It’s probably no surprise to anyone who lives in our society that as a whole we have a lot of hang ups when it comes to sex.
One one hand, we are a nation that produces more pornography than another other nation on earth—and on the other hand, we also get up in arms should an entertainer flash a nipple at the Super Bowl or a former squeaky-clean Disney starlet twerking at the MTV VMAs.
In light of this paradox and the shockingly high numbers of men and women who have experienced sexual abuse, it’s no surprise that many people have hang-ups when it comes to sex.
While I don’t claim to be an expert on sex by any stretch of the imagination, I believe we would all benefit as a society if more people had a healthier image of sexuality.
Speaking as someone who was sexuality abused as a child, I believe that having a healthy sexual image can go a long way in healing and dealing with the issues of shame and guilt that can often linger for years even after receiving therapy and believing that one is “past” the abuse.
Therefore, while l I am not claiming that doing the following will automatically lead to healthy sexuality, it is a step in the right direction and may get us started on the road to true sexual healing:
1. Realize that you are worthy of and deserve a good sex life.
If I had to rank any of these in order, I would say that this hands down the most important one. Everyone—young, old, fat, thin, physically disabled, etc.—deserves to enjoy sex.
Sex isn’t something that is reserved only for certain types of people in our society.
However, just the mere thought of someone who is unattractive in some way or physically disabled can cause others to crack jokes or grow very uncomfortable. Plus, there aren’t a lot of media depictions of the people in those situations exploring their sexuality in healthy ways. (Last year’s Oscar nominated The Sessions based on the true-life story of the late writer Mark O’Brien was a rare exception to that.) Still, no matter what society says, the reality is that all sorts of people crave and have sex and have every right to do so, too.
Getting past the idealized image of what a sexual person should look like leads me to #2.
2. Get to know your body.
It’s always surprising to me how many people—especially those who feel they are overweight or unattractive in some way—avoid getting to know or even looking at their own bodies. Regardless of what societal beauty are and whether you fit them or not, you are lucky to have a body.
While men do not generally have a problem looking at their genitals, I am always amazed at how many women feel it is taboo. A doctor friend of mine who had a family practice once mentioned that some of his female patients outright refused to “look down there” even when he suggested monthly self-checks for those with a history of cancer. (Even though it is not as widely know as some other types of cancer, vulvar cancer does occur and early detection is essential to prevent it from spreading.)
Whether viewing your genitals or any other part or parts of your body, refrain from trying to point out the “bad” things about them. Instead, focus on the positive or think of how they work in harmony with other parts of your body.
A body is pretty amazing thing when you consider all that it does. It’s unique, too, and shouldn’t look exactly like anyone else’s either.
3. Find out what turns you on rather than what you think should turn you on.
This is so important for a number of reasons. Just pick up Cosmopolitan or any other women’s magazine, and there is usually an article about how to turn a man on and/or drive him wild (usually involving oral sex) while the rise of erotica like 50 Shades of Grey has some convinced that everyone should be into BDSM. Maybe you happen to fall into these categories and sincerely get turned on by giving oral sex and engaging in BDSM.
If you do, great.
However, if one or both of these things don’t appeal to you, then it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean that you are prude or something is wrong with you but rather, it just isn’t your cup of tea.
Generally speaking, I believe that as long as all the parties are consenting adults and no one is getting hurt, then anything goes.
However, it seems that we have been so programmed to “like” certain things or jump on the “everyone is [supposedly] doing it” bandwagon, that we often do not know what we really enjoy.
Plus, many people—especially women—seem to believe that if they do not appear to enjoy giving or receiving certain sexual things, then they may chase their partners away.
The truth is, gay, straight, bi, etc., a partner who sincerely cares about and wants to be with you will consider your feelings and your pleasure. Telling your partner what you enjoy and what you do not should not drive them away.
4. Know that being sexually healthy means you have the right to say no to sex.
Speaking from experience, a lot people with sexual hang ups believe that they are somehow proving to themselves and others that they are beyond their hang ups by having sex with a lot of people. There is certainly nothing wrong with having sex with multiple partners if you feel comfortable doing so, but the key words here are if you feel comfortable doing so.
Often times, many of us have sex and don’t really feel comfortable doing so. Sometimes deciding to take a short or a long break from sex is healthy. Again, it really is deciding what is best for you and your circumstances rather than trying to conform to any sort of societal idea of what healthy sexuality is or is not.
Having a view of healthy sexuality may not be the answer to solving all your problems, but it certainly can go a long way in solving some. While I freely admit that some of these suggestions may be easier said than done, just trying to implement them may help a lot.
We owe it to ourselves to have a healthy view of sex. With any luck, those of us who are parents will be able to pass this on to our children once they are old enough to start exploring their own sexuality.
In any case, we can at least try.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise