What is Healthy Sex?

couple1Sexual energy is a powerful, very natural force in our lives. But like any natural force we encounter — be it wind, sun, rain, or our own laughter — our sexual energy has the potential to be channeled and experienced in either destructive or life-affirming ways.

Healthy sex involves the conscious, positive expression of our sexual energy in ways that enhance self-esteem, physical health, and emotional relationship. It is mutually beneficial and harms no one.

Negative influences and problems

Unfortunately, we live in a society that constantly bombards us with images of sex that have very little to do with healthy sexuality. In movies, on television, in books, over the Internet, and in magazines, we are exposed to countless examples of impulsive, irresponsible, uncaring sex. People are treated as sex objects and sex is often portrayed as a form of power and control over another person. It’s no wonder that many of us have experienced some tragic consequences of poorly channeled sexual energy, such as sexual abuse, sexual addiction, porn problems, sexual exploitation, sexually transmitted disease, unwanted pregnancy, and/or chronic sexual unhappiness.

The number of people harmed by sexual experiences is staggering. Studies in the United States reveal that:

  • 1 in 3 females are sexually abused in childhood.
  • 1 in 5-7 males are sexually abused in childhood.
  • 1 in 4 women are raped sometime in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 2 sexually active people will contract a sexually transmitted disease by twenty-five years of age.
  • 1 in 4 people suffer from a sexually transmitted disease sometime in their lives.
  • 1 in 3 women have at least one abortion by the time they are forty-five years of age.
  • 1 in 7-10 people develop a sexual addiction.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men report that sex gives them no pleasure.

What’s been missing

Most of the sex education available in the world today, focuses on reproduction, birth control and disease prevention. While this is important information, it stops short of helping us learn what we need to know to prevent sexual abuse, addiction, and dissatisfaction. In addition, many of us need new information to overcome problems caused by past sexual hurts so that we can go on to experience healthy and deeply satisfying sexual intimacy with a partner.

As sex and relationship therapists, we speak with many people who have trouble conceptualizing healthy sexuality. They want to know: “How does healthy sex differ from sexual abuse?”, “How does healthy sex differ from sexual addiction?”, and “What are the conditions necessary to ensure that the sex I’m experiencing is good for me and for my sexual partner?”