Sexual health

What is sexual health?

Sexual health is too often seen in negative terms and usually focuses on unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and abusive or violent relationships. Sexual health is about enjoying safe, happy sex and feeling good about the experiences without regretting anything. This includes being sensible in using contraception to prevent unwanted pregnancy and condoms to protect against STIs.

According the World Health Organisation (WHO): ““Sexual health is 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. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”

How can I have good sexual health?

The following can help in having positive sexual experiences:

  • having sex when it’s consensual, mutual and equal
  • not being forced into having unwanted sex
  • not forcing others into sex that they don’t want
  • feeling comfortable with your sexual orientation – whether heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • using condoms to prevent STIs

What is sexuality?

Sexuality is not just about sex but includes sexual orientation, such as who a person is attracted to. It refers to whether a person identifies as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual and their sexual fantasies, attitudes and values about sex. Sexuality can be changed over time. It can be influenced by self-image, social relationships, senses and emotions.

Am I ready for sex?

It is important for a person to know what is right for them and make their own decision. It is recommended to talk it through with someone that they are close to and can trust if they have any concerns about sexual relationships. It is important that no one forces a person to have sex and that if they do have intercourse, it should not be for the wrong reasons.

How to stay safe and healthy

Sexual health is not just about steering clear of STIs but it is about having safe, happy sexual experiences. This includes having respectful relationships where no one is forced to do anything that they don’t want to. It is important to feel good about sexual intercourse and looking after both people in the relationship. Being sexually healthy means taking care of physical and emotional health by practising safe sex, being comfortable and confident with body image, sexuality and relationships.