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Sexual health 101

Being well-informed about sex and sexuality and tending to your sexual health can enhance your overall well-being.

Healthy food, credit to Brook Lark, Unsplash

What is sexuality?

Sexuality is complex. Therefore, it is understandable that there is no agreed-upon definition of the term. Nonetheless, the World Health Organization has provided a working definition of sexuality, which states that:

Sexuality is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses:


Sexuality is experienced and expressed in:

  • thoughts
  • desires
  • beliefs
  • attitudes
  • values
  • behaviours
  • practices
  • roles
  • relationships

While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed.


Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of different factors:

  • biological
  • social
  • economic
  • political
  • cultural
  • legal
  • historical
  • religious
  • spiritual

What is sexual health?

As with the definition of sexuality, there is no agreed upon definition of sexual health. However, the World Health Organization has developed a working definition of sexual health that states that it is:

"… a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires 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. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled."

The benefits of good sexual health

Enhancing ones sexual health and expressing ones sexuality in a healthful way is associated with a number of benefits. These include:

  • Positive and fulfilling sexual relationships
  • Satisfying sexual experiences
  • Enhanced self-esteem
  • Reduced risk of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted infection
  • Reduced risk of an unplanned pregnancy
  • Reduced risk of mental health problems related to sexual behaviour, such as excessive guilt, shame or anxiety
  • Greater peace of mind
  • Enhanced quality of life

What should I know about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?

The term "sexually transmitted infections" (STIs) refers to a varied group of infections that are transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. Another term used to refer to these infections is "sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections" (STBBI). This term also includes sharing blood (e.g. through sharing used needles) as a way of transmitting these infections (e.g. HIV/AIDS).

Learn more about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

One of the most important things to know about sexually transmitted infections is that the use of safer sex practices greatly reduces the risk of getting and spreading them!

The term “safer sex” is familiar to most people. However, if asked to list safer sex practices, many would be hard-pressed to come up with more than five. We have determined that there are at least 16 ways to reduce the chance of getting or spreading a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Getting an STI can negatively affect a person’s health and change a person’s life. Protect your health by adopting safer sex practices.

Learn 16 ways to prevent getting or spreading STIs.

What should I know about contraception? 

It has been estimated that 60% of Canadian women will have at least one unplanned pregnancy in their lifetime.

In Canada, many contraceptive options are available to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada provides a good overview of contraceptive methods.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a form of contraception, such as evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of the various methods and their effectiveness while taking into account lifestyle and personal factors (such as finances, collaboration from partner, etc.). 

You can book an appointment with a nurse at Health Services to assess your contraception needs, learn about your contraception options and in certain circumstances even get a prescription to start birth control without having to meet with a doctor.

More sexuality and safer sex resources





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