What is Sexual Health?

Sexual health might seem a tricky concept to define, given how little we hear about it.

Even if your personal perspective of normal adult sexuality is holistic, non-medical and/or allows for some level of personal sexual expression, “normal” was defined back in 1970 by Masters & Johnson. Although their research was groundbreaking, Masters & Johnson utilized persons of relatively high sexual function, so by comparison, most of us have been “abnormal” ever since. So, defining normal sexual expression can be challenging, even for those who research the topic.

Others struggle to incorporate sexuality into a medical health care context by examining sexual problems, rather than by understanding the components of sexual wellness. In this framework, health care providers aren’t attending “Sexual Health” conventions; instead they attend “Female Sexual Dysfunction” or “Male Sexual Dysfunction” seminars. Stepping into this game, pharmaceutical corporations struggle to provide remediation for our abnormalities.

Yet others “ab-sexualize” the topic entirely. Absexualization is the process of moving away (“ab”= away from) any type of sexual activity under any circumstance. This can be an appropriate decision for one to make for oneself; however, making absexual decisions for others has been prominent in Western culture for centuries, and appears to be a never-ending debate.

The (unofficial) 2002 World Health Organization offers an inclusive, helpful  definition of Sexual Health:

” … a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health 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.”

This definition characterizes sexual health as something active, rather than something you only have if you don’t think anything is wrong. We advocate for positive and respectful approaches to your own, unique sexuality.

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