Recently, a friend asked me to say something about sexual health. I am reminded of a moment in time in my 20’s, when a teacher said something to me that stuck. She said ‘sex is the most intimate experience that you will ever experience’. Surprisingly, that was eye opening for me, having come of sexual age in the 70’s. I think that somewhere in the age of free love, sex, drugs, and rock and roll, the connection between sex and intimacy was lost. Many of us think that we can just have sex and not have it affect us. Or we think that it shouldn’t affect us, even though it does.
Dr Lou Stolis, creator of the Life Institute Training, used to say that when you are sexual with someone, your energy stays intertwined with theirs for 2 years or more. Whoa. This really eliminates the idea of casual sex if you take a moment to stop and think, do I really want this person’s energy in my space for that long? Is this a sexual encounter you would want if this were true?
So what is healthy sexuality? This is a large question, with no simple answers. Unlike physical health, in which there are often recognized standards, sexuality is more personal, and I do think it is different for everyone.
Since this is such a difficult issue to define clearly, I will talk about what it is NOT. Dysfunctional or unhealthy sex includes have sex for all the wrong reasons. Trying to make someone love you, trying to make yourself feel beautiful, avoiding feelings of loneliness, avoiding rejection, fear of someone’s anger, fear of letting another person down, all of these reasons and more tend to leave both people feeling empty and alone, and maybe even feeling worse than they did before the experience. Add to that trying to manipulate someone into doing what you want by having sex or by withholding sex, and/or having sex be a ‘chore’ or a tool or piece of leverage, and the list of unhealthy habits we can fall into goes on.
Remaining emotionally distant and invulnerable can also cause upset, hurt and wounding. I define vulnerability in this instance as being permeable, being able to be affected, and being transparent. Part of the intensity in sex comes from congruence, being true to yourself, and being real. Now I do NOT mean to imply that every sexual experience has to be emotionally deep or intense. But even a ‘quickie’ sexual experience will feel empty and lonely without your presence, congruence and vulnerability.
The urban dictionary defines vulnerable as capable of being wounded or hurt. This is both a gift and a challenge. Part of why we protect ourselves emotionally is to prevent ourselves from emotional pain. However, these very same protection techniques keep out the love, closeness, connection, and sexual experience that we are seeking. In order to be really healthy sexually, we need to be emotionally available, which requires a willingness to be hurt.
The good news is that vulnerability and honesty are the greatest aphrodisiacs. Being real, pushing the limits of communication, and taking emotional risks, even playful ones, make us feel expansive, joyful, connected, excited, present, and real. This is the true turn on.
I don’t mean that every sexual experience has to be all deep and touchy feeling. Just congruent. Real. And honest.
My BFF, put it really well:
Sex can be great, fun, hot, and meaningful without being part of a deep, long-term, touchy situation. When a person has good sexual health even a single experience can be absolutely soul rocking, and spiritually amazing.
Good sexual health includes being at choice, not making it mean or be something that it is not, and allowing it to be what it is. When you feel safe with yourself and with the other person it can be wonderful and fulfilling. *safe = feeling safe with self and other person to “go there” and also means practicing safe sex if that is applicable. …Carrie E.
Sexual health includes having good boundaries. It includes being at choice and knowing yourself well enough that you know when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’, based on knowing what is really true or right for YOU.
Women are often great at giving to others in many ways including sexually. But even when they have a sexual partner who is generous, open, loving, willing, and interested in making them happy, they find it almost impossible to ask for what they want, and to simply receive. Sexual health includes doing enough personal growth, and having enough self confidence and courage to actually ask for what you want sexually, and be specific about it. It includes being willing to surrender and let go of control, and allowing someone to take care of your needs.
Sensuality includes being fully present, and being strong enough within yourself to be able to risk being vulnerable and openhearted, and knowing the difference between being able to connect in this way and being a doormat.
‘If you aren’t worth his time at 2pm, he isn’t worth your time at 2am.’
I was struck by the wisdom in those words. Sure wish I knew that at 16. Or 20. Or 30!
I would love to hear your comments and thoughts on this topic!