Is anal sex dangerous? Do vaginas always smell bad? Can you catch HIV from a toilet seat?* Tomorrow is World Sexual Health Day. This year’s theme is aimed at eliminating the myths. So where do you get your information from when it comes to healthy sex? And are you getting sex-fiction or science-fact?
How much do you know?
The first thing most people think of when it comes to sexual health is Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). So how would you know if you or your sexual partner have an STI? If you think it would always be obvious – a rash, or lumps, or unpleasant discharge – you’d be wrong! Many STI’s don’t have obvious symptoms (or they might not appear for weeks or months). So if you have unprotected sex outside a monogamous relationship the only way to be sure you’re healthy is to get tested regularly. (in the UK you can do this anonymously at your nearest NHS clinic).
It’s about more than infection
But just as good health is about more than simply avoiding the flu, good sexual health is about more than just infection. In order to be fully sexually healthy we need to pay attention to ourselves as a somatic whole.
Staci Haines, somatics expert and therapist explains: “The word Somatics comes from the Greek root soma which means ‘the living body in its wholeness’…The understanding is that people are not mind over matter (“If I think differently I will be different”), nor matter over mind or spirit (“A change in chemistry or medication will wholly change my experience”). Rather we are all of these things combined – we are thinking and conceptual, we are emotional, we are biological and we are spiritual. Somatics approaches people as the integrated whole, working with all of these aspects of who we are”.
And why is this so important when it comes to healthy sex? Well, for many of us, sexuality is underpinned by silence, fear, shame (and pornography). All of these things can lead to being in the dark (and not in a good way) when it comes to facts about sex. Keeping sex as something secret or disconnected from the rest of our life, means it’s much harder to know what’s real and what’s a myth. By connecting our sexual bodies with our hearts and our intelligence we can put ourselves in a much healthier position (missionary or otherwise!).
So what can you do…?
Ask! Ignorance is certainly not bliss when it comes to either pleasure or health.
Use the internet. It’s a great way of educating yourself whilst sparing your blushes – but be careful: many websites and forums are riddled with just as many myths as information! Stick to ones which are produced by reputable health organisations like the NHS.
Visit a Sexological Bodyworker. Our training – from anatomy to techniques – means it’s an essential part of our job to know about sexual health in all its forms: from feeling like your body’s not doing what you want when it comes to sexual function, to wanting better orgasms, we can work with you somatically to make sure your sexual health is a hit not a myth!
*And the answers to those questions at the start…? The anus is a flexible muscle, so – if done right – anal sex should be no more dangerous than any other kind (plus the anus can be an incredible source of pleasure); Contrary to popular opinion vaginas are not meant to be odour-free – they have a delicate pH balance influenced by diet, clothing and activity – but if they smell bad there’s something wrong! The HIV virus cannot survive long outside the human body, and would need to come into contact with an open cut or wound… so it’s extremely unlikely a toilet seat could infect you!
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