The UBC Wellness Centre page on sexuality opens with the following heading:
“Sexual health is an important part of your physical and emotional health. Learning more about sex and sexuality can help you have safer, respectful and enjoyable experiences.”
Scroll through to the bottom of the page and you’ll find some awesome resources about consent, STIs, contraception and sexual assault, but one thing is conspicuously missing: the “emotional health” and “enjoyable experiences” part they allude to above.
We do a pretty good job of talking about sexual health and we do an alright job of talking about mental health, but most of the time when we think about how to improve our sex lives, we think of stuff we could add. New positions, new toys, new lingerie, new people. But the sexual response system is part of the central nervous system, which is actually comprised of two processes — excitatory and inhibitory, like a gas pedal and brakes. Your sexual excitation system looks for reasons to be turned on (attractive partner, presence of candles), while your inhibitory system looks for reasons not to (tired or hungry, impending shark).
Sleep deprivation, stress or otherwise compromised physical/emotional health also can’t be cancelled out by sprinkling rose petals on the sheets; you could radiate the sexual energy of a thousand Marvin Gaye records and it still won’t amount to much if what your partner really needs is a nap. A consent-oriented mindset means being attentive to your partner’s needs and facilitating their well-being. Knowing when to stop is absolutely crucial, but it’s also the bare minimum.
Good conversations around sex need to include way more than just a clinical assessment of risk: it’s important to understand about what healthy sex looks like on a mental level. Understanding your feelings and desires, maintaining an open mindset, recognizing manipulation, managing rejection, handling unfamiliar situations, and of course, communication — these skills can’t be tested with a blood draw, that just makes them even more important to develop. It's time to stop talking about sex only in terms of a threat to wellness; let's acknowledge it can be a source.how much time do we make for our sexual mental health?