Sexual Wellness

Sexual wellness the ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. It is an important part of our physical and emotional health. Being sexually healthy means:

  • Understanding that sexuality is a natural part of life and involves more than sexual behavior.
  • Recognizing and respecting the sexual rights we all share.
  • Having access to sexual health information, education, and care.
  • Making an effort to prevent unintended pregnancies and STDs and seek care and treatment when needed.
  • Being able to experience sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and intimacy when desired.
  • Being able to communicate about sexual health with others including sexual partners and healthcare providers.

Decide on Your Boundaries

When deciding on their boundaries, people may consider such things as religious beliefs, cultural standards, personal desires and comfort levels, the type of relationship in which one is involved, the level of trust, communication and commitment within a relationship, the physical, emotional, spiritual benefits of sexual choices, the physical, emotional and spiritual risks of particular sexual choices, and the emotional perceptions of actual physical risks.

A Few Questions to Consider

  • What are your reasons for choosing to have sex? What are your goals and why? What are hoping for? ( Pleasure? Emotional connection? Fun? Spiritual connection?)
  • When and how often will you be tested for STIs?
  • When and how often do you want your partners to be tested for STIs?
  • Which sexual activities are you willing to try? Which are you unwilling to do? Which might you be willing to try in some situations and/or with some partners but not others? How will you communicate these boundaries with your partner?
  • Which barrier products do you want to use? Under which circumstances?
  • Which barrier products and other precautions do you want your partner(s) to use when being sexual with others, if you are in a sexually non-monogamous relationship?
  • Are you willing to risk a possible pregnancy? If not, what method of birth control will you use?
  • Do you have a plan of action that you intend to follow if, in spite of precautions, you are faced with an unwanted pregnancy, or an STI?

Once you have decided on your own “safer sex” boundaries, you will need to gather the tools you will need to stick to your decisions.

What is Consent?

Consent is an agreement that is willfully given without any external pressure or factors.

Communication is key—boundaries should be established before, during, and after sexual activity. In order for someone to consent to sexual activity participants must continuously communicate before, during, and after sexual activity—this is the only way to establish clear boundaries between participants and allows for a healthy experience.

Consent does not always have to be verbal, but discussing boundaries, expectations, and consent between participants at each sexual encounter is the best way to avoid confusion and respect boundaries.

Consent Must Be Given…

  • Voluntarily and without coercion. Consent must be freely given. External factors such as pressure, threat, or physical violence invalidate a verbal “yes” or a silent “no.”
  • Clearly, while sober. Someone who has had too much to drink or is under the influence of drugs cannot consent to sexual activity. In addition, someone who is unconscious-—whether from substances or simply sleeping—cannot consent to sexual activity.
  • Continuously. Consent must be given with every sexual act. Just because someone consented to sexual activity once does not mean consent will be given every time. Even if someone has consented 100 times it does not mean they will consent the 101st. Consent may be given at the beginning of sex but then taken back. You MUST stop sexual activity. Even if consent is given at the beginning of a sexual act it can be taken back at anytime! Everyone has agency over his or her own body and respect of one another is SO important.
  • With confidence . Consent must be given with confidence. If you or a partner is reluctant about intensifying sexual encounters then instead of advancing you should have a conversation and communicate about your comfort levels.
  • With awareness. In order for someone to consent to sex each participant must be informed and say yes to each sexual act that is performed. This is important to realize as the term “hook up” may mean sexual intercourse to one party but may mean basic kissing to another. With this, someone may originally consent to a “hook up” but rescind consent midway through because of a miscommunication. In addition, informed consent means both partners are aware of each others’ STI status, in agreement of the methods of birth control being used, and comfortable with the environment in which they are having sex. Basically, informed consent means that there are no surprises and consent can be rescinded at any point—especially under changing conditions!

Sexual Coercion

Sexual coercion is when someone pressures, uses drugs or alcohol, or forces sexual contact with a person against his or her will.

Examples of Sexual Coercion include

  • When a person persistently attempts to have sexual contact with someone after refusal.
  • When a person makes another feel like they owe them sexual contact. (Ex. “ But I bought dinner…” “We have been together for so long…” “I have been waiting all day for this…” “You’ve already gotten me turned on.”).
  • When a person gives excessive, insincere compliments to get another to agree to sexual contact. (Ex.“You’re so hot I can’t control myself.” “You have to say yes, common it will be fun”).
  • When someone badgers, yells, or holds a person down to have sexual contact.
  • When someone gives, or persistently encourages the use of, drugs or alcohol to loosen someone up. (Ex: “It will help you relax.”)
  • When someone pressures or threatens another to agree to sexual contact because they are in a relationship (Ex: “If you love me, you would do this.” “If you don’t have sex with me I will just go find someone who will.”)
  • When someone reacts with sadness or anger when another says no. (Ex: “If you don’t have sex with me you don’t love me.” “You’ve had sex before so what’s your problem with me?”)
  • When someone continues to pressure another when he or she says no. (Ex: “I am just going to tell everyone we had sex anyway so we may as well.”)
  • When someone claims they “need it” or normalizes expectations. (Ex. “Guys just need it.” “You’re going to give me blue balls.”)

If you are a UW Seattle student and have experienced any unwanted sexual activity (sexual assault, coercion, or sexual harassment) you can contact the LiveWell Confidential Advocate for support and to learn about your rights and options. Email: lwadvoc@uw.edu

Content provided by the American Sexual Health Association