What is healthy human sexuality? I don’t know if I’ve ever really heard a description, but I do know I have never been taught this. It certainly was not in school, definitely not from experience, and pretty sure not from a book either. How do we come to understand what sexual health could mean, let alone meet our own sexual health needs? Let’s explore the mind, body and social approach to sex.

Sex, seduction and styling

 Although this is not directly related to sexuality, I’ve been pondering our collective obsessive need to change ourselves physically. When and How did we decide we are never good enough? 

 When we are a woman, we are somehow “supposed to be” hairless.  Alternatively, when we are a trans man we may take hormones to grow hair, in part to look and feel more “manly”.  How does our hair status reflect our sexuality or gender?

If we are a woman we may worry about size – of our breasts, bum, torso, limbs, height, and even our labia

And when we are a man, we may also worry about physical size. But in this case, it is usually to be bigger – not smaller, but in all the “right” ways.

We are constantly gauging whether are we too much or not enough. Cultural, gender and age norms all factor into this as well (cause God forbid if we are “too young” or “too old”, we cannot be “too sexual”). It would make things so much easier if we had a customizer – a type of vending machine or Amazon order. Imagine this, typing in our preferences for the year depending on what is in fashion. Like duckier lips, fluffier eyebrows, and curves exactly where they ought to be. If only.

Is your sexual experience based on your needs or porn?

When I’ve asked around about others’ impressions of healthy sexuality, I have gotten some mostly bland and generic responses. Words like understanding, acceptance, comfort/being comfortable with discomfort, respect and consent typically come up. (Although consent is not bland or generic and is a very serious aspect of healthy sexuality and deserves its very own blog).

If we have lost touch with these experiences in relation to our own bodies, how could we possibly imagine the ability to join with another body within the context of healthy sexuality? 

How can these qualities develop in young people when 40% of the content on the internet is porn? And when we receive a diet of porn from a young age, what happens? We are just starting to understand the tip of this menacing iceberg.  (Another important blog topic).

Porn and young minds

What I have heard directly from clients is that porn steals/rapes a young mind’s opportunity to explore, imagine, and discover what healthy sexuality could be for that individual. It shapes the neocortex via neuronal firing based on imagery that is carefully crafted to generate addiction. 

It makes entertainment, and sometimes brutality, out of human sexuality. Is there even one thing in human existence that has not been manufactured and twisted into entertainment?

When sex comes up as a topic, it is usually for the purpose of judgement, comparison, or a debate on ethics or morality. It is rare to discuss the enjoyment of sex, or the questions around “how did your relationship with your sexuality arise and develop?”. 

My experience of sex while growing up

I was considering my own experience growing up. The feelings of budding sexuality were usually about another person that I knew at a deep-ish emotional level. The mystery and anticipation of what it means to be a sexual human being was part of the development. This particular age and space is the prime time to explore, create, and discuss sexuality. 

I remember long conversations on the phone (and yes, the phone was also attached to a wall folks) with friends, male and female, about what we were thinking and wondering about the sexuality. Sharing stories about the latest hijinks and horrors of puberty and how this played out on the social scene. We had to talk it out, as there was no other source to refer to, or could readily access. This slowed things down considerably. It also made it necessary to do “field work”. We had to find out for ourselves what this healthy sexuality was all about – someone had to do it!

When I think back on exposure to the topic in school, the themes centred around:

  • “Don’t get AIDS” – (and the message seemed to be that… eventually everyone will)
  • “Don’t get pregnant” – (…and eventually everyone will. And that hopefully when it does happen, you wanted it to because there isn’t easy access to birth control or abortion)
  • “Don’t rape” – (But eventually most of the girls still got sexually assaulted.  We weren’t allowed to talk about that because the message had to be, “don’t let it happen”). 

So basically, we were on our own.

Sexual health and sex, let’s talk about it

So my questions for the community continue.

Have we made any progress in the realm of sexual health? 

Are young people even having sex or is everything virtual? 

Are older adults having sex?  If so, has it improved over time?

It’s all around us in the media, but is anyone actually doing it? When and how? 

Who is talking about it?  How are we talking about sex?

Steering towards sex talks and holistic sexual health

Sex is supposedly one of the most basic human functions.  Other than sleeping and eating.  Yet we are not even doing these very well. So, I’m assuming we are dropping the ball on sex too.

I want us to be able to avoid the frustrations, obstacles, and traumas of the past and have an open discussion.  About our physical and psychological needs, our concerns, and how to experience well-being in healthy sexuality.  Let’s talk about it!  Start a conversation with those around you, and contact us for professional insights.

Kathlyn McHugh RCC, RSW Counselling Practice takes place at the Vitality Clinic in the West Shore Area, close to Victoria BC.

Visit the website at: Home – The Vitality Clinic