By Raye Weigel
The World Health Organization describes sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It is important to note that this is not merely the absence of disease or deformity.
This weekly column aims to discuss the different aspects of sexual health and the stigmas attached to various identities and backgrounds.
Sexual education is a conversation vital to holistic mental and sexual health. It involves self-knowledge, confidence and an empathy and understanding of differences. Lack of sex education is dangerous and ignorance can lead to bullying, even death.
However, sex education in United States schools is only required in 21 states and D.C., and 20 of those are required to be medically, factually or technically accurate. It is also, by default, heteronormative and lacks the broad definition of gender as a spectrum, therefore invalidating many identities.
For example, people who had been abused and did not identify as straight were more likely to self-harm, to report an STI and to use a range of legal and illegal drugs. Young people who are attracted to the same sex were four times more likely to commit suicide.
The World Health Organization also offers a list of sexual rights, stating that every individual should have the right to be free of coercion, discrimination or violence to:
- The highest attainable standard of sexual health, including access to sexual and reproductive health care services;
- Seek, receive and impart information related to sexuality;
- Sexuality education;
- Respect for bodily integrity;
- Choose their partner;
- Decide to be sexually active or not;
- Consensual sexual relations;
- Consensual marriage;
- Decide whether or not, and when, to have children; and
- Pursue a satisfying, safe and pleasurable sexual life.
It is also important to tackle, for example, the stigma around sex work that can eventually lead to violence and death.
“We know that if a prostitute goes missing and is reported as missing, that they won’t be given the same priority as other people would get,” David Wilson, a professor of criminology at the University of Central England, told The Guardian. “I think the public statements have changed, but those public statements often hide the continuing of a private cultural phenomenon.”
Sex education can also be exciting and enjoyable.
What kind of vibrator is best for me? Do I use the same kind of lube for vaginal and anal sex? How do I make sure there is consent from both partners when exploring different types of bondage? Beyond being life-saving, sex education can open new doors for sexual comfort and pleasure.
Conversations about sex can save lives, promote peace and improve both pleasure and mental health. This column aims to address what is not taught in schools and destroy stigmas through sharing experiences of people from various experiences.
Featured Photo Credit: Feature photo courtesy of stephane on Flickr.
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.