Sexually healthy – it’s a mysterious term with a wide scope that so many people are unfamiliar with. According to studies, the average person either feels sexual unhealthy, sexually unsatisfied, or both. And while the two are mutually exclusive, having a better understanding of what sexual health is (and isn’t) may be able to help individuals define the term for themselves.
Either way, creating a feasible definition for sexual health is difficult because there are so many subjective factors involved. It doesn’t help that every culture, sub-culture and individual has unique ideals. Unfortunately, many people today believe that good sexual health means little more than avoiding STIs and unwanted pregnancies.
The fact of the matter is this: Neither sexually transmitted infections nor unplanned babies can stop someone from being or becoming sexually healthy. It’s all about making the right lifestyle choices despite what you’re going through. Maintaining good sexual health isn’t difficult, but without enough attention paid to it your love life could take a turn for the worst.
What Does It Mean to Be Sexually Healthy?
The American Sexual Health Association defines sexual health as the ability to fully embrace one’s sexuality, whatever that may be. However, that somewhat oversimplified definition seems to exclude the physical and emotional components often required to have a truly healthy sex life. A more in-depth definition would be:
“Understanding sex as a natural part of human behavior while recognizing and respecting the sexual rights of others, having access to information and care while taking a proactive approach to protecting yourself from sexually-related injuries and infections, enjoying sexual activity and being able to communicate your desires and concerns appropriately.”
In short, sexual health is defined by a wide range of factors that are each subjective to the person defining it. And while there may be general guidelines that have been previously agreed upon to determine the overall health of a person’s sexuality, it’s important to stay in contact with your doctor just to be safe. For example, did you know that some signs of sexual unhealth are virtually impossible to detect without a proper medical diagnosis?
The 10 Most Common Signs You’re Sexually Unhealthy
No matter how you define it, sexual healthiness is a crucial part of living a happy, fulfilling life. In fact, unmanaged sexual health can have numerous consequences. For most people, sexual unhealthiness is easy to spot. For others, not so much.
To determine whether or not you’re sexually healthy, see if you or your partner has ever experienced any of the following:
- You find it very difficult to communicate your wants and/or needs to your sexual partner.
- You don’t like the way your body looks, smells or behaves, especially during sex and/or masturbation.
- You have trouble exposing yourself to your partner.
- You can’t listen to your partner’s sexual desires and/or concerns without feeling attacked or emotionally damaged.
- You have diagnosed or undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections.
- You can’t reach orgasm easily or at all.
- You frequently enjoy sex that’s considered inappropriate or illegal.
- You’ve never tried or considered trying sex toys or other safe alternatives to reach orgasm.
- Your body doesn’t respond to sexual stimuli as expected or desired.
- Your inhibitions make it extremely difficult for you to address these issues without feeling self-conscious.
HINT: An answer of “yes” to 3 or more is a good sign that you need to step your game up in the sexual health department. However, you’re not alone if you’ve experienced any or all of the things mentioned above (and more). Sexual health is an ever-increasing body of knowledge, but it requires our honest input for further exploration and discovery.
The Top Three Ways to Improve Your Sexual Health
One of the best ways to improve your sexual health is start getting educated on it (after getting honest with yourself). When it comes to this, ignorance is certainly not bliss. Sexual healthiness is about more than having lots of sexual encounters while avoiding the pitfalls of modern-day dating. According to research from the National Institutes of Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, the following three things are needed for an individual to be truly sexually healthy:
- Have a Properly Supported Reproductive System
Reproductive health and sexual health go hand-in-hand regardless of a person’s gender, age or physical fitness. Ignored or improperly supported reproductive systems can reduce a person’s desire to have sex, not to mention make it a painful experience when it does happen. Healthy reproductive systems tend to complete cycles like clockwork while functioning as nature intended, making sexual encounters more enjoyable overall.
TIPS: Eat a diet that’s rich in nutrients that support reproductive health such as folic acid, B-complex vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, L-arginine, iron and certain probiotics. Be sure to ask your doctor for more personalized diet tips at your next routine checkup.
- Maintain Good Hygiene and Personal Cleanliness
Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to experience good sexual and reproductive health. However, proper personal hygiene goes a lot further than simply taking a shower regularly. For modern-day men and women alike, loose-fitting clothes, dry underwear and proper bathroom etiquette are all daily essentials. Fortunately, today’s market is full of specialized products designed specifically for genital cleanliness. Avoid the “not-so-fresh feeling” by keeping things dry and tidy downstairs.
TIP: Always use a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free soap and warm water to wash your genitals, especially after sex and/or masturbation. If using sex toys, be sure to wash, dry and store them immediately after use.
- Enjoy an Adequate Sex Life with Frequent Orgasms
On any given day, the average person can do a quick search on the internet to find dozens of benefits to having an orgasm. As it turns out, the human body responds very positively to reaching climax by experiencing an instant boost in physical, emotional and psychological health regardless of how orgasm is achieved. Interestingly, a study conducted at the prestigious Brown University concluded that sex toys can “become a healthy and pleasurable part of your relationship.” So, whether that sexual relationship is with yourself or another person doesn’t really matter. The key is to enjoy orgasms as often as you can.
TIP: Incorporate high-end, skin-safe sex toys (formerly called “marital aids”) into your bedroom routine to increase your orgasmic frequencies. Be sure to use plenty of water-based lubricant to prevent irritation and/or injury.
Being sexually active in the way you deem most pleasurable is your right as an adult, but it’s also a big responsibility. It not only takes paying close attention to your body but it also requires monitoring the condition of your relationships. At the end of the day, sexual health is about a whole lot more than simply staying away from infections and accidents.
By taking care of yourself through proper hygiene and eating habits, and by engaging in regularly satisfying sexual encounters, you can either support the good sexual health you have or work towards the kind you want with confidence and grace. And since people who are sexually healthy typically enjoy longer and happier lives, it makes perfect sense to start incorporating some new habits into your routine.