Browsing Tag:

sexuality

  • Sexual Health

    Understanding Sexual Health

    Coming up with a definition of sexual health is a difficult task, as each culture, sub-culture, and individual has different standards of sexual health. ASHA believes that sexual health includes far more than avoiding disease or unplanned pregnancy. We also believe that having a sexually transmitted infection or unwanted pregnancy does not prevent someone from being or becoming sexually healthy.

    Here is ASHA’s 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.

     

    Defining Sexual Health

    ASHA Board member and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, considers the term sexual health, how it is used, and how it can be defined.

    The phrase “sexual health” encompasses a range of public health and clinical issues related to prevention of sexually transmitted infections. I use the phrase a lot in my own work and its widening currency is a welcome new paradigm in our field. In fact, the concept of sexual health seems to me of fundamental relevance to all aspects of prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

    To be honest, though, all of the talk about sexual health doesn’t seem to have influenced the day-to-day particulars of our work. Sex still is primarily seen as a set of risk factors that we counsel against. I am convinced that this perspective on sex and sexuality as “risk” legitimates the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections and contributes to our society’s poisonous intolerance of sexual diversity. A sexual health perspective incorporates the concept of personal and epidemiologic risks of sex, but recognizes the pervasive importance of sex in our lives.

    However, I’ve begun to wonder if I know what sexual health means in the first place. It’s a big concept, and maybe it’s natural that definitions seem idealistic, overwrought, and self-righteous. Consider the well-known working definition of the World Health Organization:

    “Sexual health is 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.”

    There is a lot to agree with in this definition, especially in its recognition of the complex physical, emotional, mental and social attributes of sexual health, and the anchoring of sexual health in universal sexual rights. But, I find this definition to be quaintly admonishing and parental (“…the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences…”). More importantly, however, the definition is sexually vague. No matter how many times I’ve read, used, and cited this definition, I can’t derive from it even a rudimentary vision of how sexual health operates in people’s daily lives. I feel the same about the more recently wrought definition of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, particularly because sexual rights and of sexual pleasure are absent from that sexual health definition.

    So, maybe I need to get clearer with myself about what sexual health is. And, sexual health should be more than just the negatives: not coerced; not discriminated; not violent. The prevalence of these negatives in many people’s lives tells us how far we are from achieving a just and equitable society. But I think that sexual health ultimately requires much more active involvement from all of us, and it seems quite insufficient to hope that sexual health will arise on its own if coercion, discrimination, and violence are finally conquered.

    From: ASHA

  • Sexual Health

    Are You Ready for Sex?

    Sexual expression is an amazing gift. Sex, in its many different forms, can provide a way to express love, and learn about yourself and the ways in which you communicate with other people. With that said, sex is also deeply personal, and can result in feeling vulnerable to another person. Your reaction to sexual expression is uniquely yours, and only you can determine, in any relationship, when you’re ready to have sex.

    Even more importantly, no one ever has the right to pressure you into having sex. If you’re not ready–even if you and that person have had sex before–you always have the right to say no. It can be hard to say “no,” even if you want to; you might feel badly about hurting someone else’s feelings, or feel that there are expectations about what is supposed to happen. But you are the only person who should have control over your body.

    MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU

    Are you ready for sex?

    The best way to prepare for the decision to have sex is to become comfortable with communicating about your needs. Choosing to take part in one kind of sexual activity doesn’t automatically mean that you’re up for anything. The best way to make sure that your limits are understood and respected is to have sex with a partner who not only respects you and your body, but who will talk with you before you have sex about your concerns and boundaries.

    Communicating these things before you’re actually in a sexual situation can be very helpful in making sure that you are both on the same page. If you don’t feel right about something, say so! Anyone who challenges your choices about whether or not to have sex is not giving you the respect that you deserve. Pay attention to your feelings, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for making decisions that are right for you.
    Your Feelings Are Your Own

    Because sex can bring about new feelings, it is helpful to think about your reactions, emotions and possible risks associated with sex. Make sure you take time to think about how to prepare yourself for an experience that could be wonderful, but can also be hard emotionally. These questions can be helpful:

    • How will you feel about yourself after you have sex?
    • Why is it a good idea to have sex now, with this person?
    • How will you feel about your partner after you have sex?
    • Can you talk to that person about how you’re protecting yourself against pregnancy and STD/STIs?

    If you’re new to sexual activity, have you spoken with someone you trust about how to find and use that protection (i.e. birth control methods, condoms, etc.) correctly?

     

    Abstinence

    Choosing abstinence, or making the decision not to have sex at all, is your option at any time. Even if you’ve had sex before, it’s still totally your right to decide that it’s not something that you want to do. You might choose not to have sex at all for a long time; you might decide not to do so after you’ve been sexually active for several years. Remember: it’s your body! Pay attention to your feelings, and give yourself time and space to make the best choice for you.

    Asexuality

    Asexuality is another thing that might come into play in your life. Being asexual means that you don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone. Remember that it is absolutely normal to experience phases in your life that don’t include sex. However, if you want to learn more about your own feelings of asexuality or feel uncomfortable about them – especially if they come about abruptly – don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor or therapist.

    From: ASHA

  • Articles, TRENDING

    All About Pride: An Interview with Marisa Sitz

    What does Pride mean to you?

    Pride” to me is an open declaration that I refuse to be shamed or to feel ashamed about whom and how I love. Unfortunately, the dominant culture and social structures of America (and largely, elsewhere also) is a heterosexual and cisgendered one. This disallows people whose sexuality and gender do not fit along these presets to live their lives comfortably and fully. “Pride” is a personal statement (I am unashamed) and an encouragement and act of solidarity (You should not feel ashamed either – we support you).

    Pride month and Pride parades in the us come from a history of protest and physical action against police and our government. The Pride movement (as with many other movements seeking civil equality and equity) was started by queer women of color, and these women inspire me today.

     

     

    What was your reaction to the legalization of gay marriage two years ago?

    I felt relieved and frustrated after the legalization of gay marriage in the US in 2015. This issue shouldn’t have taken us so long, and Ireland did it before us!! (Taiwan has since followed!) Also, as the LGBTQ+ community is wide and varied, and we all have individual experiences, identities, and goals. Gay Marriage is one of the many goals that the community is seeking, but arguably not the most pressing or dire. Marriage equality was a highly politicized topic that got a lot of traction and discussion in the US. Lots of people not in the LGBTQ+ community were eager to argue against it or could pretty easily see how it was a good idea. The issue got a lot of political traction and the fear was that people would see its passing as the resolution of every civil injustice against the community. Now that marriage equality is a reality, us gays could be free and happy and shouldn’t complain anymore.
    This is worrisome because there are other issues that need addressing also. We need to figure out how to resolve issues with civil treatment of transgender people (in general but also) specifically in incarceration facilities. Medical accessibility and affordability is an issue for all working class Americans, but especially LGBTQ+ ones, whose needs might not be met because of social prejudice and a lack of educated professionals. Violence against LGBTQ+ people is still prevalent and largely ignored. 30 trans people were killed in the US in 2016 and so far in 2017. Employers still discriminate, poverty still particularly affects LGBTQ+ people…we have a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights, and we don’t want momentum to stop even though these issues are less interesting and more complicated than marriage equality.
    How would you define a “good ally”?
    A good ally is someone who takes the space they are already in and makes it feminist or queer or not monoethnic. If people want to be feminist or queer allies they should listen to others and use their platforms to draw attention to queer issues! These are true allies. Allies don’t need to belong in queer spaces!
    Have you had the chance to go to a pride parade? If so, which one(s) and what was it like?
    I have participated in three or so pride parades. I marched with the Glide Foundation in the 2014 San Francisco Pride Parade, and in fall of 2012 and 2013 marched with my university in the Atlanta pride parades. My first parade was the most extraordinary. Marching with friends and experiencing such a wild performance of love and celebration was so uplifting. I would joke that I went to pride to soak up energy and recharge so I could make it through the rest of the year. My favorite parts are seeing other queer youth (and older queer people!) marching happily together, and always the counter protest supporters like the Atlanta Angels and the Pansy Patrol. These groups stand between any protesters and the pride participants and block their signs with angel wings or large flower cut-out to help the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and supported during the festivities. These groups always make me emotional, and I love seeing them. I tell them thank you whenever I can.
    I was pleased to see that many parades so far this month have called out the corporate over-involvement in pride events. Businesses will march in parades to show their support–which is awesome!–but when you’re watching a parade and you’ve seen a number of corporations in a row wearing rainbows and throwing advertisements to the crowds, you can’t avoid the fact that these companies are benefiting off of their good press as lgbtq+ supportive organizations. Most of these companies prove that they don’t really care about LGBTQ+ people in their policies and workplace practices, but wear rainbows during pride month to get our business. I’d rather see the local boy scouts chapter or the local churches marching in support in a parade, and positions in the parade get sold to companies and businesses instead. Last year’s Atlanta parade was no fun because of this reason. Let us march in our own parades!
    Do you have any advice to give young girls who are either questioning or afraid to come out to their loved ones?
    My advice to young people questioning is to not let anyone dissuade you from your own questioning. Don’t let others tell you how to identify or how you feel–spend time with yourself and with good people you trust figuring out how you experience (or don’t experience ) love and attraction and your gender. Be kind to yourself on your journey–you have time to grow and change and explore. There’s no rush to figure everything out perfectly or even completely.
    My advice to people worried about coming out to your loved ones: it doesn’t get any less scary, I’m afraid. (If you aren’t scared: I’m so so so glad. That makes me hopeful for the future! Be unafraid!!) Every moment is an act of coming out. You have the right to control your own story and your coming out–whether it happens or not. I hope that we eventually get to a place where the “coming out” experience doesn’t happen anymore–where we can all stop making assumptions about each other and feel comfortable being ourselves without justification or reservation. But until then, always be safe. You are lovingly and wonderfully formed and be unashamed of that. Don’t let others dismiss you, but try and be patient with those who might have trouble. You’ve had time to think about your own identities, give them time too. Talk with them and invite them to ask questions. I’m so inspired by young queer people. You are all so brave and so beautiful and I’m so happy to watch you all share your brightness and queerness with the world.