Let’s Talk About Sexual Health!
“Your health is your greatest wealth,” was something my father used to tell me as a little girl. He used to remind me that no matter what I wanted to do, if I didn’t take care of my health it would catch up to me sooner or later. This saying applies to all parts of your health, including your sexual health. Sexual health is just another component of our physical and mental health that we need to monitor and care for. Everyone has it!
The World Health Organization defines sexual health in part as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality.” This includes, but is not limited to puberty, reproductive health, protection against or treatment for diseases, safe sexual relationships and discovering individual sexuality. A common misconception about sexual health is that it is defined by sexual activity or behavior. Though this might be one element, it’s definitely not the whole story.
Your sexual health is unique to you, and the same way you’re able to recognize that you have a stomach ache or have increased anxiety, you can recognize the physical and emotional manifestations of your sexual health. Though we might all have similar components of our health to address, the issues we need to address, and the challenges we may face in doing so, can vary based on gender identity, sex, physical and mental ability, age, sexual orientation, culture and various other factors. This is where learning about your body, how it works, what is healthy and what feels right for you comes in. Without a clear understanding of what a what puberty looks like, what a healthy relationship feels like, or how to safely explore your sexuality, recognizing when your sexual health is compromised becomes very difficult, which can ultimately be dangerous to your overall well-being.
Part of your sexual health also involves decision-making and it’s often better to make a choice when you have enough accurate information. It’s kind of like if you go to a restaurant and there’s no description of the meals on the menu—just the names. If you’re allergic to peanuts, how are you supposed to know what dish you might enjoy the best? For self-identifying girls some examples of decisions you might have to make related to your sexual health may include whether you want to use tampons or pads if you get your period, at what age you feel ready to have sex if you would like to, and which pronouns you best identify with.
Making decisions about your health can be difficult if you don’t have adequate information, but when you do, it can make life a lot more fun or at the very least, a lot easier. There are many resources you can use to advance your sexual education, so that you can learn more about your body. Being curious is natural and it is important to seek information from reliable sources and a variety of them in order to get the best understanding possible.
There are a lot of valuable resources online, but sometimes it is difficult to sift through the correct information from the misleading. Asking a physician, calling or visiting your local sexual health resource center and seeking advice from an askable adult are good ways to get your questions answered. A healthy combination of these methods would be a better strategy. To clarify – an askable adult is someone who is willing to listen to your questions, respects your confidentiality as necessary and does their best to provide you with accurate information.
It is also vital to follow your instincts when absorbing information, if something you see, read or hear doesn’t sound correct, there’s never any harm in finding another resource, so that you have the tools to improve your judgement. Below you can find a few resources that might help provide an introduction to different components of your sexual health. Happy reading!
This website provides a helpful introduction to sexuality, vaginal health, penis health, LGTBQ+ health and healthy relationships among other topics.
Questions about body image, puberty, how your reproductive system works, sexually transmitted diseases or contraception? Here’s a great resource to learn more!
Still a little confused about some of the basics of sexual health or want to learn more about sexual relationships and diseases? Sick Kids has got you covered!
Learn how to foster more inclusive environments for LGBTQ2+, because everyone has the right to feel safe in their community.
Looking for more information? My Sex ED provides a wealth of resources, from videos to workshops and events!