We believe the following five basic conditions are key to creating experiences that are sexually healthy and mutually rewarding:
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 in place. Thus, it’s helpful to become friends with a desired sexual partner first and talk about sex, before becoming physically involved as lovers. Since the overall goal in healthy sexuality is mutual pleasure and satisfaction, these conditions work best when mutually understood and agreed upon.
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 negative consequences and maximized your potential for positive, mutually enjoyable 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.)