Updated: Sep 23, 2020
September is Sexual Health Awareness Month. This month is about more than avoiding disease and pregnancy, but rather aims to expand our understanding of sexual health to include pleasure, intimacy, informed consent, sexual rights and diversity in sexual experience.
Better understanding sexual health means better sexual experiences for all. It means being able to have safer sex, more pleasurable sex, more fulfilling sex and being able to provide those same improvements in experience to our partner/s.
And for those of you who are unaware, Texas public school systems are not required to teach any sexual education and are required to emphasize abstinence and the risks of early sexual activity if they do decide to broach the topic. The Texas State Board of Education voted on its first revisions to sexual health education since 1997 earlier this month, still largely opposing making direct references LGBTQIA+ students.
So in honor of Sexual Health Awareness Month, which we so sorely need, I made a list of 10 things I wish school systems would start teaching their students so healthcare providers didn’t have to be the one breaking this news to them as adults.
Let's get started:
1. Sex is not dirty or taboo. It is an important part of the human experience and an important part of our health. Sexual health cannot be separated from mental health, from physical health. It is not dirty or something to be embarrassed of but rather an experience to enter into informed and educated.
2. Consent must be explicitly stated and can be withdrawn by any participating party at any time, no questions asked. Saying yes at the onset of a sexual experience does not absolve you of the right to say no at any time. You can change your mind and changing your mind does not make you indecisive. It allows you to choose what is right for you each step of the way.
3. Sex should not hurt people with vaginas. Though painful sex is common (an estimated 1 in 10 experience pain with sex however by my estimates this number may be higher) it is also treatable. Your pain is not in your head and if your provider ever makes you feel like your pain isn’t valid, it is your right to seek another opinion. Pain with sex can be caused by hormonal changes, scarring in or near the pelvis, muscle guarding in any surrounding muscles and more. Sex should not hurt people with vaginas.
4. Not all OBGyns specialize in sexual medicine. Sexual medicine is a specialty that not all OBGyns focus in. Your OBGyn may not be familiar with any number of sexual pain disorders. It may not be their area of expertise. Check out nva.org to find sexual medicine specialists near you.
5. Sex does not have to equal penetration. Sex may include penetration with a toy or a penis but it does not have to. Plenty of people choose to avoid penetrative intercourse for any number of reasons. Sex can include external touch, oral, mutual masturbation, toys, dry humping, and much more.
6. Pain following orgasms, or during orgasms, can be a sign of pelvic floor dysfunction. If you experience pain in your pelvis, back, abdomen or notice bladder and/or bowel issues following orgasm, this may be due to pelvic floor muscle tightness and guarding. While this can be a sign of certain underlying conditions, for many, simple stretches like deep breathing, child's pose and happy baby pose before and after sex can help to reduce this pain.
7. Pee after sex! Peeing after sex can reduce the likelihood of developing a UTI. Pee after sex.
8. The clitoris is not bean sized! Look up an anatomically correct clitoris and what you'll see may amaze you. The part of the clitoris most of us are familiar with is the glans of the clitoris. However parts of the clitoris extend far beyond the glans and are also involved in the ability to feel pleasure.
9. Your sexual desire and sensations may change throughout your menstrual cycle. As you progress throughout your menstrual cycle, your body undergoes hormonal fluctuations. These hormonal fluctuations can impact our energy, sleep and bowels. They can also impact any pain you may experience with sex, as well as other sensations in the pelvis. Sex may feel better or worse depending on where you are in your cycle.
10. Your sex life is your business. Who you choose to have sex with, how often you choose to have sex... these things are your business. There is no correct amount of sexual partners. There is no correct amount of sex per week, month or year.
So here's the bottom line. The more educated you are about sexual health, the more likely you are to have positive and safe sexual experiences. If you have concerns regarding your sexual health and want to connect, contact us for a free 15 minute phone consultation.