6 Principles of Sexual health (and how they relate to your sex life)

6 Principles of Sexual health (and how they relate to your sex life)

Sexual health is key to a great sex life. If you’re in a committed relationship but struggling with sex, you’re going to want to make sure you’re checking all 6 of these boxes.

I’m going to talk about the 6 aspects of sexual health as described by Mr. Doug Braun-Harvey after the Pan-American Health Organization, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the World Association of Sexual Health published their report. This may sound academic, but each principle applies to your sex life. In fact, without all 6, your sex life cannot thrive over time. And the last one is the most taken for granted!

Healthy sex is Consensual

Sexual health requires sex to be consensual. This is the most universal sexual health principle on the planet. Consent means “voluntary cooperation” and communicates permission to be sexual with willing partners. Establishing consent throughout each step of a sexual interaction provides each sexual partner space for sexual safety and pleasure that is consistent with their sexual desires. When consent is given, one is saying, “I want this, I want you to give me something that I desire.”  You want to seek enthusiastic consent along the way. It should be clear and unmistakable.

And you may be thinking “I’m in a relationship. Aren’t we beyond needing to seek consent?” Couples often develop a repertoire of “consented activities” but consent incidents can still occur if you take that for granted. What we want can change over time. Just because we consent to something Tuesday doesn’t mean we really want it on Thursday. Make sure your partner is enthusiastic in their participation and err on the side of checking in.

Healthy sex is Non-Exploitative

Sexual health requires sex to be non-exploitative. Exploitation is when a person leverages their power and control to receive sexual gratification. Exploitation compromises a person’s ability to consent to sex. Intentional exploitative sex is ruthless and insensitive to the feelings of a partner and family members. But it’s also possible to have much more subtle forms of exploitation: pressure, emotional consequences to saying no, power dynamics in the relationship leading one person to feel like they don’t have as much choice.

Again, in a committed relationship, you may think exploitation can’t happen. But it can. You could have more power in your relationship, and that could play out in sex. You could react badly when your partner doesn’t want sex, and that creates a consequence they want to avoid. Even if you don’t mean to put that kind of pressure on your partner, they may believe it’s there and end up going along with sexual acts. Watch for cues that they are not enthusiastically choosing sex.

Healthy sex is Honest

Sexual health requires open and direct communication with oneself and every sexual partner. Honesty with oneself involves being open to sexual pleasure, sexual experience, and sexual education. Without honesty, sexual relationships will not be able to have effective communication or be able to uphold any of the sexual health principles. Honesty encompasses sexual health conversations about pleasure, sexual functioning, eroticism, gender and/or sexual relationship diversity. Each person has the responsibility to determine their own standards of honesty about sex and sexuality as it relates to their partners, medical providers, community, and themselves.

Honesty certainly applies in your relationship. Honesty with your partner involves letting them know what you like and what you don’t, how you feel about what you’re doing, and telling them if there are things that are disturbing or blocking you. And they need to be honest with you about the same things. Even though sex can be a tricky subject to talk about, honesty is the only way to make it something you both enjoy.

Healthy sex is based in Shared Values

Throughout the lifespan, sexual values play an important role in motivations for sex. Values are a source of identifying one’s sexual standards and ethics. Values differences, when honestly and vulnerably shared between partners, can lead to closeness or painful distance. Either way, it is a conversation that brings reality and clarity where couples may have previously chosen avoidance and deception.

Have you ever considered the values you and your partner have around sex? Specific sexual acts or turn-ons may have very different meanings for each partner. Being sexual can have different meanings for different people. People value different parts of a sexually intimate encounter. It’s not that the two of you have to enjoy or value the same things, but there needs to be a shared value of making sex a win/win, making it sure it hits the values each of you has.

Healthy sex is Protected from STI, HIV, and Unwanted Pregnancy

This sexual heath principle addresses the need for anyone engaged in sexual activity to implement a contraception plan so they have a choice about whether to get pregnant/impregnate, prevent acquiring a sexually transmitted infection, and take precautions to prevent transmission of HIV. The ability to test for and treat STIs is essential for sexual health. Knowledge of and access to birth control is essential for sexual health. Healthy sex is safer sex.

This may or may not be an issue in your relationship. But it’s hard to relax and enjoy sex if you’re afraid of getting pregnant (or getting someone pregnant). It can be hard to enjoy sex if you’re concerned about passing on an STI. You have to tackle these issues, if they’re there, so the two of you can focus on what sex is all about. Which leads to the last principle:

Healthy sex is focused Pleasure

Pleasure is a primary motivation for solo-sexual activity (masturbation) and partnered sex. It is one of the two key reasons to have sex: pleasure and connection. Too often, pleasure is left out of the conversation about healthy and safe sex, as if it’s an afterthought. All people are deserving of pleasure, and healthy sex centers the pleasure of both partners. It is hard to have pleasure in sex if the other 5 principles are not met. Throughout all stages of life from pre-teen to the final years of life, sexual health is the art of balancing one’s sexual safety and responsibility with the lifelong curiosity of pleasure, exploring sexual interests and remaining curious about the ever-changing sources of sexual pleasure.

Pleasure needs to be a focus in your sex life with your partner. Pleasure for both of you. What pleases us changes over time, and it changes when our bodies respond differently. Often, someone with a decreased desire for sex is having trouble finding pleasure in it. Seeking ways to make any intimate encounter enjoyable for both of you is crucial if you want your sex life to thrive over time.

Apply these 6 principles and you are on your way to a sex life that can be fulfilling for both of you over your life together.

Here are 5 things not to say if you want more sex in your relationship

Here are 5 things not to say if you want more sex in your relationship

How often do you have sex? Many couples focus on frequency of sex, and that’s the wrong conversation. If you want more sex in your relationship, you will likely push your partner away if you start the conversation focused on how often you’re having sex or the fact that you want more of it.

Focusing on frequency of sex is a red herring. Because in reality, you don’t just want them to have more sex with you; you want them to want it. So any conversation that focuses on frequency of sex is going in the wrong direction.
I’m going to talk about 5 things you should not say to your partner if you want them to want to have more sex with you.
“You don’t understand how important this is to me.” I get your frustration. And the rejection, disappointment, and pain you probably feel. It’s easy to think your partner isn’t prioritizing you and your needs. That all feels true. But if you approach your partner with how they are letting you down, they are just more likely to feel bad about themselves. In my experience, the person less interested in sex feels guilty already. They wish they wanted more. They feel broken. If you end up making them feel worse about themselves, it just blocks them more.
“It’s been X days since we’ve had sex.” This statement has a couple of problems. First, it communicates that you’re counting the time as it passes. And it reinforces the idea that there is some sort of quota to meet. It’s all focused on the numbers instead of desire, instead of what could make sex more approachable to your partner.
“Maybe you should see the doctor or a therapist.” Oh boy, does that communicate that they are the problem. This overlooks the fact that sexual desire is complicated. It’s also situational – your sex life happens in the context of your relationship. Suggesting that your partner just needs to go fix this, as if it’s only their issue, is again going to make them feel bad. Probably resistant or defensive. More guilty. And it just misses the point that a sex life is co-created. It’s not something they can go fix alone in a therapist’s office.
“I’ve planned more dates and we’re still not having sex.” Ok, so you may be trying to take care of what your partner needs in addition to thinking about the sex you’ve wanted. You’re listening to them if they say they need more quality time or emotional connection. That recognizes that sex happens in the context of your relationship. But putting it like this makes it sound tit for tat. Like it’s transactional. Like they owe you because you planned date nights. This is just going to increase the idea that there is an obligation to have sex.
“Why don’t you want sex?” (as a rhetorical question). This is what you should be asking, but you need to truly want to know. What is in the way of feeling more desire? Am I doing anything that makes it harder to want sex? What else do you need to to make sex a bigger part of our life together? What do you like in terms of physical touch? Has anything changed in how your body works or responds that I should know about?
Questions like these show you understand that they may have some legitimate obstacles to sex and sexual desire. That you know you may have a role in why this has become difficult. This is the nature of the conversation you should have.
I have a video for you about helping your partner want more sex; it’s a perfect continuation of this discussion.
Intimacy card games for couples; 4 things you need to know before you pick a couples game

Intimacy card games for couples; 4 things you need to know before you pick a couples game

You may have – or be considering – an intimacy card game for couples, but there are things you need to think about to get the most out of them! If you aren’t careful, you could end up just creating more pressure and stress around your sex life.

Hi, I’m Jessa Zimmerman, and this Intimacy with Ease channel is dedicated to helping couples create and maintain a thriving relationship, sexually and otherwise.

I’m going to talk about 4 key aspects of using intimacy cards in a way that energizes your sex life. And stick around to the end when I’m going to tell you which I think is the very best one!

First, you need to understand that each deck is the product of the person who created it. Which means it contains their ideas about what would be fun and novel to try. It is a reflection of that person (or company) and their knowledge and training in sexual topics. Most decks are not created by a certified sex therapist and thus, they may have a narrow view of sex and perpetuate norms and expectations that don’t serve you. Look for a deck created by a CERTIFIED sex therapist!

And because most decks aren’t created by a sex therapist, they may inadvertently reinforce some of the problems and barriers that are making your sex life difficult. For instance, most decks ask you to select cards and then do what’s on the card. What if you can’t? What if you don’t want to? Many people who use these decks end up reinforcing a sense of obligation around sex and sexual acts. They don’t focus on actual desire and consent or permission. You want to find a deck, or use your deck, as a jumping off point to explore what it is you each ACTUALLY want.

Third, you need to consider how flexible and inclusive your intimacy game is. Do they have blank cards? Wild cards? Can you make up your own and add your ideas? Can you adapt your deck for your own bodies, genders, orientations, and preferences? Can you use your own language for sex and sexual body parts? For almost all the intimacy games out there, you use the cards as they are written. There isn’t room to explore, create, modify and adapt. You are literally put in a box!

Lastly, it’s really important to be flexible in how you approach the cards. They can be conversation starters, not just “pull this card and do this thing.” Avoid using the cards in any way that adds pressure, creates a sense of obligation, or makes one person feel like they have to do something they don’t want to. Look for decks that emphasize your actual desire and make the game approachable and fun, instead of something that at least one of you will avoid.

So which is my favorite deck? Which hits all 4 of these points right on the mark?

Well, I had to create my own. I kept wanting a tool that would help couples explore touch and desire in a flexible and fun way, and I couldn’t find it. So I created the Touchy Feely Cards to do just that. It is fully customizable to your situation. It has blanks and wild cards to make the deck your own. And most importantly, you are empowered to find your own desires and interests and always supported to only do things you want to do, while you finding what things those would be!

Here’s where you can learn more and order yours!

Still struggling with mismatched sex drives?

Still struggling with mismatched sex drives?

Differences in desire are universal. Think about it – why would any two people want exactly the same amount of sex? At least over time.

So believe it or not, your mismatched libidos don’t have to cause a problem.

But it becomes a problem for so many people because of how they handle it. In this post, we’re going to talk about the traps people fall into and how you and your partner can handle these differences differently so it doesn’t cause stress and disappointment anymore.

First, we need to understand a few things about mismatched libido in the first place. So it is universal. And it’s also relative! It’s the difference between two people at one point in time. It’s your desire relative to your partner’s. It’s not that one of you has high desire or low desire. It’s that you have higher desire or lower desire than your partner. You may have been the lower desire person earlier in your relationship, and now you’re the higher desire partner. Or you might have been the higher desire partner in a different relationship, but now you’re the lower one. This is crucial to understand. No one is broken. There is no “right” or “healthy” or “normal” amount of desire.

The next thing to understand is that the lower desire partner has the control. And not because they want it! They usually hate having the control But anyone who wants something less is the one that says yes/no, how, and when. They have their hand on the spigot. And they really can’t get away from that fact. It’s important to understand they are not trying to control you. And they aren’t enjoying the control, either. It’s just part of the system.

There is also pressure that’s created when someone wants something more than someone else. And it’s not just because the higher desire person is pressuring their partner. It’s baked in. Just knowing your partner wants more sex creates pressure. No matter what you do. You have to understand this so you don’t “wait for the pressure goes away” before you do anything about your sex life.

So now we have the basics about how mismatched libidos work. Let’s look at the traps each person tends to fall into that turn it into a problem.

For the lower desire person, the first trap is just thinking this is just the way it is, there’s nothing they can do about their lack of libido. They don’t realize there is a whole second of desire they could access. Building on that, they probably feel broken or inadequate. They feel like they’re missing something and there’s nothing they can do. This is disempowering. And feeling bad about themselves just makes them avoid it more.

The second trap is waiting for that pressure to go away. They may say they want their partner to stop initiating sex or bringing it up. But the pressure is built it. You have to move forward despite that feeling of pressure.

The third trap for the lower desire partner is being passive and stuck. If they just feel broken, if they just think this is how it is, they don’t do anything. They don’t take an active role. This either stops any work on your sex life at all OR puts it all on the higher desire partner to figure it out.

Now, let’s look at the traps for the higher desire partner. What could you be doing that’s making this a problem?

The first trap is to think that your partner is just broken or it’s their problem. It just makes them feel bad. and stuck. This ignores the fact that a sex life is co-created, and you have a role. In fact, I have a video that I made as a special training for the students in my Intimacy with Ease course about the 5 things you’re probably doing that are making it worse. I’ll link that here.

The second trap is to take their lower desire personally. To think it’s about you. to take it as rejection or like you aren’t desirable or important. This changes the meaning of sex. Now it’s not about sharing something; now it’s something they should do to make you feel good about yourself or feel better about the relationship. Rather than taking it personally, just see it as how their desire works. And understand that they have a different kind of desire, and it needs to be accessed differently.

The last trap is to stop initiating, to either try to take the pressure off (which we already learned doesn’t happen) or to create a test to see how long they’ll go before they bring it up. Just because you stop initiating doesn’t mean the pressure is gone. You’re both still aware that you want sex. you’re both aware that time is passing. Now it’s just on them to bring it up – that actually puts more pressure on them. And if you just decide to sit back and see how long they’ll go if you don’t mention it, you’re not making progress on meeting in the middle. Now it’s a game or a test, and it’s just going to make you feel worse.

So what do you do instead? You need to be able to help your partner want more sex. And that’s possible because there are legitimate obstacles in the way that you can fix, and there’s another kind of desire that they have, even if they have seemed to have zero libido. I’ve got a video available for you about how to access that desire.

Why some people regret scheduled sex

Why some people regret scheduled sex

Scheduling sex is one of the worst pieces of advice people get. And it’s going to make sense to you why this is by the end of this post.

Now, I’ll tell you that if scheduling sex fixes your problem, if that’s all it takes to make you and your partner both happy, then the only issue you had was one of finding time and prioritizing intimacy. Great.
But for most people, that is not their problem.
The actual problem is that one of you is really interested in sex, and the other isn’t. One of you has little to no libido. One of you is starting to feel like sex is a chore or a burden or an obligation. One of you may be starting to avoid sex altogether.
Putting sex on the calendar is only going to make that worse.
Let me say that again. Scheduling sex is basically the worst thing you can do.
Why do some many “experts” tell you to do it? They’re missing the point. They are thinking that the person with little desire can prepare, they can know it’s coming, they can ‘get in the headspace.’ And maybe that even works for a short time. but what’s going to happen is the person is going to start to dread that date. They’re going to go through the motions, like they are checking something off the to do list. They’re going to start making excuses and avoiding it, too.
Putting it on the calendar only increases the sense that this a chore and an obligation. How is it going to help someone want sex just because we put it on the calendar for 8 pm next Sunday?
The problem is that you are scheduling something very specific. No matter how we feel, we are supposed to show up and have sex.
Think about it. It’s like deciding that you’re going out for a 4 course Italian meal every Friday at 6. What if you aren’t hungry? What if you don’t feel like Italian food? What if you’re not feeling that connected to your partner? Just because you say ‘we’re going to have sex next Sunday at 8’ doesn’t do anything for someone’s DESIRE for sex. And desire is key to your sex life working.
I have a video for you about helping your partner want more sex. https://youtu.be/WgOu3atTfjU
Forget the argument; how to talk to your partner about sex when they aren’t interested

Forget the argument; how to talk to your partner about sex when they aren’t interested

Let’s talk about how to approach your partner about your desire for more intimacy in your relationship.

This is the first pillar of my Intimacy with Ease program that is all about enticing your partner into the process of improving your sex life and becoming teammates in a way that makes intimacy easy for both of you. But to do that, you have to be able to bring up the conversation in a way that makes it easy for them to join you.
What most bedroom burdened couples do is either avoid the topic altogether OR bring it up in ways that end up in fights or hard feelings. So what happens is at least one of you feels defensive, inadequate, or hopeless, and nothing actually gets better in the bedroom. And it gets harder and harder to bring the whole thing up again.
We are going to cover 5 steps for how to actually approach your partner so they are going to want to work with you to address whatever issues you’re having in your love life.
How well do the two of you talk about difficult topics? Are you experts at staying on the same team when you Have differences of opinion or competing needs?
That’s why the very first step is to master communication skills that allow you to talk about the toughest subjects So that you can work as a team on this instead of alienating her or making your partner defensive Good communication creates connection. And you need connection for intimacy. How you are going to have the intimacy (and sex) you want if your communication causes disconnection instead? And I know you may be thinking, But Jessa, we’ve tried talking about this, and it doesn’t go well! In effect, you’re concluding that it’s not worth it to try to talk about it. But the thing is, communication is a skill. There are tools to use so that you can be heard, and so can your partner! What is you could communicate in a way that totally changed the conversation? You can lead the change in how the two of you talk about this.
If you don’t know how to communicate well and keep the conversation connected and supportive, you’re likely to drive your partner away or continue to have sex be a point of tension or conflict. You need to learn the 3 most important skills and a framework for these conversations that allow you to both feel heard And results in feeling like you’re on the same page, same side of the table, working toward win/win.
Step Two is that you have to get clear on what you think is going on, your perspective on what’s happening and how you got here. Because when you do this, you’re able identify what’s going wrong and what you would like to be happening instead. This means you are focused on a positive outcome instead of just focusing on the past.
Step Three is to figure out how you are part of the problem. Every situation is co-created. You may have spent a lot of time in your own feelings of disappointment, rejection, frustration, and despair. You may have been focusing on your partner’s lack of desire and the lack of sex in your relationship. If you keep focusing on what they aren’t doing, they’ll keep feeling broken and guilty and aren’t empowered to change anything. The truth is you have a lot to do with why sex has become difficult, and it’s crucial to focus on your own steps in this dance so that your partner sees you taking responsibility rather than just blaming them. and that encourages them to do the same. This is crucial because this step is what will help your partner be open to the talk rather than getting defensive.
Step Four is to try to get into your partner’s head and imagine what they are feeling about the difficulties you’re having in the bedroom. Now that you’ve taken a look at how you have made things worse, imagine how they experience this whole dance around sex. How does their lack of interest make sense? What are they trying to avoid? What could they be afraid of? Developing this empathy and compassion for their lack of desire helps them get over feeling broken and inadequate. You have to go into this conversation leading with the idea that they are not broken, this is not just their problem. This is the step that will bring them on board as your teammate, so they can want to solve this with you rather than stay stuck.
Step Five is to bring up the conversation in the right way at the right time. Approach it from a positive place – you love them and you want your relationship to be as strong as possible. Tell them it’s not their fault and it’s not just their problem. Tell them you’ve realized that plenty of it is on you. Show them you’re willing to look at your side, take accountability, and be willing to change. Because when you do that you don’t end up in a fight, you create an alliance to work on this together.
You just learned how to approach your partner about how you want to improve intimacy in your relationship, but that’s just the first step. You still need a way to actually change what happens in the bedroom. That’s why you need a way to tap into your partner’s hidden sexual desire; that’s what makes sex easy and fun for both of you. I’ve got a video teed up for you talking about just that!

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