For many people, Sex Education taught us important lessons on how to avoid negative or undesired outcomes, such as STIs, HIV, and unplanned pregnancy. Specifically, I have flashbacks of genital ulcers (magnified on PowerPoint slides!) and the bad breath of my teacher.
But sexual health is more than the absence of disease and dysfunction. Douglas Braun-Harvey, a prominent sex therapist, has developed a positive approach to sexuality and intimate relationships constructed upon the following principles, which guide and inform my work with clients:
It is essential that both partners can experience sex without coercion or violence, as illustrated in this delightful video:
Although my practice focuses primarily on consensual sex, I have experience working with trauma survivors as well, and helping them strive towards an integrated sexual identity and healthy relationships.
Using a sexual relationship to advance a personal agenda, at the expense of someone else, can be hurtful and problematic. Honoring the agreements we make with our partner(s), specifically as they relate to power structure, commitment, and fidelity, is of paramount importance for sexual health.
Depending upon the circumstances, non-monogamous and BDSM relationships may also be healthy and non-exploitative. I am a kink-friendly provider who can help you navigate the often difficult subjects of open relationships, affairs, and polyamory in a respectful, affirming manner.
3. Protection from STIs, HIV, and Pregnancy
Do you know your relationship with HIV?
What is your contraception plan?
Find out where you can be tested in Rhode Island: http://www.health.ri.gov/find/hivtestingsites/
Many of these sites offer services that are free and confidential.
Additionally, Planned Parenthood can be a good resource for information on various contraceptive options: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control
Ideally, these questions (and their answers) should be explored with your partner, but sexual health professionals can facilitate such conversations as well.
Open communication about sexual desires, fantasies, and feelings is a key ingredient to enjoying fulfilling sex and intimacy. But people often become disconnected from what brings them satisfaction, and may deny aspects of their sexuality due to shame, fear, and vulnerability. An important element of my work involves helping clients identify and overcome barriers to the authentic expression of their sexual self.
5. Shared Values
What does having sex mean to you? How did you develop those values, and are they compatible with your relationship? Conflicting attitudes about sex, specifically with desire discrepancy, is a major reason why couples may seek professional guidance.
6. Mutual Pleasure
Lack of mutual pleasure is a concern that often brings individuals and couples into my practice. Sometimes this is related to difficulty expressing sexual needs and desires with honesty. Another common barrier is a preoccupation with “performance” during intimate encounters, rather than enjoying the various physical sensations and emotional connection that may be possible.
Remember, good sex is more than a series of precise maneuvers; it has the potential to promote growth and integration of heart, body, mind and spirit.
If you have concerns about your sexual health I would be happy to schedule a phone consultation to determine how I can help, or may connect you to alternative resources that best match your needs.