Why Sexual Health Matters
Updated: Aug 5, 2020
Who knows when there is something wrong with you? You do. Who knows what feels good and what feels bad to you? You do. Who communicates what you need? You do. Health is one of our rights and therefore sexual health must also be our right. Our sexual health is just as important as our physical health. Here’s why: your private parts are just as much a part of your body as the rest of you. The more you know, the more you understand and can better advocate for yourself. Most of us tell someone the moment our head or tooth hurts without even thinking about it. But when we experience pain in our vulva or during intercourse, many of us just assume it’s no big deal because we don’t want to talk about it. Or we sit and worry in silence or have to be convinced by our closest friend to go see the doctor about it. We don’t want to talk about it, because it’s not something we’ve really talked about before. We haven’t practiced it much. Who do we talk to about it? Which doctor? We get embarrassed and don’t know how to explain it.
This is not usually the case for mothers. Having babies often makes women feel less shy about their sexual health. For young girls though, getting a period is like a curse. Talking about our body is only common in a physical health sense like weight or sickness. The typical scope of sexual health education is kept to the restrictions like pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This often brings about a lack of understanding about our body, a feeling of disconnection from our body, and maybe a sense of shame around desire and pleasure.
A lack of understanding about our body supports low confidence. Low confidence is a problem with reporting abuse or assault and developing strong equitable relationships. Low confidence about our body also makes it difficult to communicate about our body. We aren’t sure who to talk to about that pain we sometimes get, but we also aren’t able to tell our partner what feels good and what doesn’t. We find ourselves just going with the flow and doing what our partner wants when they want it. They seem confident in what they want and it doesn’t seem like a terrible idea. We don’t have any of our own ideas since we’ve never really talked about it with anyone. Talking about it seems wrong. We don’t want to come across as “too experienced” to the wrong people. Sometimes we’re afraid to ask, because we don’t want to seem too in-experienced.
After having a baby, our hormones go wonky, our libido drops, and our body isn’t quite the same as before. We often get told, that’s just what happens. Our body performed the incredible miracle of growing and birthing a tiny human, and now it is meant to care for and nourish that human. Few people have an answer to help you, because the general consensus is, “That’s just what happens.” When we finally feel like we might be ready for intimacy again, our schedules are crazy, we’re always tired, and it doesn’t feel the same as it used to, or we don’t have the energy and so on and so on. We get frustrated and sometimes we give up. We don’t know who to talk to or we don’t feel confident enough to talk about it. We often get so sucked in to the idea that our body is responsible for so many other things that others are dependent on. When this happens we forget to see ourselves as still a sexual being.
As we age, we experience changes in our sexual health again. This time we are often given more than one possible solution, but most of them have some side effects and only address part of the problem. Yes, there is frustration, but many women end up “just dealing with it”, because it’s just not as important anymore.
The thing is, it is important! Our sexual pleasure is important! Sexual pleasure has many benefits for our overall health:
Improves heart health
Those are just some of the benefits on your overall health. Your sexual health improves with pleasure as well. The old saying “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”, stands true here for your pelvic floor muscles. Your pelvic floor muscles are like the hammock that holds everything inside, including your vaginal walls and uterus. As our muscles get weak, they shrink. With aging and absence of use, it is even possible to experience a great deal of pain when getting a pap smear at the gynecologist. Continued use of the vaginal muscles, even just doing kegel exercises, keeps them strong and healthy. Also keep in mind that sexual pleasure is something that gets better the more we practice. When your libido is low, it could help you to get intimate. The more pleasure you have, the more your libido and desire for it grows. Yes, our sexual health needs change over time as we age and our relationship dynamics change. It also changes with our overall health. When we experience disease or illness, it can have a negative impact on our sexual health. Often primary care doctors or specialists other than those concerned for our sexual health, don’t think to ask or talk about these impacts.
It is important to understand your overall level of sexual health and be able to communicate about it as it changes. Being confident enough to communicate about your body is good for your health and your relationships. You are your only advocate when it comes to your sexual health and well-being.