Columnist’s note: When I learned this issue would be focused on sex, I wanted to make sure that LGBTQ folx were represented regardless of who participated in the online survey. So I opted to turn my column over to my friend, David Brunner, a sexual health educator and former sexual health advice columnist who promotes the ideas of safe and responsible approaches to sex and sexuality, while eliminating the stigma. David is the former Director of the Prevention Department at the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (now known as Allies for Health + Wellbeing) ~ Sue Kerr
Sex is something that existed well before humans were humans. Our understanding of the human mind and body, however, has changed drastically over the millennia of human existence. As a species, we learn more each day as the world becomes increasingly interconnected and open to discussion about our realities as sexual beings within this shared universe.
Every person in existence is the combined total of their biological make up, their development in the womb and their experiences from birth to present. No two people are identical. Even identical twins, will have different developmental and experiential paths which make them psychologically and physiologically different as well.
Human sexuality is a product of this unique individual physiology and psychology. Just as the mind and body of the individual is unique, so too is the sexuality of the individual. Because of this, there is not one, but many ways to experience one’s own sexuality. One person may be attracted to the curve of the hips, while another could be aroused by a certain fragrance that a particular person gives off, while some else could even be completely unstimulated by things of a sexual nature as is the case with actual asexuality.
Individual sexuality isn’t necessarily static either… it can vary over time, as one allows oneself to discover more about their own body and mind. Someone may discover that they may like something such as nipple stimulation where previously it wasn’t even thought of. Or, someone may think they enjoy something, and it is much less enjoyable then first thought.
What all of this means is that there is no right or wrong way to approach one’s sexuality, as every person is different regardless of gender or orientation. There are however, healthy and unhealthy ways to approach it. What someone has as their preference(s) is not important, but understanding how to make one’s sexual experiences safe and healthy for oneself and one’s partner(s) is very important.
Before engaging in or exploring sex, make sure to study up on the various Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), how they are spread, how they are prevented and how and where to get tested for them. Drug resistant gonorrhea, for instance, has been spreading throughout the country, and there are currently around 800,000 new cases of gonorrhea per year.
While there is a vaccine for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), there are several other STIs which have no vaccine like syphilis and HIV. Luckily, most (but not all) STIs are very easy to prevent by using condoms correctly each and every time. So if you are not thoroughly educated about STIs, it is time to do some research so you can further explore and enjoy your sexuality without the fear and doubt of potentially life altering complications. The Centers for Disease Control has great resources online about STIs, and there are a number of local health clinics which can direct you to some good information as well.
Health is not just limited to the physical, but also includes mental and interpersonal health. Making sure that your sexual relationships are positive for both you and your partner(s) is very important. Manipulation and abuse are not healthy and should not be part of a relationship, especially an intimate relationship. Consent to sex is always mandatory, and no means no. Honest and open communication as well as having a judgment free and open minded attitude toward sex are crucial to having a mentally healthy sexual relationship while also maximizing enjoyment for those involved.
Not everyone will enjoy everything that their partner(s) like every time. This is to be expected as each person is unique afterall. But finding common interests and turn-ons can be a very fun and exciting path of exploration that can build more intimacy with one’s partner(s). Whether taking the time to explore each others erogenous zones, to learning some new techniques together at a local kink event, there are lots of ways to make your sexual relationship(s) healthy and fulfilling.
There are many facets that make up a human being and one of those is human sexuality. It is nothing to be afraid of, but it is something important to understand and treat responsibly. It doesn’t matter how one enjoys themselves sexually whether that includes a warm intimate bath with self massage to candle light, or being suspended from the ceiling while whips tease the body, it doesn’t matter, as long as it is all consensual adults playing safely. Explore, be safe and have fun!