than we might think.” This is because, in recent years, people are more prone to being single, they live with their parents for longer, spend more time online, and struggle more with the demands of modern life. Moreover, the multiplication of open debates and discussions on the topic has led people to know what they want and be more selective about their sexual activities.
Myth: Once you give your consent to have sex, everything is permitted.
Reality: Consent is a necessary element in sexual intercourse but what is also necessary is to know about your boundaries. Being clear about your sexual desires and your sexual boundaries is important as a self-discovery element but it is also part of the communication process before any sexual activity.
Myth: A sexual stimualtion will always lead to a sexual response.
Reality: Sexual stimulation does not always align with sexual response. This phenomenon is called arousal non-accordance. That is why it is important to keep in mind that sexual arousal does not always mean an interest in having a sexual activity. Although the person is not interested, sexual arousal can sometimes happen during traumatic events such as sexual assault. Simultaneously, not having an arousal response does not mean that the person is not interested in a sexual partner. This is one of the reasons why it is necessary to always prioritize consent and communication.
Myth: Great sex means being an expert in a set of moves.
Reality: Having a great sexual experience is more than “being an expert in a set of moves.” According to studies, it all starts with the conception we have in our brain. So there are a few steps that can lead to better sex:
1- Communicating; talking about desires, boundaries and fantasies empathically, is a great way to assure an unforgettable experience.
2- Being present in the moment, and authentically living the experience can lead to a better experience.
3- Making time for sex; planning and prioritizing can lead to healthier intercourse.
Myth: Great sex leads to orgasm.
Reality: Pleasure and sexual satisfaction can be different from having an orgasm. It is a lot about the mindset, the level of trust and vulnerability. It is also important to note that what brings pleasure, and satisfaction to one person might be different to another
Myth: The goal of sex is for both partners to have orgasm simultaneously.
Reality: There are a lot of misperceptions and misunderstandings concerning simultaneous orgasm. The truth of the matter is that the influence of popular culture has for instance spread the idea that simultaneous orgasm is a norm. In reality, simultaneous orgasm is more complicated for youth. It is more likely to occur when partners are in a close relationship, have been together for a long time, and understand each other’s sexual response.
Myth: You cannot become pregnant during your period.
Reality: Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to become pregnant during your menstruation. It is possible to confuse vaginal bleeding with the beginning of menstruations. It is also possible to bleed during ovulation (which is the time when women are the most fertile). In those cases, the chances of getting pregnant are really high, that is why having protected intercourse is always better.
Having the Sex Talk
Talking about sex can seem daunting but it can also lead to a stronger bond with emotional, psychological, and mental benefits for the people involved. The truth is that your partner cannot know what you like for instance, unless you take the time to tell them. Moreover, most people find it brave to be able to start that conversation because they have probably tried to do the same!
Why talk about sex?
- Assuring a greater feeling of intimacy
- Building a stronger relationship
- Knowing better about your partner’s needs, desires, and boundaries
- Expressing changes in needs
- Expressing sexual dissatisfaction
- Expressing feelings of sexual rejection
There can be a plethora of reasons to start a conversation about sex. The most important is to not be intimidated about it and realize that the aim is to make the relationship stronger and bring pleasure to all sides involved.
Moreover, researches have shown that having strong sexual communication leads to a more satisfiying sex life.
What to talk about?
- Type of relationship (committed/non-committed, friendly/romantic, sexual/non-sexual, monogamous/non-monogamous…)
- Sexual health (including STIs)
- Birth control and safer sex precautions
- Sexual frequency
- Sexual boundaries (the boundary between likes and dislikes can be tiny so it is important to communicate about both)
- Desires, pleasures, and fantasies
When and where to talk?
It is preferable to have those conversations beforehand, in a neutral, peaceful, and soothing setting.
To avoid upsetting or creating unnecessary frustrations, avoid talking about sex:
- when your partner walks in the door
- when your partner is hungry or tired
- in bed or before bedtime
- before or after sex
Talk before the moment, when you are not in a sexual mood helps to be clear about expectations and it is more likely that you will be ready to act according to your boundaries and liking.
TIP: Some conversations can be upsetting or make the situation uncomfortable but talking about the positive side; about desires, pleasures, and fantasies during sexual intercourse can enhance your experience. So do not hesitate to share what you like and the positive feedback you have during the moment.
How to talk about it?
Start slowly by explaining the main goal of the conversation: building a pleasurable and healthy experience for a stronger relationship.
Use the first pronoun of the singular “I”: as it can help emphasize a personal experience and avoid the effect of shaming, criticizing, or complaining about the other person.
The talk does not need to be one long conversation. Having shorter discussions regularly can be a way to be up-to-date with each persons’ expectations and thus, help maintain a healthy relationship.
TIP: A fun way to express your boundaries could be by creating a Yes-No-Maybe chart (with one column for each element; “Yes”, “No”, “Maybe”) and then sharing it with your partner.
Other important points
- Expressing yourself about your fears, worries, concerns, and desires is part of a healthy relationship. Having those conversations regularly is important to have a satisfying sexual life.
- Talking and creating intimacy in everyday life can be a great way to maintain a rich and fulfilling sexual life. Intimacy does not always imply sex but it can be an efficient way to increase the level of love and attraction between partners.
- Generally speaking, avoid surprising your partner before having a conversation about something new you would like to initiate. Being on the same page is key to having pleasurable experiences.
- As explained by some researchers, the most fulfilling intercourses are often based on the idea that sex is a team effort. When the rhetoric is not about a win-lose balance, the experience is likely to be more enjoyable for the people involved!
- Do not hesitate to search for more information on the topic through reliable sources online and talk to your family physician to know more or simply if something is bothering you. Sex talk should always be safe talk!