What Healthy Sex Is and How It Can Improve Our Lives
First and foremost, it is important to specify that not all sex is created equal. There is healthy sex and unhealthy sex.
An example of healthy sex would be protected sex among mentally sound and consenting adults. Unhealthy sex might be non-consensual, or something acted out by someone with addictive or impulsive behavior.
We’ll be covering some basic questions about sex, like, why we need it, how often we should be having it and what exactly makes it healthy or unhealthy.
Is sex necessary?
We are designed to be sexual. In addition to sexuality being needed to keep civilization moving forward, there are a number of benefits individuals receive personally from allowing themselves to engage in the normal behavior we have been engineered for. These include social as well as physiological benefits.
While most people will feel the desire to sexually engage with others at some point in their lives, there are some who may not, or who may go through phases of increased and decreased desire. It’s important to remember that this is just as acceptable as any other drive.
Those who do choose to engage in responsible sexual behavior can experience a number of physical, mental, and social benefits, which we cover in the following segment. However, if anyone feels a lack of sexual desire and is unbothered by it, then they shouldn’t feel the need to have sex. Nothing will close up or fall off.
Choosing to remain abstinent for a while, even with a sexual history, will also not necessarily be detrimental to a person’s health unless they are finding themselves emotionally struggling with their choice to refrain. If this is the case, they may need to reevaluate their decision to remain abstinent.
While sex can contribute to our physical and mental health, those who do not have it can still experience similar health benefits of sex that those who do chose to be sexually active.
Massage therapy, for instance, can be a great way to decrease stress hormones, increase blood flow, and boost “feel good” neurotransmitters like oxytocin, and to create a trusting bonding experience through another person’s touch and nurturing.
Exercise with a partner could be another way to have a bonding relationship experience that gives us a positive chemical boost while decreasing bad hormones and cortisol levels.
With a healthy lifestyle, proper diet, good exercise, good sleep habits, and positive human connection, sexually-abstinent people may still receive most of the benefits a healthy sex life can bring.
What are the health benefits of sex?
For those who engage in sexual activities and want to know what it does other than the obvious, the list of health benefits of sex for males and females is numerous and includes:
- The release of dopamine and norepinephrine help us experience euphoria and well-being.
- Oxytocin, the hormone that helps us trust, love, feel close to and miss others, is released.
- Physical pain and stress are lessened and relieved by the release of endorphins.
- Immune systems are strengthened by increasing the presence of immunoglobulin and through the deep relaxation that stimulates immunity.
- By exercising her pelvic floor muscles, women gain greater bladder control.
- Having a similar caloric burn of a slow walk, sex can burn about 5 calories a minute.
- Estrogen and testosterone levels remain balanced.
- The risk of heart attack may slightly decrease.
- The chance of prostate cancer may slightly decrease.
- Sleep quality is increased as the release of prolactin assists with rest.
- Self-esteem may increase through feelings of acceptance, desirability or love.
What are social benefits of sex?
Social benefits may be gained if a person feels more driven to be creative or productive due to sexual inspiration. While productivity and creativity, like other health benefits, are not exclusive to sex, they are positive contributions that can derive from the desire to have or the acquisition of sexual partners.
Other social gain can come through less noticeable aspects of sex like assistance in conflict resolution or perceived social acceptance (by having it, for cultures or sexes who value sexual experience, or by abstaining from it, for cultures or genders who expect individuals to withhold).
Other, more debatable possible results of sex can be seen when it’s used as a tool for material gain or gain in opportunity, or when it’s used as a negotiation tool. While we may individually hold different feelings about these possible health benefits of sex and whether or not they derive from sex in a healthy way, it’s important to note that sexuality is often used for these purposes and may be healthy depending on the details of the interaction.
What happens when you have sex everyday?
Daily sex is not unnatural for new couples indulging in the enjoyment of new relationship energy. While there may be some minor risks, like chafing, this can be avoided with the generous use of the right kind of lubricant and ensuring that each partner is equally warmed up.
The frequency of their sex won’t seriously hurt them, though, as long as good sexual hygiene is being practiced. For instance, we should urinate after every sexual encounter to help prevent the risk of UTIs. Also, thoroughly cleaning our genitals before and after sex is very helpful in preventing certain infections.
Understand that a desire for daily sex is likely to diminish once the newness of a relationship wears off and/or because of hormonal fluxes, medications, life stressors, etc. Don’t be alarmed if sex slows down since “normal” healthy, sexually active people are said to engage in sexual activity 1-2 times a week.
An obsession or insistence on having sex daily, when one partner does not agree to it or when external risk factors are high, may signal a need to see a mental health professional. Our drives can naturally fluxuate and a high drive with a consenting partner is ok, but an ongoing preoccupation with frequent sexual interaction is something that should be discussed with a therapist or doctor.
What Is the frequency of healthy sex?
Average relationships report sex between 1-2 times a week. If, in relationships, sexual encounters happen less than once a month, or less than 10 times a year, partners are considered “sexless”, which may not be healthy for a relationship if both partners aren’t comfortable with this frequency.
If you’re worried about too much sex, chances are, you shouldn’t be. Those who find themselves in brand new relationships or during periods of heightened hormonal fluxes may desire to have frequent sex, sometimes more than once a day.
There is no such thing as too much sex as long as risks are minimal and all partners are consenting. Enjoy your drive, just remember that hygiene and safety are equally important every time you engage.
However, if you find yourself distressed with your sexual behavior, unable to function normally in life because of sexual thoughts, becoming sexually impulsive, reckless, or feeling shame about your sexual behavior, something besides a high libido might be a problem. If you’re concerned about on over idealization or compulsive desire for sex, it’s a good idea to speak to a professional. Your doctor or therapist will understand your concern and help you through issues.
How can sex benefit mental health?
Sex extends beyond the physical. It can be just as mental and emotional as it is physical, so in addition to providing physical health benefits, it can be beneficial to our mental health depending on how we approach it and think about it. When we take a healthy perspective and combine it with healthy practices, sex can aide our mental health in the following ways:
- Self-esteem may increase through feelings of acceptance, desirability or love.
- Confidence and self-worth can be improved by meeting perceived social expectations.
- Establishing a healthy sexual relationship can offer validation through our partner.
- Oxytocin helps us trust, care for, and feel connection with others. We are social creatures and need to experience bonds with others to thrive.
- Increased physical health helps us feel better about ourselves and our activities.
- By providing us with more restorative sleep, sex helps us perform better and feel more vibrant during the day.
That being said, unhealthy sexual practices or preoccupations can lead to a decreased mental health status. Also, preexisting poor mental health can make both sex and intimacy more difficult for some people, leading to increased frustration or low self-esteem if they attempt to engage without success.
Everything is connected. When physical, social and mental health improve, sexual health will too, and vice versa. When other forms of holistic health are neglected, sexual health may also deteriorate, and vice versa. We benefit most from our sexuality when we combine it with a well-rounded social life and health regime.
Sex alone is not a magic cure for anything, but positive, normal sexuality and sexual perception is part of overall, excellent health routine. When everything else in our life is balanced, sex is likely to find a balanced place in our lives as well.
1. Compulsive sexual behavior.