For so many of you out there, you’re lucky to receive any sort of formal education about sexuality, let alone what healthy sexuality is.
Your own sexual identity is formed throughout your life – from birth until death. It is constantly evolving and changing. However, what it means to have a healthy relationship with your sexuality should remain somewhat static.
What Does “Healthy Sexuality” Mean?
Having healthy sexuality is layered and encompasses many aspects of daily life. It is about developing healthy communication practices with those around you and healthy relationships.
It’s about being in control of your desires, feeling autonomous in your body, having a developed sense of self-worth, and a grip on your values.
Those who are sexually healthy lead empowered lives based on mutual respect and understanding.
Why Healthy Sexuality is Important
Your sexuality is part of you, from the cradle to the grave. What you learn during childhood often impacts your perspectives throughout your life. However, you are the one holding the pen and writing the story.
Developing healthy sexuality means that you can communicate your desires, boundaries, and needs with an emotionally intimate partner and integrate that emotional intimacy with your physical intimacy.
This aspect of a healthy lifestyle means you’ll have a more profound sense of overall well-being.
Characteristics of a Healthy Sexual Relationship
For those who suffer from intimacy disorders such as sex addiction and porn addiction, understanding and respecting not only your boundaries but your partners as well can be difficult. Cultivating healthy sexuality not only with yourself but with your partner as well can take time, effort, and support.
There are a few key characteristics you can strive towards in different parts of your life and relationship:
- Accept sexual refusal without any negative feelings or reactions, understanding that the person who has turned down the sexual offer has every right to do so
- You can physically express attraction for your partner in ways that do not focus on sex or the genitals.
- You and your partner both feel comfortable discussing and communicating about your boundaries and values sexually and otherwise.
- Sexual expression with your partner is well-balanced and appropriately frequent based on you and your partner’s needs.
- You are aware of the sexual objectification of your partner and can control your thoughts and beliefs around your sexual relationship.
Emotional intimacy is when you feel safe and comfortable with your partner. You work together to be both vulnerable and share things that make you uncomfortable. You feel safe communicating about your needs and expectations without fear of worry or judgment.
Emotional intimacy is a critical aspect of developing a healthy relationship as an adult.
However, emotional and physical intimacy often become intertwined. Developing a healthy relationship around both means they can meet in the middle to cultivate a positive and respectful relationship.
Healthy Sexuality and Society
Perspectives and opinions on sexuality constantly bombard you. The way your gender identity is formed, the way you perceive and understand the opposite sex, and how you relate that information to the world around you.
The impact of these outside forces can either help or deter you from developing healthy sexuality and, therefore, long-term healthy sexual relationships.
The Portrayal of Sexuality in Entertainment
One thing that never leaves you in life is the media. Forms of entertainment from television to social media and advertisements can often negatively impact our self-worth or how we relate to others throughout our lives.
Especially when you are in adolescence, you are particularly susceptible to media influences. In a study on Adolescent Sexuality and the Media, researchers found that about 80% of all cable television and network films had sexual content.
These rarely show the realistic aspects of sex and sexuality. Rarely, if ever, are couples depicted communicating about safety, risks, desires, boundaries, or anything else that helps form a trusting basis for a healthy relationship.
Media also hyper-sexualizes the female body at all development stages, causing an unhealthy relationship between girls and their bodies and boys and how they treat women.
Unless you’ve been taught how to analyze what is happening on screen critically, media usually does more harm than good when it comes to sexuality.
Healthy Sexual Expression
Healthily expressing your sexuality should leave you feeling empowered and confident in yourself, your body, relationships, and your choices.
There are many characteristics of a person with a healthy sexual expression that you can strive towards in your daily life.
People with healthy sexualities exhibit the following characteristics:
- Feel in control of your body, your urges, and your sexual expression
- Communicate and interact with people of all genders in appropriate, healthy, and non-sexual ways
- Actively listen and respect other people’s boundaries and understand that you deserve to be heard and have yours respected as well
- Avoid any sort of exploitative relationships
- Cultivate a nurturing and healthy relationship with yourself while still accepting help from others.
- Develop an understanding of media on your thoughts, beliefs, values, and feelings towards relationships and sexuality.
- Decide for yourself what is “right” and feel comfortable and safe acting on these values.
Understanding of Your Sexual Rights
You, just like every other person on this planet, have sexual rights. It is your responsibility to understand them and set your boundaries.
As a person, you have the right to:
- Consent or withdraw consent at any time during an encounter with another person, sexually or otherwise
- Feel safe negotiating and discussing all the aspects of a sexual encounter with your partner before engaging with them
- Expect non-threatening and positive responses from others about your boundaries and expectations
- Experience pleasure in whatever way that manifests for you
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Sexuality: Understanding the Difference
You are probably running a mental checklist of all these aspects of you or a loved one who may exhibit a sense of healthy sexuality. Understanding what unhealthy sexuality looks like is just as crucial as understanding healthy sexuality as you’ll be able to spot warning signs.
Signs of Unhealthy Sexuality:
- Sexual activities are secretive, deceitful, exploitative, or hurtful
- Physical intimacy is devoid of communication
- If sex feels like an uncontrollable energy or an obligation
- Benefits of sex only affect one person
- Sex feels shameful, or like you are giving your power away to someone else
- Your sexual life requires you to lead a double life to experience the pleasure you want
How BAI Can Help
Suppose you or a loved one are displaying signs of unhealthy sexuality. You feel like it has a real impact on your life or relationship. In that case, The Begin Again Institute is here to help. Our center is dedicated to helping you develop healthy sexuality, emotional intimacy, and self-awareness. You only have to be ready to ask for help.