Thursday, 1 March 2018
Sex is one of those topics that everybody talks about and everybody has opinions about. What I mostly hear in my consulting room is that people don’t have good sex education and they compare themselves to what they think others do in bed.
In the absence of good sex education, what we have left to rely on is pornographic films, which is entertainment and not an accurate depiction of every day sex, or your friends boasting about their sex life being amazing.
Deep down, many people are confused about what good sex really is, and many people wonder if their sex life is good enough. Some people criticise their sex life as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’. Some people ask me questions like: ‘Am I normal for having a fetish?’, ‘Am I unhealthy for having lots of sex?’, ‘Do I masturbate too much?’, ‘Should I feel more sexual?’, ‘Am I strange for not liking penetration?’ And so on and so forth.
When we talk about sex, we tend to focus on the particular acts rather than on the broad view of sexuality: human sexuality is rich and varied and there are thousands of ways to have sex and be sexual. One person’s favourite sexual activity can be another person’s repulsion. How can we even begin to identify what is good or bad, healthy or unhealthy without falling into the trap of being opinionated, judgemental, critical and shaming?
I invite you to think about your sex life differently. If you want to know if the sex you’re having is good or bad, stop focusing on sexual acts and instead think about sexual health principles. There are six of them:
1- Consent. Consent can only be expressed from a person aged 16 or over, with a fully functioning brain. Consent cannot be expressed from a person who has impaired thinking under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example. Consent to exercise your sexual right to have sex with whomever you choose should be unambiguous. If there is doubt, take some extra time to have a conversation with your sexual partners to make sure the cooperation between you is clear.
2- Non-exploitation. This means to do what you and your partner(s) have agreed to do without any coercion using power or control for sexual gratification.
3- Protection from HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancy. It is your responsibility to protect yourself and your partner from unwanted pregnancy. And it is also your responsibility to make sure that you are at low risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Often it requires a honest conversation with your partner, and an explicit agreement on how you are going to protect each other. If you have a STI that is infectious, it is your responsibility to put protection in place that won't knowingly infect your partner(s).
4- Honesty. Being honest and upfront with your sexual desires and sexual needs is important. Everybody is different, and human sexuality is diverse. It is likely that your partner may not know all of what you like, need or want sexually. In fact, some people are not in touch with their own sexual landscape and all the parts of their body that is erogenous. Being able to express to your partner what you want or need is important. It can be difficult and it is a courageous conversation to have, because you can risk hearing your partner saying that they don't like what you like. When couples stay in a place of honesty and truth, often they can work some things out between them to achieve a fulfilling sex life.
5- Shared values. It is important that you and your sexual partner are 'on the same page' about what is acceptable and what is not. Our values are important to us because it informs us on what specific sexual acts means to us and contributes to our motivation for having sex. Conversations about values can clarify important aspects of your sexual health which will help with giving consent to have sex.
6- Mutual pleasure. Pleasure is an important component of sex. For good sexual health, it is crucial that you make sure that what you do bring you pleasure and at the same time, to be able to hear what your partner finds pleasurable. It is a good idea to talk about it with your partner because it is not possible to assume. We usually feel good when we bring pleasure to our partners and we also feel good when we feel pleasure ourselves.
You can stop thinking about being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in bed. You can stop worrying about your kinky sex life being healthy or not. If you move away from opinions about specific sexual acts, there is no judgments to be made and you can ensure your sexual life to be good by meeting the six principles of sexual health.