September is Sexual Health Awareness Month. If your sexual health isn’t something you’ve thought about in a while, then now is a perfect time. We know that it can be hard to talk about these things, as there are a lot of stigmas surrounding sexuality. We’re here to shed some light on sexual health and encourage open conversation. If you want to have a healthier and more fulfilling sex life, this article is for you!
What Do We Mean by ‘Sexual Health’?
You probably already have an idea in your head of what the term means. You may immediately think of contraceptives, safe sex, and STIs/STDs. These are, of course, crucial factors. However, it’s not our only focus. According to the World Health Organization, sexual health is a combination of physical, emotional, and social well-being around sexuality.
By definition, sexual health also means being able to communicate with your partner—whether it’s your needs, fantasies, or likes and dislikes. A healthy sex life is one where you and your partner(s) both feel comfortable and safe and can communicate without fear of judgment.
Let’s Talk Safe Sex
Safe sex practices are the cornerstone of overall sexual health. We’ll touch on other components like communication and knowing yourself in a bit, but for now, let’s take a minute to talk safe sex. Many people find themselves surprised by the increasing number of options, and if you’ve been sexually active for years, you may not be aware of the latest advancements in prophylactics and contraceptives. It’s entirely possible your sexual health could improve simply by trying a new product that fits your needs better.
From contraceptive gels to MPTs, there are more choices than ever before. That said, when it comes to preventing the spread of disease, a prophylactic that creates a physical barrier is still the safest option. If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, condoms and dental dams are the best way to prevent STIs and STDs.
Male Contraceptive Initiative’s continued support of research into male contraceptives shows a lot of promise, and clinical trials of male contraception are ongoing and cause for optimism. You may find that you’ll have even more options available to you in the near future.
Ending Stigma Around Sexual Dysfunction
For many people, discussing sexual dysfunctions, like erectile dysfunction or low libido, can feel awkward and uncomfortable. If you’re suffering from any of these issues, then we’re probably not the first to say this, but it deserves repeating—there’s no reason to be embarrassed. Failing to discuss these things can only serve to create stress and unhappiness, especially since your problems are likely treatable. Studies show that more than half of men between ages 40 to 70 experience mild or moderate erectile dysfunction. This can be caused by a number of factors, some as simple as stress and anxiety, but it is generally treatable.
Low libido is no different and like ED, it can be caused by a variety of things. There are numerous medications that can lower testosterone levels and in turn cause low libido. Antidepressants in the SSRI class are some of the best-documented culprits, but medication for acid reflux can also lower testosterone levels.
Depression and anxiety can also lead to these kinds of dysfunctions, so being mindful of your mental state is a good idea. If you’ve gone through a highly stressful life event, you may find that it simply takes a little time to get back to normal. Never stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor. If you find that your medications are affecting your libido your doctor can help you discuss possible solutions.
Premature ejaculation and the inability to achieve orgasm are also fairly common, and very treatable. Whether it’s a topical solution, a pill, or simply developing healthier habits, whatever dysfunction you’re dealing with— it’s worth talking to a professional. It’s probably more common, and more treatable than you think.
Communication is Key
Whether you’re in a monogamous relationship or not, being able to communicate effectively with your partner is key to a healthy sex life. Sex should feel comfortable and safe for everyone, and being able to tell your partner what you like and don’t like can make a big difference. Many people have very specific things that make them uncomfortable, and failing to communicate these things can lead to awkward, unintended scenarios. It’s healthy and productive to talk about what you are and aren’t comfortable with before becoming intimate with them. There’s no need to figure it out as you go along. Doing something that makes your partner feel uncomfortable will kill the mood a lot quicker than a simple conversation about boundaries. Your partner shouldn’t be the only one setting boundaries. We’d be willing to bet everyone has something they don’t care for, and that’s something you should feel comfortable voicing. Sexual health means not feeling obligated to do anything you’re uncomfortable with.
We hope you’ll give some thought to your sexual health this September—it’s a crucial part of your overall health. Taking a little time to address any concerns or questions you might have is well worth it. Trust us, you’ll thank yourself.