Sexual health literacy as an adult has been a journey to say the least. As an adult woman who has had an incredible evolution of self on an intimate level, I’ve learned that sexual health is a priority for both mental and holistic health. Positive sexual health encourages you to prioritize self, accept your desires and look at sex as a beautiful experience.
I grew up in the south, in a small, rural town in North Carolina. The southeastern region of the United States is well known as the “bible belt.” Rooted in religion and hypocrisy. Growing up, sex was never described as a beautiful experience, rather the “thing” you should avoid. It was always the secret phenomenon that was at the top of the “don’t do this or you’re going to hell” list. Sex was always the danger zone, the place you should never wander. If you did, you would get pregnant or worse, you would catch a venereal disease (an old term for sexually transmitted diseases)… or so we were taught. You were also destined for hell immediately if you had premarital sex, or sex before marriage. Let’s not even think about discussing oral sex, you would for sure, as the elderly would say, “bust hell wide open.” Fortunately, I had a grandmother who actually talked to me about sex. Not necessarily in the most formal fashion, but in her own way. My grandmother was the first person I heard actually say “penis” and “vagina” which are proper anatomy terms. I remember my grandmother telling me how men and women have sex. She described how men insert their penis into a woman’s vagina for sex and warning me that I could get pregnant. She also told me what a condom was and that men should put them on their penis’ prior to having sex with a woman to prevent her from getting pregnant or catching a general disease or VD. Funny thing is, I don’t remember initiating the conversation, but I was intrigued and didn’t stop her. Initially, the conversation started because I found a douche bottle in her cabinet (where I had no business ) and I inquired about what this funny looking bottle with a long spout on it was, and so began my sex education 101 course from my grandmother.
I remember vividly one warm afternoon as she and I sat on the porch while she combed my hair, she used a pack of dogs as an analogy of “no good men” running behind a woman in heat as I was shown the pack of dogs closely following the female dog who was ready to mate or procreate. Again, not a beautiful experience, just demoted to a bunch of dogs running around trying to find the first female dog to mate with. My grandmother’s experience surrounding sex wasn’t a fairy tale. My grandmother married early and had 8 children with my grandfather who she said, “never stopped running women since the day they were married.” Needless to say, adultery left a bitter taste in her mouth.
It wasn’t until I got older and went to college and started health science and biology courses that I began my curiosity journey. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know how, and I wanted to know why. I wanted to feel, experience, and create something different… I still do. Although growing up sexual health was never a conversation, I have matured enough to have these open conversations with the young men and women behind me. I am also fortunate enough to boldly, without shame say I love sex and I prioritize my sexual health. I’ve learned that it is ok to love, enjoy, and experience sex without shame. I’ve learned that sex has levels of intimacy that don’t even reach the physical experience. I’ve also learned that women should enjoy sex just as much as men and feel the beauty in all of it. I wish I were taught about the beauty of sex and to preserve that beauty by prioritizing my sexual health.
Today, I prioritize my sexual health out of respect for myself as a woman and my body as my temple. I’ve learned that everyone is having sex, but most are not prioritizing their sexual health. One major shock is the lack of knowledge men and women have surrounding their reproductive systems and how they actually work, besides the obvious. In addition, most are unaware of the effect major pharmaceuticals, such as birth control, can have on sexual health long-term. As a holistic fertility doula, I speak with women who were on birth control for years for various reasons who are now trying to conceive and facing fertility challenges. None of this was discussed with me prior to adulthood. I had no idea how important sexual health was to my overall health.
As I’ve matured, I’ve realized individuals need to engage in more open, honest, transparent conversations surrounding sex and sexual health. Communication is essential for raising awareness and correcting incorrect information. It is also vital to providing tools and resources for improved sexual health. As an adult I see how the media and society has stigmatized sex, and the female body is over-sexualized. We are not educated on the actual benefit of our bodies as it pertains to sex. Orgasms are not just for sexual pleasure; they can be used to enhance fertility and aid in childbirth. As a birth doula, I’ve learned that women should become comfortable looking at and touching their bodies, especially their vaginas. I am eager to educate my clients on the importance of becoming comfortable with your body and asking for help in the areas you lack confidence. The reason being, the hormones released during sex and birth are the same. Oxytocin is released during arousal or orgasm and also during childbirth. Oxytocin releases endorphins which can help to lessen pain. This is important because something as small as clitoral stimulation can be significant during labor to help lessen pain and reduce the need for medical interventions during childbirth. If you are comfortable with touching your body and verbalizing your needs and desires, we can optimize opportunity for a natural, low-intervention birth. I also encourage my clients to engage in open, honest, and transparent conversation with their partners about their desires and needs.
One major epiphany I’ve learned about sex is that… it’s ok. Sex is beautiful. Sex is the beginning of creation. Sex is not limited to roles, identities, or even function. Sex is inevitable and sexual health should be a priority. I prioritize my sexual health because I now understand that positive sexual health is the catalyst to fertility, mental health, and overall well-being of an individual. I encourage everyone to do their research, get and stay informed in order to make the best decision for your life that prioritizes your sexual health.
Ebony, or Nurse Eb as she prefers, is a holistic fertility and birth doula, lactation education specialist, and registered nurse by profession. She is the founder of In Harmony and Health, a pregnancy care company with a holistic approach to conception and birth that focuses on healthy pregnancies for healthy families. Nurse Eb focuses on sexual health as the catalyst for optimal conception and birth outcomes. She has a passion for educating families of color and those disproportionately affected by racial disparities in healthcare. With over 17 years of nursing-related experience, she uses her background expertise to help individuals live in optimal health and navigate the pitfalls of the healthcare system. With a passion for prevention and treating the “whole” person, Nurse Eb has a passion for holistic health and wellness. It is her belief that the body should be in harmony to reach and maintain optimal health.
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