WHAT IS SEXUAL HEALTH?
Sexual Health is a large term. When we see or hear the word “sexual health,” it is common to focus on the word sex, but did you know that sexual health is so much more than the act of “sex”?
(Disclaimer: please note that the following terms are not fully encompassing of everything that the specific term might include. To learn more about a specific term, please contact Sex Sense, our information and referral service).
Sexual health includes:
Sexual and Reproductive Health Care
Experiences of unwanted violence and coercion
Consent and Boundaries
Relationships and Intimacy
Sexual and Reproductive Anatomy
So Much More!
SEXUAL HEALTH IS A TYPE OF HEALTH
There are many types of health including physical health, mental health, spiritual health, cultural health, social health, financial health, environmental health, etc. Plus all these types of health can impact each other. For instance, if you are trying to prevent pregnancy and are able to access the birth control you need (physical health), this may help to create a more positive mood (emotional health), which may also positively impact your sense of sexual confidence and sexual self-esteem (sexual health).
Sexual health is as valuable as any other type of health. How important it is will be different for each person. Sometimes depending on where you are in the world and your upbringing, sexual health may not be as recognized as other types of health and there may even be shame, embarrassment, fear, and confusion with sexual health. This is very common as there, unfortunately, can be a lot of shame attached to things associated with “sex”. For example, it might feel more comfortable talking about a common cold or flu with family, friends or a doctor than it might be to talk about questions around sexual health. On the other hand, you may be very comfortable talking and learning about sexual health. Take a moment to think about how the topic of sexual health makes you feel?
No matter where you are coming from, WE ARE HERE to help bring Sexual Health into a more positive and empowering place. A place where hopefully you can learn the sexual health information you would like, see or speak to a professional in the field whether on the Sex Sense Line or at one of our many clinics throughout BC, and come away knowing that sexual health is a natural part of being human.
Options for Sexual Health champions and celebrates sexual health including an individual’s freedom of sexual expression, the diversity of human sexuality, and a positive sexual self-image for individuals throughout life.
What influences Sexual Health?
How we define sexual health will be different for each person. The reason is that sexual health is influenced by many personal and social factors such as:
- Our values and beliefs
- Indigenous Status
- The people around us
- Our personal experiences
- Societal expectations
- Legal and/or sexual rights
Think about what factors influence your sexual health? What messages have you been given about sexual health from…(if applicable)…..your family? friends? society? culture? religion? spirituality? What are some of your own values and beliefs?
How we experience our sexual health is also part of how we experience the world. For example, there are many factors that health researchers have identified that can impact our health including sexual health. These are known as the ‘social determinants of health’ and include how health is affected by income, education, employment, childhood development, food, housing, health services, gender, race, disability, Indigenous status, social marginalization, and social services.
If someone’s gender identity/identities are not recognized this can impact their sexual health and experiences of social marginalization. Another example is if someone is a newcomer to Canada and may not speak the language or have the health care card that will allow them to access the sexual health services they need.
As you can see, our sexual health is as individual and complicated as the various dynamics of our lives.
Human sexuality rarely falls into neat categories or lends itself to simple labeling, but rather is a rich and complex area of human experience.
Sexual health is personal, psychological, relational, cultural, spiritual, physical, and emotional.
So what does “sexual health” mean to you?