NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, November 5, 2022

What is Sexual Health?

According to Doug Braun-Harvey, LMFT, co-author with Michael A. Vigorito, LMFT of Treating Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Rethinking Sex Addiction and co-founder of The Harvey Institute, sexual health is comprised of six principles which include safety as well as pleasure.  

These six principles will be the focus of this article.

Sexual Health includes Safety and Pleasure

The concept that sexual health includes both safety and pleasure is different from what is taught in most sex education programs in the United States.

Unfortunately, most education programs limit sex ed to protection against sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy.  

But sexual health is so much more than that--it includes sexual pleasure.

The Six Principles of Sexual Health
The Harvey Institute identifies six principles of sexual health:
  • Consent: Sexual health must be consensual.  Consent means that sex is voluntary between willing partners who are of age and able to give enthusiastic consent to sex.  Non-consent involving children often occurs in the home with relatives or family friends in the form of sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape.  With regard to consenting adults, it's important to establish consent at each step of sexual activity so that there can be safety and pleasure for everyone involved (see my article: What is Sexual Consent?).
  • Non-Exploitative: Sexual exploitation is when someone uses their power and control over someone else to have sex.  Exploitation includes unwanted harsh behavior to dominate and take sexual advantage of someone who is unable to give consent, including children and people who have physical or cognitive disabilities.  Exploitation often involves alcohol or drugs to coerce people to have sex.
  • Honest: Sexual health requires honesty between sexual partners. Communication is open and direct with all sexual partners.  Honesty involves being open about sexual pleasure, health, sexual experiences and sexual education. 
  • Shared Values: Sexual values identifies a person's ethics and sexual standards which can differ based on a person's culture.  For instance, a person's values can differ with regard to the first sexual experience based on their particular culture.  When people get involved sexually, each person can have different values regarding particular sex acts or sexual turn-ons.  Sexual health involves people having open and honest communication about their sexual values.  It's also important for children and teenagers to get accurate answers to their questions about sex without adults communicating shame or discomfort.
  • Protected Against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), HIV and Unwanted Pregnancy: Anyone engaging in sexual activity needs to be protected from STIs, HIV and unwanted pregnancy.  Protection includes the use of condoms, birth control, adherence to HIV medication, taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). Sex education about these issues needs to be medically accurate (fewer than 20 states in the United States requires sex education to be medically accurate).  
  • Pleasure: Whether sex involves solo activity or partnered sex, sexual pleasure is a primary motivator to have sex.  Throughout the lifespan sexual health is a matter of balancing safety/responsibility with pleasure.  Sexual pleasure includes remaining curious about different ways of enjoying sex.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapy.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and people in relationships.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.