Having a body is hard work; you have to feed it, keep it hydrated, and make sure it gets rest. But it’s not all drudgery. Our well-being also includes doing things that bring us joy and pleasure, and for many, sex and sexuality can play an important role in physical and mental health. Sexual health is more than just the absence of disease or dysfunction. It also includes the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
Sexual health often is addressed with a focus on preventing undesirable outcomes such as sexual violence, STI/STDs and for some, pregnancy. But education and discourses about sexual health also need to include those things that we do desire. Sex has the potential to be empowering and natural, but sexual preferences are not universal. Individuals have a right to define their own sexual preferences as they see fit; however, personal preferences should not affect other folks’ ability to celebrate alternate sexual choices between other consenting adults.
Getting yourself tested can be another step toward being sexually healthy. Bring your partner(s) along with you! Who says that getting tested together can’t be turned into a sexy date night? And because it’s 2019, there’s an app for that! For information on where you can get tested and treated for STIs/STDs check out The RI Department of Health’s RightTime App.
If you test positive, don’t panic; testing positive does not mean you are no longer sexual healthy. Your clinician should be able to recommend what steps to take next to treat the disease or infection. If you are worried that one of your partners may have also come in contact with the infection, it is a good idea to let them know so that they can take steps toward treatment. Talking with a partner about your STI/STD status might feel uncomfortable or awkward, but it’s important for folks to be aware so that they can make choices about how to take care of themselves or protect others from becoming infected. Most STIs are curable by a hefty dose of antibiotics, and those that are not can be managed so that you can still carry out a very healthy, pleasurable sex life.
Cheylsea Federle is the education and training coordinator at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, which believes people should have access to resources to explore sexual landscapes, curiosities and desires. One way that The CSPH helps folks develop an active relationship with their body and pleasure is through their education programs that put pleasure in the front seat. Check out their website (thecsph.org) for educational webinars, reviews and resources.