Safety, pleasure, and respect. These are the three things that determine your sexual health.
Having sexual health means that sexual rights of all people are respected, protected and fulfilled. Even if you are not yet sexually active, having knowledge about your sexual health is important so that you can make informed decisions about your health and relationships now and in the future.
One key way to help you make these decisions is to have open and honest communication with your partner, especially before engaging in sexual activity! If a person isn’t ready or does not feel comfortable to talk about sex with their partner, they may not be ready to engage in sex. It can be an awkward interaction at first, but establishing your needs and expectations regarding sex (and vice versa) is key to establishing a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship.
Knowing about your contraceptive choices and knowing that you have choices are another key aspect of sexual health. Contraceptive methods allow couples to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Contrary to popular belief, contraception is not only something married people should think about; it’s for anyone who engages in sex. Using contraception makes sex safer, and allows couples to enjoy their sex life with less worries. There are many easily accessible contraceptive choices including condoms and oral contraceptive pills.
As mentioned, contraception not only prevents pregnancies but can prevent STIs as well. Using barrier methods such as the male condom is the best way to reduce the risk of STIs. It’s a common belief that STIs only infect people who have a lot of sex or who have many partners, but in fact, anyone can get an STI. However, having safer, more responsible sex lowers the chance of this. That is why using a barrier method and getting regular health checks (every 6 months-1 year) is a good idea if you are sexually active.
Lastly, it’s important not to forget that enjoyment is everyone’s right and is key to good sexual health. If you are sexually active, that should be your choice, and not because you are forced or pressured into being sexually active. Sex is meant to be fulfilling and pleasurable for everyone, and should only occur when both partners give their active consent. Remember, non-consensual sex is a crime, regardless of whether or not you are in a relationship with that person.
Having access to information about your sexual health is your right, and the more you know, the more able you are to live a healthy and thriving life.