Sexual Health: beyond STIs and pregnancy scare.
The World Health Organisation defines sexual health as: “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It 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.” Despite this very positive definition we still associate sexual health with talk of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. As one talks about exercise and varied diet with talking about healthy lifestyle we should focus on how one can have a more fulfilling sexual lifestyle. As much as it is important to educate people of the consequences of unprotected sex it is equally important to help people understand what makes a healthy sex life.
Recent studies show that sex education in Malta is seen primarily as the responsibility of the teachers of Personal and Social Development. Parents prefer not to approach the awkward and uncomfortable topic with their children and sometimes feel ill at ease when PSD teachers do it. When some parents and teachers, do pluck up the courage to talk to the teenagers about their bits, they tend to do just that. They tend to talk about what goes where and when. They then emphasise on the different infections and life threatening diseases one might get from sex. It is very important that one talks about this, especially with young people, as STIs and unplanned pregnancies are all very real. Abstinence is a virtue one should discuss when talking about sex education but sometimes it seems like some educators are adamant in pushing for abstinence no matter what. Other professionals choose to discuss and teach young adults how to lead a healthy sexual life. This is to be encouraged as unfortunately, in 2012 one still meets a lot of couples and individuals, who do not enjoy healthy, fulfilling sexual intimacy.
Positive sexual health is about feeling confident in one’s own body and being able to discuss with one’s partner what one enjoys and prefers. One of the benefits of being in a steady, long term relationship is that both learn what pleases the partner and this helps improve the whole intimate experience. Physical intimacy is about being close to the other person and being in sync with each other. Developing a healthy relationship with one’s partner is part of leading a healthy sexual life. That’s why it is important for couples to be able to communicate assertively and honestly, in and outside of the bedroom. Sex is playful time between adults which should, if enjoyed, improve self esteem, intimacy and one’s overall mental and physical health. A satisfying sex life promotes commitment and self confidence, as well as good mental health. Sex is the time when the couple spend time together enjoying each other’s company and body.
Mental and physical health play a very important role in sexual health. Research shows that depression; anxiety, and medication prescribed for both, can cause sexual difficulties, especially low sexual desire and arousal problems in both males and females. It is also a known fact that leading an unhealthy lifestyle effects sexual performance. As sexual activity involves the cardiovascular, nervous and hormonal system, any issue with one of these would result in sexual dysfunction. One should always consult with their family doctor or a sex therapist to see what can be done for such issues.
Finally, sex is fun. This is why it is always encouraged to experiment and try new things. This helps keep the adrenaline pumping and hence both to have something to look forward to when in bed together. Some try new positions; others prefer to stick to their favourite two during love making. As long as the couple is happy it should be fine. Nowadays couples are engaging in more foreplay as they have learnt that sex is not just about the release but about the whole experience. Intimate time together is about immersing oneself in the moment. Couples can do this by focussing on each other’s smell, their partner’s skin texture and response, talking to each other, laughing and tasting each other. Making love is about savouring one’s partner and the moment spent together. It’s about being there for each other and baring it all.
Toys are used by couples who want to add that spice to their intimacy. Others choose not to include toys. One does need to challenge the wrong impression that using sex toys in love making is replacing the “real thing”. Toys do not replace the real thing but can enhance the experience altogether. If sex is adult play then you need adult toys, some local sex toy companies say. Research shows that sex toys can be used as aids during sex. Apart from enhancing one’s pleasure they can help people who suffer from sexual problems. A post -menopausal woman who does not get naturally lubricated as much as she used to could use silicone lubrication to be able to enjoy intimate time with her partner. A man who is suffering from erectile difficulties can use the vacuum pump to be able to get strong enough erections for penetration. Vibrators are also used to enhance stimulation for both men and women. This means that while enhancing the sexual experience toys can also aids the actual act.
In conclusion it is important to be safe and take care of one’s needs as well as those of one’s partner. One can do this by embracing oneself and the changes that the body goes through as it grows older. One’s body is the most amazing thing one will ever own so it needs to be treated as such.
Article first published on Health & Fitness magazine with Malta Today newspaper.