When we hear the words sexual health, some of our brains might immediately go to the physical aspect of sexual health like sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and annual gynecological exams. While staying on top of these things is important, there's more to sexual health than knowing your STI status or whether or not everything is on the up and up with your vulva. Like many sex-related topics, there's a lot more to unpack.
"The phrase 'sexual health' has traditionally encompassed a narrow range of topics around the prevention of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy as it pertains to the act of sex," Irene Fehr, sex and intimacy coach, tells Bustle. "While these are still relevant and important, they are the tip of the iceberg. To understand good sexual health, we have to take a wider lens to the relationship between sexuality and emotional wellbeing."
But that doesn't mean that the physical part of it should be any less important, of course. "On the physical side, good sexual health is tending to and optimizing the functioning of the body, hormones and supporting systems, taking preventative action against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy, and seeking care and treatment when needed," Fehr says. "We also have to stop defining sexual health as preventing being unwell. That is a low bar to achieve. Good sexual health is equally about thriving and the fullest expression of who we are as sexual beings."
Here are eight ways experts define good sexual health.