When I talk about sexual health, it is a definition that expands well beyond being STI free, or as many people call it ‘clean’. Sexual health is all encompassing our sexuality, by which I mean our personal relationship with the role that sex plays in our lives, rather than how we define ourselves by who our sexual partners are. Sexual health is not just a physical state, but also a mental one. As a psychosexual therapist I work with people to try to get them to on a path to sexual health, happiness and wellbeing. But what does that even mean or look like?
Accept You For You
First off, it’s individual, and as unique as the person. There is not a one-size-fits-all sexual health model. We accept differences in preference and taste in all other walks in life from fashion to food to travel to lifestyle choices to careers; but when it comes to sex we seem to be much more concerned with how we fit in with what we understand to be considered ‘normal’. When discussing sex many don’t feel confident about announcing their interests or desires, if they don’t feel that they fit the common narrative or mainstream conversation. But what this then causes is shame or embarrassment, and these feelings can get in the way of a healthy relationship developing between us and sex.
Providing that sex is legal and with enthusiastic consent then we should be learning to accept and celebrate the diversity in sexual desires and practices rather than reinforcing shame around them. This leads to the next part of sexual health which is thinking about the meaning that sex plays in your life, and if it is one that feels good for you. Whist appreciating that sex lives fluctuate and motivations can change all the time, indeed David Buss Cindy Meston’s research identified 237 sexual motivations for having sex, it is important to think about if you feel that the sex you are having is healthy for you. We will all have experiences that we feel are more positive, or less enjoyable, and sometimes average, but it is about the why as much as the what, that can have an impact on you emotionally and psychologically.
Know Your Body
This also ties into self-pleasure and masturbation, which can be the best tool for discovering about your body, your likes and dislikes and what feels good for you, in a way that then helps you to be able to tell and show a partner. The body is designed to respond to touch, and the clitoris has 8000 nerve endings and has the sole function of experiencing pleasure. To manifest better sex in our lives pleasure is the central ingredient to the recipe of getting it right. The more we enjoy sex and our sexual experiences, the more likely we are to want to feel satisfied and want to repeat them. Self pleasure is the physical side of self sex education, whether it’s with hands, toys, lube, in the shower, in bed, watching or listening to something, or just using your imagination the opportunities to explore are endless. And there is no problem about not liking something, there may be elements of trial and error, but that’s how we learn about everything in life.
Communicate and Educate
Communication is a key part of having great sex with a partner. Even if you know exactly what you want and how you want it, unless you tell your partner they won’t know, they aren’t telepathic. Use positive language rather than criticizing about what they didn’t get right, and guide them with your hands to show them. The important point is that you want to have better sex with them, and all bodies and people are different so sex will never be exactly the same with a new partner to a previous one. When it comes to sex education, we don’t get what we need from the current curriculum so feel free to make your own. Listen to what other people are saying on podcasts, on Ted Talks, in books and on blogs. Gathering multiple perspectives will only help you to better shape your own, accepting some views and rejecting others. Information is power.
Follow what feels good for you rather than focusing on what you think you ‘should’ be doing. Give yourself permission to let go and be fully immersed in the moment. Modern life is a constant juggling act, we are rarely not multitasking phone in one hand whilst we go about almost every other daily activity. With this has come the rapid disappearance of the 9-5, work can follow us everywhere, we are always contactable and always able to see what we need and have to do. We don’t switch off and this is exactly what we need to do to turn on. We talk about Mindful Sex, it’s not about the sex you have, but the space you make for it. We experience more when we are fully in the present and this is what is going to make you notice and feel sexual sensations more fully. Distraction can really interrupt sex, so give yourself the space, time and permission to fully let go and experience sex the way it’s meant to be.