Sex is one of the most integral parts of being human. It’s how we reproduce (for the most part), how we connect, and how we dive into pleasure and ecstatic states.
Sex is a potent way to deepen your understanding of yourself and the world around you, how you relate to others and liberate yourself of past stories and stigmas.
Sex is yet another tool we have in our wellness journeys.
Merriam-Webster defines wellness as “the quality or state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal”. If we’re actively seeking to improve our health and wellbeing – why not use every tool we’ve got?
The “wellness industry” is one of the fastest-growing, most profitable fields in the world, yet when it comes to sexual health – there seems to be a gap.
Holistic Sexual Wellness
There often seems to be a chasm between the conversation around topics deemed “sexual health”, like STIs and contraception, and the idea that sexuality can be used as another gadget in your wellness toolbelt.
In order to bridge the gap between these conversations, the lens must be shifted to view sexual wellness as a holistic practice.
Within sexual education, whether formal or informal, there needs to be space for people to draw connections between pleasure, what it means to be “safe”, and how that ties back to their overall health.
When it comes to sexual education, too often learning about reproductive health comes with layers of fear and shame. Young people are taught to fear potential outcomes of sex like STIs and pregnancy, without the proper tools as to how to navigate that or even discuss them in a candid manner.
Approaching sexual wellness from a holistic standpoint means to understand the vast amount of layers that come into someone’s sexuality, and how they practice it.
Which means having an understanding of their anatomy, specifically reproductive organs, practical information on STIs from a destigmatized lens, practices that don’t just focus on heterosexual experiences, putting an emphasis on pleasure and consent, and so much more.
Being able to have these conversations in a candid manner, makes space for people to see how all the facets of their sexuality tie in together to create a well informed and empowering sexual practice.
Power in Pleasure
Another critical aspect of understanding sexual wellness is recognizing pleasure as a central tenet.
Pleasure is a human right.
Pleasure is revolutionary.
Pleasure is power.
Yet too often, pleasure is ignored.
Because a sexual education model based on fear does not leave much room for pleasure.
Sex has a tremendous amount of health benefits. Healthy sex life can help lower blood pressure, improve sleep, boost the immune system, and relieve stress.
Ok so, sex can literally improve your health – if that’s not wellness, I don’t know what is.
But we don’t need a bunch of scientific studies to understand that fundamentally, in order to feel our best, we need to experience a pleasure. So it’s important to have accessible tools with which to do that, like having sex – with yourself or others.
Being able to tap into a state of pleasure helps you deal with stress, blow off steam, and break up any rut you may be in.
Think of all the benefits that you get from yoga classes, massages, hikes, or whatever wellness tools you have. Can you take that understanding, and apply it to your sex life?
That is power in pleasure. That is the power of sex as a wellness tool.
Emphasizing pleasure in sexual wellness means that there doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason to how and when you have sex, just simply wanting to feel good is reason enough.
Emphasizing pleasure breaks up the awkwardness, stigma, and discomfort, of talking and learning about sexual health topics.
Because when it comes down to it, sexual wellness cannot be compartmentalized. Pleasure is just as important as safety. Holistic sexual wellness encompasses all this and more.
Now that you have a clearer idea of what sexual wellness means, it’s time for a little self-reflection.
Grab your journal and give yourself some space to reflect on these questions. You can discuss them with friends or your partner after, to create some dialogue around tricky questions.
When navigating your constantly evolving sexual wellness journey, some awesome questions to ask yourself are…
“What does sexual wellness mean to me?”
“How do my sexuality and the ways I express it affect my overall wellbeing?”
“What sexual health topics do I need to learn more about?”
“What sexual experiences do I want to have?”
“What feels good to me?”
Be honest, and have grace for yourself. Sexual wellness, after all, is an ever-evolving journey.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.