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You must have listened to top Bollywood songs that promote sexual tension and objectify women. Do you feel a sense of embarrassment or shame due to such songs? Irrespective of your answer, the songs play on. You listen to them sometimes and put your feelings of distress aside. Then why feel embarrassed while discussing issues of sexual health? Sexual health is as important to your life as your physical or mental health. We are here to shatter the stigma attached to this.
Join us in the discussion. We will begin by understanding what sexual health is, what is its importance and related issues.
What is Sexual Health?
Sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. The above definition is given by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The meaning of sexual health varies according to cultural and individual settings. The overall concept of sexual health goes beyond unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. It includes your perception of your own body and its sexual well-being.
Positive sexual health is a collection of the following outlooks:
- Comfortable attitude towards your sexuality
- Consensual sex
- Safe sex
- Ability to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to intimacy
- Healthy reproductive organs
- Intercourse free of coercion
- Respecting the rights and sexuality of your partner
- Sexual encounters free from discrimination and violence
Why is Sexual Health Important?
You have only one body and your body is a temple. Its complete well being is your responsibility. When we say complete well-being, we mean all forms of health including sexual.
Unlike plants, human beings are incapable of reproduction through pollination. Human reproduction is based on copulation. So sex is in an inevitable part of all our lives. But the discussion on sex has always been considered a taboo.
The act of intimacy follows the rules of secrecy. But it does not mean that the discussion should be hushed too.
Sexual health is important to maintain an overall healthy body. Your sexual health largely affects your relationship with your partner. Not only does it tell you about your body, but it also helps you take care of yourself.
One of the major reasons why sexual health is important is to avoid the risks bad health can cause. If you understand what sexual health is, you will be able to avoid:
- Unwanted pregnancy
- Sexually transferable infections
- Sexual abuse and harassment
Besides the above, you would be able to understand your sexual orientation and choose what gives you pleasure.
What Are the Related Sexual Health Issues?
Vaginal sex (penis- to- vagina) leads to pregnancy. If you are looking forward to starting a family, vaginal sex is recommended. But if you and your partner are not willing to bear a baby, vaginal intercourse can lead to unwanted pregnancy.
It causes harm to your sexual health. Thankfully, a variety of precautions can be used to avoid pregnancy. These include contraceptive pills, birth control pills, and condoms.
Teen pregnancy- In today’s era, young adolescents participate in mating at an early age. They are carried away with hormones, love, passion, and desire. Sex education should be provided to young adults and teens to avoid pregnancy at such an early age. After all, raising a child when you are still a child can be very difficult and unhealthy.
Intercourse during pregnancy- It is okay to indulge in intercourse during pregnancy. There is no medical proof that states that sex during pregnancy cause harm. If the sex doesn’t harm you, it won’t harm your baby.
However, it is best to take an expert’s opinion on this issue. This is because pregnancy is a delicate subject and may affect both the mother’s and child’s health.
Also, Read About: First Time Sex Can Cause Pregnancy? Is it True?
2. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
Certain types of infections that may be transferred during unsafe sexual intercourse are known as STIs. An STI can spread from one person to another through oral, vaginal or anal sex. Surprisingly, some STIs can also spread by skin-to-skin contact also. STIs can be differentiated on the basis of 30 different types of bacteria, viruses or parasites.
You may not know that you are infected until you get a checkup. STIs do not have specific symptoms. You would be alarmed to know that more than 1 million sexually transmitted infections are spread every day, worldwide.
People under 25 years of age are more at risk of getting an STI. Using condoms while performing sex can help prevent STI.
One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases is HIV. It is a virus and unfortunately has no cure. People diagnosed with STIs should be treated with compassion and dignity.
3. Sexual Orientation (LGBT health)
Sexuality is not a phase. It is a way of being. Your sexual orientation decides your sexual behavior. In line with WHO, sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, practices, roles and relationships.
Sexual orientation simply means who you are attracted to, both emotionally and sexually. The various types are homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual and more. This is basically about your sexual feelings and plays a major role in maintaining good sexual health.
4. Sex and Relationships
Everyone needs companionship. Our relationships are the most significant in our lives. Your relation with your mother, your boss, your friend- each plays its own important role.
But your relationship with “the one” or your partner decides a lot for you- especially your sexual health. A healthy relationship is based on love, respect, and trust.
It is okay to not be ready to have sex. Communication with your partner can make things easy for you. Your sexual health will improve if you let your partner know about the things you enjoy or do not enjoy.
Being sexually active may overwhelm you with intense emotions. It also makes you responsible for the sexual well being of yourself and your partner. Awareness about sexual health builds a happier and positive sex culture.
5. Health and Wellness
Your sexual and reproductive health go hand in hand. There is nothing to be embarrassed about while consulting a doctor for sexual health.
Awareness is the first step. Followed by communication. We have already discussed the risks, bad sexual health possesses. If your sexual and reproductive health is not cared for, it can cause a lot of harm to your body.
If you are sexually active, regular check-ups become an important aspect to maintain good health. Healthy nutrition, lifestyles, and decisions determine your sexual well-being. Sexual health-oriented counselling is another step you can take to remain positive.
Understanding consent, advantages of contraceptives, risks of sexually transmitted infections can help you improve the sexual aspect of your life.
6. Sexual Abuse
Forceful and non-censual intercourse or touching are involved under sexual abuse. Sexual assault includes rape and forceful coercion. It is a punishable criminal act. Simply put, it is any kind of sexual activity that you did not agree to.
Sexual violence or abuse can happen to anyone, male or female, child or adult. It can happen anywhere, home or school, bar or restaurant. Sexual abuse is capable of harming a person’s mental, emotional, physical and sexual health. Sexual harassment includes forceful exposure to pornography, inappropriate touching, flashing of sexual organs and more.
By definition, consent means to agree, approve or permit. In the context of sexual health, consent means a clear agreement by partners to participate in intercourse. A lot of controversies have evoked social media regarding consent. Your consent should be clearly communicated to your partner.
The length of your clothes, your humor or your lifestyle does not give away your consent. A number of stories have come up where abusers have misidentified consent which is not directly conveyed. Consent is the topmost priority for good sexual health.
Helpline Numbers: In the case of sexual abuse, you should get immediate help. You can dial the following numbers:
- Police- 100
- Single Emergency Number-112
- Child Helpline-1098
- Women in Distress-1091
How Can I Improve My Sexual Health?
We hope you have so far analyzed the status of your sexual health. If you are not well, we suggest that you visit a specialist soon. However, if you are healthy and sexually active, the task of maintaining this well-being goes on.
Tips on improving sexual health:
- Have a healthy and fruitful discussion with your partner about your needs and desires
- Learn to say no
- Trust and respect your partners’ sexual choices
- Manage stress and anxiety
- Address every issue in your relationship
- Get physically active
- Always use protection
- Avoid making judgments or using bad terms
- Visit the doctor for regular health check-ups
- Eat a well-balanced diet
Are you a young adult who is sexually active? Do you have to lie about your marital status while discussing sexual health? If yes, it means the taboo is still alive.
Sexual health and sex are not widely understood and talked about. In this article, we have tried to initiate the conversation. To live a fuller life, you must understand your own body and your sexual needs. Your sexual and reproductive health is significant for you to lead a happier life.
Several risks are involved in unprotected intercourse. It may cause you major harm. So keep calm and carry condoms.
It is also necessary to understand the meaning of consent and sexual abuse. This is because, sadly, we are surrounded by the dreadful and disgusting rape culture and our safety becomes our own responsibility. Our sexuality affects everything that we do. Through discussions and awareness, we can make sexual health a goal for all to achieve.
Also, Read About: How to Use Condoms For Male and Female?
If you are interested in learning more about sexual and reproductive health, watch out for #NotSoShy.