For many of us, sexual experiences and sexual activity are a regular part of our lives. But have you ever wondered to yourself, “Am I sexually healthy?” Have you experienced challenges that complicate your sexual life? How can you maintain good sexual health, especially as our sex lives tend to change over time?
Sexual experiences tap into most of our bodily processes and systems in a remarkable way, and that’s why they can be so great! From our circulatory and endocrine systems to our psychological health, it is truly a full body experience.
People deserve to have sexual experiences that are pleasurable, empowering, consensual, and healthy. That applies no matter how frequently you are having sexual activity, with whom, and what specific activities you enjoy (even the extra naughty stuff).
What Does Sexual Wellness Look Like?
The World Health Organization defines sexual health as: a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.
That’s right! Sexual health is a broad term that can encompass everything from consent to contraception. Sexual health includes talking about pleasure, understanding how our bodies work, and encouraging conversations about sex.
The reason why sex is important – and how important – also varies to different people, and that’s totally great. Some people have sex because they’re trying for a baby. Others have sex to feel pleasure and close to their partner. Some people choose to not have sex. The reason and frequency of sex can change over time, and there’s no magic number how often you should be having sex either. You do what feels good to you (as long as everyone else is consenting and having a good time, too, of course).
Learn About What Brings you Pleasure
There’s a lot of ways to experience pleasure, from kissing and cuddling to everyday activities like eating a piece of chocolate. When it comes to learning about your body and sexuality, masturbation is a great way to learn what brings you pleasure – and what doesn’t. This act of solo-discovery can also help you become a better communicator when engaging in sexual activity with a partner. If you know what you like, it’s easier to pass that information forward (*wink*).
There’s also a beautiful world of fetishes and kinks, if that’s your cup of tea. (Glamour Magazine has a summary of some here.) The most important thing to remember (as with any sex) is that it’s all about consent, communication, and compromise. Not every kink is for everyone, and you always have to respect your partner’s boundaries.
Curious to find out what your partner might be into? Spark up a conversation with our Yes/No/Maybe list activity. This activity includes listings different activities, such as mutual masturbation and bondage, into columns for “yes I’d like to try”, “maybe this is for me,” and “no that’s not my style.” It’s a great way to discover what kind of activities you might both want to try.
We’re big believers that talking about sex in a relationship is the communication lubrication to better (and maybe even more frequent) sex. Dare we say the sexiest type of foreplay is communication? Communication helps build mutual understanding, confidence, and respect – and gets those curious brain cells thinking.
Diet, Exercise & Lifestyle
Like many other parts of your health, what you eat, how you move and how you live have an important influence on your sexual health and well-being.
What you put into your body goes hand in hand with how you experience pleasure through sexual activity. Promotions and gimmicks aside, there is little to no proof that sexual supplements and over the counter vitamins produce significant improvements in your sexual experiences. However, a balanced diet, based on how nutritionists see it, is a great way to start. Ideally, your diet should include moderate levels of protein-heavy meats and seafoods like lobster, crab, beef and pork.
Fruits and vegetables, rich in antioxidants, can boost your libido and sexual health too. There are tons to choose from including sweet fruits like strawberries, blueberries and bananas and refreshing, versatile vegetables like spinach, arugula and lettuce. Nuts and seeds (like walnuts, pecans and peanuts) are also excellent for your sexual health, as they can be a source of zinc and amino acids for your general wellbeing.
And it’s not all healthy food – reasonable amounts of red wine, dark chocolate and avocados are also great for your sexual health! What about things to avoid or limit intake? Just like your doctor might tell you, everything should be consumed in moderation: you will want to limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine to see positive outcomes for your sexual health.
Health experts also recommend regular cardio exercise to boost your heart rate, get your blood flowing and maintain your metabolism. Not to worry, cardio doesn’t need to be something like running a marathon or doing a high-intensity workout class at your local gym. Cardio can be as simple as light jogging, bike riding, fast walking or even jumping jacks a few times a week.
There are a few different reasons for this.
Cardiovascular health (or more simply, heart and blood flow) is important for maintaining the ability to engage in rigorous sexual activity, and strong blood flow is critical for sexual performance. Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which can boost your mood and make you feel positive, content and at-ease.
Lastly, the way you live will absolutely be reflected in your sexual life! There are easy ways to generally improve your overall being, as well as your sexual health. These will also sound familiar, as this advice is generally good for your health. Firstly, let your body reset and restore through getting healthy amounts of sleep. You want to be in top shape for your next sexual experience!
Regular Testing and Self Examination
Sexual health and wellness start with you! There’s a big toolbox of ways you can take care of your sexual health and reproductive health. This can include knowing how to properly put on a condom (including knowing your correct condom fit and what to do if you experience condom breakage), understanding the different options for contraception, educating yourself on ways to prepare for anal sex, and so much more. When you feel empowered by medically-accurate information, you can help keep yourself and your partner(s) safe.
When it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), many of them do not have any symptoms. The only way to be aware of your STI status is to get tested at your local sexual health clinic or doctor’s office. These results are confidential and anonymous, and the practitioner can explain what the test will include and what next steps you need to take. There are even at-home tests you can take! It is also important to share these results with any sexual partners, to ensure that everyone is aware of risk levels and are making informed decisions about their sexual life. If you need some help starting the conversation, we have some tips and tricks here!
Something else you can do for your overall health is to check yourself. Next time you’re fresh out of the shower, try doing self-examinations of your body, feeling for any lumps, bumps or sores. You know your body best, and if something doesn’t seem right, it’s worth checking in with a medical professional.
Experiencing Sexual Dysfunction
If you are experiencing challenges in enjoying your preferred sexual activities, you may have some level of sexual dysfunction. This term is very technical, but is meant to be broad enough to include many common challenges, some of which are very common, including:
- Low sexual desire
- Vaginal dryness (read more here)
- Inability to ejaculate or orgasm
- Erectile dysfunction (read more here)
Think you might be experiencing one of the above (or a separate) problem? Check with your healthcare provider to see whether there are solutions you can pursue, including medication, counseling, surgical or lifestyle. There’s no shame in being an advocate for your own health, and that shouldn’t stand between you and your sexual satisfaction.
A Few More Tips!
Want some more tips and tricks on how to maintain sexual health and wellness? We compiled some foods that can help maintain sexual health, so for the foodies out there, check out some of those good eats! And don’t forget to check out our blog posts on safe, but spicy sex practices during the COVID-19 pandemic and Monkeypox outbreak, as well as our post on the health benefits of sex.