The CERTS Model for Healthy Sex

youngcoupleWe believe that healthy sexuality requires that these five basic conditions be met:

Consent, Equality, Respect, Trust, and Safety

Let’s look at each of these conditions more closely:

CONSENT means you can freely and comfortably choose whether or not to engage in sexual activity. This means you are conscious, informed, and able to stop the activity at any time during the sexual contact.

EQUALITY means your sense of personal power is on an equal level with your partner. Neither of you dominates or intimidates the other.

RESPECT means you have positive regard for yourself and for your partner. You also feel respected by your partner based on how your partner is treating you.

TRUST means you trust your partner on physical and emotional levels. You accept each other’s needs and vulnerabilities and are able to respond to concerns with sensitivity.

SAFETY means you feel secure and safe within the sexual setting. You are comfortable with and assertive about where, when and how the sexual activity takes place. You feel safe from the possibility of negative consequences, such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, and physical injury.

Spending time together and engaging in lots of honest, open communication are good ways to make sure that the CERTS conditions are operating in your relationship. That’s why we often recommend you build a strong friendship with a partner first, before becoming lovers.

Meeting the CERTS conditions does not ensure that you’ll experience terrific sex, but it can help you feel secure knowing you’ve minimized the possibility of something bad resulting from your sexual experiences.

(These five CERTS conditions were first presented in Wendy Maltz and Beverly Holman’s Incest and Sexuality: A Guide to Understanding and Healing, Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987.)