Principles of Sexual Health

A very quick post today. I just wanted to share some thoughts on sexual health. We are so focused on sexual dysfunctions, we talk about what's wrong and what to do about it and how to fix it, and we often forget to talk about what sexual health means to us. In our sex education we usually focus only on reproduction and disease prevention, but we don't talk about pleasure. We talk more about what we don't want, but it's so important to talk about what we do want. We talk about consent violations, but often people don't have a solid understanding of what consent looks like in different situations.

“Sexual health is inextricably bound to both physical and mental health. Just as physical and mental health problems can contribute to sexual dysfunction and diseases, those dysfunctions and diseases can contribute to physical and mental health problems. Sexual health is not limited to the absence of disease or dysfunction, nor is its importance confined to just the reproductive years. It includes the ability to understand and weigh the risks, responsibilities, outcomes and impacts of sexual actions and to practice abstinence when appropriate. It includes freedom from sexual abuse and discrimination and the ability of individuals to integrate their sexuality into their lives, derive pleasure from it, and to reproduce if they so choose." The Surgeon General, from the Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behaviour in July 2001.

Here's Doug Braun-Harvey's model, 6 Principles of Sexual health:

  1. Consent

  2. Non-exploitive

  3. Honesty

  4. Shared Values

  5. Protected from STI, HIV, and unwanted pregnancy

  6. Pleasure

The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) defines sexual health as: “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 behaviour.

  • 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

  • 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.”

When I'm reading this, I'm thinking that I'm so glad that we are understanding the importance of consent, accurate information, safety and pleasure.

I think It would be wonderful if we could have more open and honest conversations about it, in our intimate relationships, and as a society.

I think maybe then Steven Snyder's words wold become more of a reality "Life is tough, sex should be easy". For what I am seeing with my clients now, it is's not easy. Not even a little bit.

P.S. This post is inspired by my training with Martha Kauppi, of the Institute for Relational Intimacy, "Assessing and Treating Sex Issues in Psychotherapy" and also by Doug Braun-Harvey's book, “Treating Out of Control Sexual Behaviour: Rethinking Sex Addiction". I can't believe how much I'm learning! I'll be sharing more as we go along.