“After people are clothed and fed, then they think about sex.” -Confucius 479 BC
What does sexual wellbeing mean to you? This is the question that the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) selected for its focus on the 2nd annual World Sexual Health Day this week on September 4th. More than 30 countries took part by creating events to recognize the need to articulate and understand the concept of sexual rights for all. This is no small thing, given that in most countries, the science of sexology does not exist and that, with the exception of a few Western nations, there is no collection or depository of sexual health data. Globally, we have not been willing or able to create a standardized terminology for the varied practices of sex. Unlike most other human-related scientific disciplines, our conception and understanding of our sexuality and related erotic selves remains in its infancy. When it comes to sexual behaviors, there is no collective data on legislation or its enforcement, the economic ramifications of sexual practices or even a shared global criteria for sexual counseling. It is truly something to celebrate that we have arrived at the 2nd anniversary of this day dedicated to raising global consciousness and I was proud to be included as a primary sponsor for the North American event in New York City.
There may not be a more important question for each of us to ask ourselves individually than this reflection of what makes us sexually well. Many of us would readily admit to sharing in the symptomology of sexual dysfunction at some point in our adult life. Sadly, quite a few of us guard our sexual pain and inability to find pleasure from even our intimate friends. The gaps in our sexual education are too often replaced by a shame that doesn’t really belong to us, but seems to stick anyway. We often lack the courage and language to heal our deepest erotic wounds. Unsurprisingly, on a national and global scale, most sexual research is fertility-related or focused on the transmission of diseases. Almost unheard of is research of what makes sex pleasurable, the development of sexual orientation, or the prevalence of anxiety and fear, which impacts sexual performance. The collective silence around the deeper personal issues of our sexual selves is deafening. Sex is impossible to discuss or study because we have not even been able to develop a set of standardized terms for a wide range of sexual activity and even what constitutes sex itself.
Sexual education remains a crime in many nations today and, even in the most advanced Western countries, the misconception that sex education promotes promiscuity persists. In fact, the opposite is true- the more education that people have about their sexuality, the later they engage in it and the more satisfied they are with their sexual choices. Yet, instead of meaningful conversations, what is perpetually passed down in families and in the public education’s Abstinence-Only directives is shame and anxiety about one of our most basic human instincts. It is still common in many countries for women to be stoned to death for being caught in a forbidden kiss. And yet, these same young girls are routinely handed over as child brides, despite laws that set limits on the minimum age of marriage. Sexual violence and harassment impact huge swaths of women globally; it is spurred by easy access to Internet pornography, much of it violent. Meanwhile, there are countries full of girls and women being sold and purchased every day for sexual trafficking. For many poor countries, sex trafficking is lucrative… The sale and enslavement of young girls is a leading GDP earner.
My question is this- how come we are only celebrating World Sexual Health Day once a year? We have a lot of catching up to do if we expect that we may ever be capable of fulfilling the long list of sexual freedoms and rights proclaimed in the United Nations recent Declaration of Sexual Rights. Imagine how well the world would be if we could finally get over our terror of what it means to be sexual human beings and create some global parameters, which would encourage us all to discover and enjoy respectful, healing sexual encounters with partners of our own choosing. Personally, I am convinced that this one change alone would be enough to stop the wars and terrorism, and even hunger. If we could go back to the garden and revel in our God-given capacity for sensuous pleasure, something deep in our psyche would heal. So I say, let’s keep the party going- Let’s make every day World Sexual Health Day. We have a lot of catching up to do.