American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) marks September as Sexual Health Month. It is important to have a discussion about this topic because it is still such a taboo topic for many. We often talk about our health in the context of eating healthy and staying active, but we rarely talk about our sexual health as an important part of our overall well-being, which involves both our physical and emotional health. ASHA describes sexual health as “the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives.”

This month is an opportunity to clear up any gaps in our knowledge regarding sexual health. World Sexual Health Day was first celebrated in 2010. The theme of this holiday is “Love, Bonding and Intimacy.” Sexual health encompasses the mind, body, and spirit, and it starts with us first educating ourselves on this topic. Some of the topics that the ASHA is dedicated to promoting include safe sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual assault. The goal is to diminish the stigma surrounding sexual issues while informing the public about sex and sexual health.

ASHA states that being considered sexually healthy means:

  • Understanding that sexuality is natural and involves more than sexual behavior.
  • Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights of everyone.
  • Having access to information, education, and care for sexual health.
  • Actively making an effort to prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs, and willingly seeking care or treatment when necessary.
  • Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired.
  • Being able to communicate about sexual health with others, such as sexual partners and healthcare providers.

The National Coalition for Sexual Health provides different ways that one can become in charge of their sexual health. One of these is valuing yourself and recognizing what is right for you. This includes communicating clear boundaries and deciding when and how you chose to engage in sex. While it is a natural part of life, it should also align with what you want in life, including personal goals, desires, and boundaries, which may change throughout your life.

Another important aspect of sexual health is educating yourself about sex and your body. Don’t be afraid to find out ways that you can explore yourself sexually. Remember to practice safe sex to prevent any STIs/STDs and unplanned pregnancies. It is important that you treat partner(s) with respect, and that your partner(s) also treat you with the same respect. Your partner(s) should make you feel safe and comfortable; they should make you feel good about yourself. No one should feel pressured to do anything that they do not want to do, and boundaries should be respected by all parties involved.

A topic that may be uncomfortable for many is having open and honest conversations around sex and sexual health, your desires, and your relationship. This will allow you to build positive relationships that consist of mutual consensual decisions. You should also feel safe enough to be able to stop at any time if you begin to feel uncomfortable for any reason at all. If you find yourself with a partner who is violent or abusive, seek help from your healthcare provider or a community organization right away. You should not be pressured into doing anything that you are not comfortable with.

Lastly, it is important that you make sexual health a regular part of your healthcare routine, which includes finding a provider who is respectful and you are comfortable with. This can make a huge difference, especially when communicating uncomfortable topics around sex and sexual health; you should be able to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek help, and explore your sexuality, whatever that may mean to you. The more you know, the better informed your decisions will be. Seek support if you feel that you need it, whether it is through a safe group or a trusted provider.