Why the Definitions of Sexual Health Are Restrictive
These are all beautiful examples of what sexual health can and should include. However, despite all of these good intentions and messages, many individuals and healthcare providers still exist in a restrictive and negative view of who is allowed to enjoy sexual health. Take, for example, those who have physical disabilities, differences, or illness.
Can you be sexually healthy if you don’t have sensation in your genitals or if you have a lifelong STI?
I've seen a number of clients who fear that being diagnosed with an STI, one that does not currently have a cure, means that they are exiled to live a life of sexual exclusion and loneliness. Or students whose bodies do not fit into the mainstream narrative of what sex should look or feel like and who then believe that what feels good to them doesn’t qualify as sex. These individuals go on to carry the heavy burden of sexual shame and stigma that they will never be deemed “sexually healthy” and therefore are undesirable.
This also includes age differences. Where we are in the life cycle means that sex and romance can look different from what others perceive. We are not less sexually healthy because orgasms or arousal looks different than it did years ago, that we may not last as long, or have as many orgasms because we are still learning what works for us. There are millions of dollars to be made from telling people that they need to be more sexually “mature” or that they need to regain their youthful responsiveness. As consumers, we get to say what we will and won’t buy into.
The myth that there is only one version of sexual health is one to avoid.
Letting Go of Socially Dictated Sexual Health Stereotypes
Our culture also dictates how we are socialized to view sex. Is one culture more or less sexually healthy because they are more public with affection? Or because some cultures kiss and other don’t? Even what we desire, the body parts we are told are private or sexy, is entirely different depending on the part of the world in which we were raised. How often, what positions, and what pleasure looks like are all topics that must be de-colonized and culturally diversified in order to create a true sexual health conversation.
True Sexual Health Is a Holistic Model
Sexual health must be viewed from a holistic model. To be healthy does not mean able-bodied or disease-free. It means you're supported with resources and capabilities to live the best version of mental, physical and spiritual sexual wellness that you desire. This includes people of different body weights, or whose sexual responses are unique and customized to their abilities. So, a sexually healthy life also involves one in which doctors and professionals embrace and encourage these truths. Defining if one is sexually healthy should be a completely personalized answer that is as unique as our individual fingerprints. In other words, you get to define what's sexually healthy for you.