Sexual wellness is an important aspect of mental health and yet one of the most underestimated components of the human experience. According to the Association of Counseling Sexology & Sexual Wellness, sexual wellness is the unique, subjective experience of physical, emotional, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality is essential to overall wellness. While sexual wellness can include the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity, the holistic and subjective nature of sexual wellness extends beyond one's physical health status to include a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sensual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violation. Sexual wellness encompasses diversity in both expression and influences, respecting, protecting, and fulfilling the sexual rights of all persons (ACSSW 2020).
As we break this definition down, we can see that sexuality is intersectional and subjective. Exploring your own sexual wellness may very well enhance your relationship with yourself, with others, and assist parents in helping their own children learn how to navigate their own sexual well-being. As a society, we often rely on receiving sexual education from social media and peers. More often than not, this information is bias and ill informed, leaving us to question “what is normal when it comes to sex”?
Sexual agency, or the ability to choose freely one’s own sexual narrative, is imperative for one’s own sexual wellness. When we explore sexual agency, we are tasked with reflecting on the messages we received growing up regarding relationships, public displays of affection, what it means to be a man or a woman or better yet, a person, in a relationship? Moreover, how have these messages and experiences influenced our own sexual sense of self and our own narrative. With sexual agency, we get to say YES and NO based off of our own interests and desires versus being influenced by others or social media. What we refer to as a sexual narrative, we are referring to our own sexual story, or script.
When it comes to counseling, clients are encouraged to explore how their upbringing and experiences have shaped the way they see themselves as sexual beings. As a result of exploring the sexual script, clients are better able to identify all of the YES’s they would like to incorporate or enhance, when it comes to their own sexual script, as well as, to let go of things that are no longer serving them. Everyone has a chance to update their own sexual script. Exploring the sexual script and building sexual agency helps clients better understand how to navigate future conversations regarding sexual needs with self and with others. The sexual script can vary from person to person – from asexual orientation with romantic affectional needs to pansexual orientation and expression. Breathe for just one second and chew on this thought - there is no “normal” in which to compare yourself to – we have our own individual “normal”. There is no need to yuck anyone’s yum.
Am I Normal? is the most common concern people have when they come to see Dr. Schubert. Client’s come in for many reasons but everyone ultimately wants to know they are not alone and that they are “normal”. By no means is this an exhausted list, but, sexual wellness counseling can involve:
All of this to say, sexuality is part of who we are as humans. It is an umbrella term that is interconnected and woven into the very fabric of who we are and influenced by a myriad of variables. Sexual wellness is therefore critical in terms of our own mental well-being. So, why not take it seriously? You deserve it. Society needs it. Our children will respect it if we do.