The World Health Organization (WHO) agrees that “sexual health matters.” WHO is the public health arm of the United Nations. They say that being sexually healthy is “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. Sexual health also means having a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. This includes the sexual rights of everyone to be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
The Sexual and Reproductive Health Week “Heart your Parts” theme is about keeping our sexual body parts healthy, enjoying our sexuality, protecting ourselves, and dealing with problems: topics which are all inter-connected. Online, you can find some great information on each of these topics at www.cfsh.ca, and I’ll touch on them briefly in this article.
Keeping our sexual body parts healthy means paying attention to what’s going on down there and checking in with a health professional if you have any concerns. This is an important consideration for us all, whether we’re involved sexually with another person or not. I’m thinking of such things as getting treatment for yeast infections (a common occurrence for many women), routine self-testicular exams for young men, etc. Keeping sexual body parts healthy is related to the topic of protecting ourselves if we are in an intimate relationship where there is a risk of sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancy.
Protecting ourselves is also about choosing relationships in which we feel respected, in which we can set our limits for how far we are willing to go, and what sexual activities we are willing to participate in. It’s also about protecting ourselves emotionally. Anyone can experience sexual assault or intimate partner violence regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Protecting ourselves includes reaching out and getting help when we need it.
Enjoying our sexuality means everything from enjoying the person we are regardless of gender or orientation, to enjoying sex by ourselves, to having good body image regardless of size or physical disability, to having pleasurable sexual activity with our intimate partner.
The Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County (SHCCC) is planning various activities for Sexual and Reproductive Health Week. I will be partnering with Michelle Richard, the Amherst and Pugwash Youth Health Centre Nurse Educator, to do Lunch and Learns at those high schools.
Can-U has invited me to visit their Amherst site to do a special Valentine’s “Sexual Survivor” educational session. Some Amherst bars/restaurants are again supporting our annual safer sex campaign by allowing us to provide free condoms in their washrooms as a reminder that Valentines is about love but when that love involves sex, it’s important to make it as safe as possible.
And while our office is routinely open Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by chance or by appointment, to celebrate Sexual and Reproductive Health Week, we will stay open until 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13 to increase the opportunity to drop in (weather permitting).
Take the opportunity to pick up information for yourself or check out our free lending library for new books to help you answer your children’s questions about sexuality, read up on negotiating the tween years, or initiate a conversation with your little one on body safety.
For more information, contact me at 667-7500 or email email@example.com. Learn about our Valentine Auction on our Facebook site. And remember: love carefully this Valentine’s Day.
Ruthie Patriquin is the executive director of the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County. Her column appears monthly in The Amherst News.