Are you living a healthy sexual life?
Sexuality is a central part of who we are as human beings. Our abilities and choices around reproduction, intimacy, and sexual expression are very crucial. The study of human sexuality as a science from the early 19th century has advanced our knowledge in understanding sexuality issues that have over many years been sidelined and still are to date. Sexuality is still reserved for the aspect of reproduction and not for sexual desire and emotionality; the pathological aspect instead of the positive aspect of it.
Sex is still considered a controversial issue in our society today as we continue to celebrate an era of sexual conservatism albeit with serious ramifications due to selective ignorance. Sex happens everywhere but is given a ‘nowhere’ kind of attitude! Human sexuality is perhaps the most misunderstood and misinterpreted subject since man set foot on earth. The idiom ‘the forbidden fruit’ has come to represent the extent to which SEX is a taboo subject. We however have to bring this subject to the forefront of our society. Today, it is imperative that sexual education is both encouraged and provided especially to the youth.
Living a healthy sexual life requires that we acknowledge our sexuality does not exist in a bubble; we therefore need an understanding of its interdisciplinary nature. It is influenced by many factors such as biology, psychology, spirituality, and even social-economic-political environments. These factors influence our attitudes and beliefs and subsequently our behaviour and experiences. Thus, we need to seek and receive factual and positive information about sexuality. Sexuality is expressed through our thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes and behaviour. Everyone is unique and therefore, there exists different ways that people experience and express their sexuality. These activities fulfil an important physical and emotional need for closeness and intimacy. Your feelings about yourself, your body image, about sex, your sexual partner(s) and previous sexual experiences are part of your sexual makeup which greatly influences and affects one’s sexual needs and satisfaction.
So what entails living a healthy sexual life? In order to live a healthy sexual life, one must always be true to themselves’. It is the most important aspect of living a healthy sexual life. Each of us experiences their sexuality differently; we cannot all be the same. Having a healthy sex life has benefits to our general health and well being. Living in a healthy, sexually active way improves relationships due to the effect of the bonding hormone, oxytocin that is released during intimate acts of a couple. It also reduces anxiety, depression, and stress levels while at the same time decreasing pain sensations. These benefits have an overall effect of a healthy life and well being.
With these benefits in mind, we can now begin to look at the four practical steps one can undertake to experience their sexuality in its fullness. First and foremost, one must understand their sexual anatomy and physiology. Sexual education goes a long way in helping one to understand their sexual functioning. This kind of education can be achieved through attending trainings and seminars, discussions with health care providers, reading self-help books among other sources of information. Physical awareness of our bodies is important since it helps us have a positive body and self-image. It is vital that we understand how we function and what can be the challenges that might be experienced. This should happen at all life stages through age-appropriate sexuality education.
Secondly, other than the physical awareness, psychological awareness is also crucial. On the psychological level, everyone needs to develop a level of confidence and healthy self-esteem. This does not originate from a beautiful exterior body but rather from the inside out. Love and intimacy cannot be fulfilling without appropriate confidence and self-esteem. Building a healthy self esteem begins by accepting that you are not perfect and you have faults just like everybody else. You have to appreciate your self-worth and take pride in your accomplishments and this confidence will radiate on the outside making it possible for you to become a loving and lovable person.
Thirdly, a healthy sexual life will emanate from loving relationships with others. In relationships, a healthy sexual life is developed from good communication among partners. In a relationship, it is important to discuss issues of sexuality, experiences of sexuality, sexual behaviour and also fantasies. Understand yourself and your partner; communicate your sexual health needs among others.
Lastly, it is crucial to understand and debunk sexual myths that sometimes take over our expectations. For example, one of the myths that affect female sexual expectations includes the idea that experiencing an orgasm is a must for women to enjoy sex! Research has actually proven that it is possible to have sexual satisfaction even without an orgasm for some women. This is because a sense of women’s sexual satisfaction results from enhanced intimacy and connection to a partner more than physical satisfaction. In such a case therefore, a woman will not feel abnormal if she does not have an orgasm but on the other hand if she feels that she needs an orgasm to be satisfied, then there is an opportunity to seek therapy in this regard. It is therefore useful to understand sexual functioning since this will inform an individual whether and how they can improve on their sexuality and possibly seek treatment in cases of problems and dysfunction. All in all, treatment is available ranging from psychotherapy, sex therapy, counselling, medical and also surgical treatments.
A healthy sexual life correlates positively with a general healthy life. Therefore, we should not dismiss our sexuality and place it in the back shelf but rather let us bring it to the fore.
By Dr. Tammary Esho
Tammary Esho is a sexual medicine expert and family therapist, with a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences and Msc in Human Sexuality from the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium and a Diploma in Clinical Medicine, Kenya. She is a Lecturer in Community and Public Health at the Technical University of Kenya in Nairobi.