Welcome back to the Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a question in our Google Form: https://tinyurl.com/AskSSIS. Any and all questions are welcome: there are no bad, stupid or weird questions!
(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community, and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)
How do you define sexual health?
This is a really good question, because sexual health can have a different definition based on who you ask. Sexual health is the state of physical, mental, emotional and social well-being in regards to sexuality. It is important to distinguish this definition from just the absence of dysfunction of disability, which it isn’t, and people with disabilities and dysfunction can also be sexually healthy! Being sexually healthy can lead to a respectful and positive approach to sexual relationships and sexuality, including safer and pleasurable sexual experiences. It is important to understand that sexuality (or the lack of it) is a natural part of life and involves more than just sexual behavior.
Emotional health in regards to sexual well-being includes a couple factors, including feeling emotionally safe in the environment you’re engaging in, feeling joy during sexual experiences of your choosing while allowing yourself to be vulnerable, and taking steps to address issues that have come up from past experiences. Communication is a very important aspect of emotional health, as it leads to open dialogue between partners, creates a safe space for exploring sexuality, and allows for a place to advocate for yourself and your needs, as well as learning about your partner’s. Being open and honest with your partner, as well as listening to what they have to say is very important.
Mental health can include feeling affirmed in one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation. This also includes feeling good about your body; having your sexual rights respected, protected and fulfilled; and moving towards fixing issues that have arisen from past experiences. A good aspect of mental health is having access to sexual health information, education and care. If you’re ever interested in learning more, SSIS has a lot of resources to help you.
Understanding physical health in sexual experiences places a focus on understanding your own body, where your own pleasure centers are as well as what is most pleasurable for you. And yes! Sexual health does include pleasure too. It is also important to consider every aspect of your sexual activity and take precautions (like barrier methods) to prevent STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). SSIS offers a couple barrier methods, including external condoms (placed on the object penetrating, ex. a penis, dildo), internal condoms (for placing inside the vagina/anus) and finger cots and gloves for manual stimulation. It also includes being aware of what’s normal for your body, and seeing a doctor about changes that concern you. If you are at risk for contracting an STI, you might want to consider scheduling STI tests regularly, as some STIs will have no symptoms. Additionally, it is important to treat STIs or any other infections to keep your body healthy.
It is a common myth that people with a disability are automatically unable to be as sexually healthy as someone who isn’t disabled. Not true! People with disabilities can be as sexually healthy as anyone else. There are many ways that disability can impact a person’s sex life, from chronic pain and fatigue to mobility issues. These, however, do not have to stand in the way of a person having the sex life they desire. One great resource for this is the book “The Ultimate Guide to Sex with a Disability,” available in the SSIS office!
If you have any other questions or want to see some of the resources we mentioned in the article, stop by room 328 (on the third floor) of the SCC, email email@example.com, or leave a question in our Google Form!